Still

You got to love him first.
Some days I resent you for
the way time favoured you over
me. You got 36 and I got 23,
we both felt cheated.
You loved him first.
Some days you even loved
him better, kinder, sweeter.
He didn’t hold me the way he
held you but we knew there
were parts of the both
of us in his bloodstream.
You loved him first.
Your skin is a cemetery of his
fingerprints. His closet sits
untouched in your room.
You smile.
You are bruised all over but
you are only taking care of me.
You say I have his nose.
You have his heart.
Our dreams are laced with him.
We can’t wait to sleep so he can
hold us again. He is not here
but he is here. In the walls
of the house, in our closets,
coming up the stairs. We
pretend we do not hear him
but we hear him.
When we say his name we turn
over to his spot on your bed.
Our heads still spinning.
You loved him first.
Then you gave birth to me
and we loved him together.
Now his absence lingers and
taunts me every time I inhale
and twice as hard when I exhale,
darkness instead of oxygen
seeping in and out of me.
Mama, he left us. We can forgive
him for leaving but we can
never let him go.

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Sounds

Take me where the light is.

Take me to the morning.
I haven’t seen the sun in thirty weeks and
I am thirsty for the daylight.
Help me find a glow.
Crack open a window, darling,
show me the stars.
Take me on a trip to the galaxies not at
all close to here, far
and away and illuminated.

Take me where the light is.

Take me to the dawn.
Endless nights I have spent here wishing
for a ray, a flicker.
Light me a candle.
Pour gasoline on everything I thought I loved
and start a fire, baby, let it all burn.
Spark something inside of me,
make me a flame.
Make me a forest fire.

Take me where the light is.

Show me it exists.
Show me it hasn’t run out. Tell me you’re
willing to go the distance, say you want to
find it, too. It’s not too late,
you tell me, to bring the flowers
back around. It’s not too late
to water them back to life
, you say,
and it sounds like you’re telling me
the truth.
So the next time I say,

take me where the light is,

don’t be afraid. I am still here.
Even in all this darkness and ambiguity,
I might be broken, but I am still here.

Seven Deadly Sins

When you left, I wanted to come with you.
I think about it still, every breath I take an inconvenience.
When I see you in my sleep, you tell me hearing this makes
you sad. In my dreams, you tell me to remember only the
good times but when you left, my heart,
everything good left, too.
Everything good and beautiful went with you.

When you left, I dug myself a shallow grave next to you.
I was a child again, imitating every little thing you do –
you knew you were always my role model so this was the
most natural thing I could do.
Because you left.

You left. I saw it happen.
I begged you to stay but you couldn’t hear me,
couldn’t see me, you had to go;
and I wanted nothing more than to leave everything
behind and come with you.

Wherever you are, I still would rather be next to you.

If not for me, then for that time you said nothing
was more painful to you than being away from us
and I know,
I know you’re not hurting anymore.
They keep telling me you’re no longer in pain.
But I am still holding your hand in that horrible room
and begging you to stay.
Half a year later, I am still crying at
your feet as I have to watch you leave.

Baba, you always knew I wrote poetry.
And even though you never read any of it, you were always
proud of me.
But what you didn’t know was that you had made my life so
beautiful, so easy –

I had always envied the poet who didn’t have to borrow or
exaggerate pain to write, but now I understand,
now I know,
I would rather have you here than the pain I need to write
this poem.

To My Father, Again.

You have a heart like the universe enlarged
three-fold: vast, furiously kind, and wondrous.
Twenty-three years you welcomed me there.
Even when I left for months at a time, looked
for love and comfort elsewhere, you gave
me the keys to take with me. I took you
with me. I stole your eyes and your nose
and your smile and a pint of your blood
and you never asked for them back.

You have a heart like the universe enlarged
three-fold and every minute I watched it grow
wider – a mysterious phenomenon, a medical
miracle. Every time I looked in, I looked
away mesmerized; fascinated, perplexed. I told
you I wanted one too, so you gave it to me:
a starter-kit version; I was never able to make
it grow like the muscle in your chest. You
watched me grow headstrong and stubborn,
and loved and loved and loved me ’til I grew
soft and you grew softer.

You have a heart like the universe enlarged
three-fold but sometimes it weighed down
on you, walked out of your chest and rested
on your shoulders. I was thirteen the first
time I could see the agony hidden from us
safely behind your eyes, so I taught you how to
hold me, took your arms and pulled them
around me, and slow and steady you
unlearned decades of distance.

You have a heart like the universe enlarged
three-fold. Every one has a house there, a
safe-haven, every one who knows you calls it
home.

You.

You were my heart, and my heart was in a
hospital bed, twenty-six days still smiling, a
patient patient, my superhero dressed in my
baba’s suit, whispering “I love you” through
the blood and the pain:
a home to us all –
just waiting to go home.

You were my heart, my heart, my light,
my forehead-kiss goodnight,
my heart, my heart, still in my heart,

I carry you with me wherever I go,
I carry you in my heart.

You had a heart like the universe enlarged
three-fold.

You had to go, but I’m still daddy’s little girl,
I still call it home.

*Disclaimer: The 45-46th lines of this poem were inspired by E.E. Cummings’ poem “i carry your heart with me”.

I/We

The places in your heart love leaves,
darkness enters, she says. We’ve
all seen it slither in, filling voids
by creating new ones. I nod this
time. She says it might be our fault.
We’re the ones with our eyes
so open, we haven’t tasted sleep
in decades. Not everyone is like
this. We see it all and we’re fucking
terrified. Aren’t you always just
waiting for the next bad thing, baby?
I see it in your eyes, she says:
you’re waiting for the earthquake,
the hurricane, the explosion, the
next fucking disaster. It’s all you can
think of. There are places in your heart
that are all places, no heart, baby. Why
won’t you let me in? Let me tell you,
darling, you’ve got it all wrong, I swear.
I know I used to have my eyelids stapled
up and down to keep from blinking.
I know when we met, my chest
was always on fire. Always burning,
burning, burned, and by day’s end:
black ash. But then two years ago,
you kissed me for the very first time.
I slept that night. I didn’t even know
it until it was the next morning, sun
erupting out of my chest, blinding me.
Do you remember? The places in my
heart you entered, dark turned to light
and that light turned to us and suddenly,
no voids, no hurricanes, no bad things.

Water

And grief is the first thing we know,
shooting outside of our mothers like cannonballs,
leaving our first homes behind by force,
screaming. And grief follows us even
after, trailing our footsteps like an obsessed lover,
lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce.
You said you knew what I was talking about.
You said you saw it too. But there are scars
on my body you don’t understand
and they’re making me doubt your honesty.
You said, “Grief takes on too many lovers, baby,”
said, “it’s been inside me, too,” but your skin
is unmarked and mine shivers in anticipation
and I don’t know how to believe a word
you’re saying. Do you remember it, darling?
Do you even know the story? One night, I tripped
and fell into a puddle and Grief made it into an
ocean and we swam together for days on end
until my arms gave in. Does this ring any bells?
Okay, one night, I tripped and fell into an ocean and
Grief swam with me for days on end and my arms
grew stronger by the day. This is the lie I tell
myself. One night, I walked out of my house,
footsteps calculated, careful, sure. I saw an
ocean and I jumped in. Grief was the first
thing I knew and I wanted to unknow it,
so I jumped into an ocean of you and you,
touched by grief but resilient still,
swallowed me up and named the stars
after me. This is the real story: I met you
and everything I had known before you
I had suddenly forgotten. I do not want to fill in
the blanks in my memory.

Winter

The wind doesn’t know which way to blow,
says ‘guide me’ to the trees, but even they
won’t listen. Even they feel hollow inside
sometimes. Even they have their pasts carved
into their trunks, every struggle written on their
skin, but they forget.
This is a disaster.
The wind doesn’t know which way to go.
A storm is coming. The storm says:
‘I’m here to take you home’.
Yesterday you believed it. Today you’re a little
more sceptical. Today you ask it where ‘home’
is but it changes the subject. Today you grab
a map, hold it to its face and demand an answer.
You are standing and the wind is holding your
hand – wants to go home too, wants to leave.
The storm says:
‘I’m here to take you home’.
The wind says ‘guide me’, but you don’t know
and you don’t listen, can’t listen, its pleas
making your head spin.
Today it is a year later.
Today it is winter again.
The wind is lost and you are too. There is a storm
inside of you and outside of you. It said it would
take you home. It said it would take you home
and you’ve only been going around in circles.
It said it would take you home but you’re just
realizing it doesn’t even know what ‘home’ is.