I try to meet you on even ground
but somehow always get lost.
Around me are ruins of a silence
it’s difficult to clamber out of. They
never said fishbones swallowed
at nine would remain stuck in my
throat like razor blades in sand
even after forty. I pack myself into
Maa’s leather suitcase sometimes
when dad’s drunk. Don’t let Maa
fool you into believing he’s dead.
He never died. That accident was
a sham. He’s been hiding in the
closet ever since, among weathered
diaries, moth-balled clothes, and
those letters from brazen women.
You think I’m lying? I
knew a long time ago about
the time when his secretary aborted
and when his editors’ meetings ran all night.
You were only five, too little and
sound-struck to peel, litchi-like,
the flesh of words. Maa did know
it all, the way she’s always known
she was unwanted. Don’t you offer
me water! You think clozaril can
cure? Restore you a brand new me
who knows like you to hold her
tongue? Ask Maa and she’ll tell you
how my tongue has always been
on fire. It’s scorched black now and
the valium you offer doesn’t matter.
I am drawn by its colour though,
baby yellow! You had a sash this
colour the year you were two and
all dribble. I was ten, lonely, dark
and you a doll come my way! I
envied you when dad would insist
you kiss him good-bye. Sssh! He’s
rustling through his papers now!
Any moment and that irascibility
will break out like pox on his tongue!
You pity me, think I’m mad? I do
understand that all he wants of me is
to divorce that man I never married.
She’d hair as soft as the silken tresses
on corn cobs when I bled open my guts
on those stairs. Her bud mouth never
opened and Maa never so much as shed
a tear. The editor, of course, laughed
from his closet. I will have nothing to do
with pictures! No epitaphs, reports, urns,
wills, wreaths! Look out of the window.
She’s been rocking quietly in the garden
these eleven years without a shudder. And
he’s in here still pounding speech to silence.
Basudhara Roy is the author of two books, a monograph, Migrations of Hope: A Study of the Short Fiction of Three Indian American Writers (New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers, 2019) and a collection of poems, Moon in my Teacup (Kolkata: Writer’s Workshop, 2019). She has been an alumnus of Banaras Hindu University and has earned her doctoral degree in diaspora women’s writing from Kolhan University, Chaibasa. Basudhara’s areas of academic interest are diaspora writing, cultural studies, gender studies and postmodern criticism.