must smile

 

must smile as
i remember stories
of each torn ticket stub

must smile when
remembering is a mist of fading laughter
out of place
like martini in a broken wine-glass
its shards drawing rosebuds
on my lips
one glove slightly ripped
the other lost in Wanderlust

must smile as
the empty bottles sigh like sea shells
telling me what ifs that i try to lock
in an empy box

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Hide food in your pockets

There used to be a corner in our playground that we avoided. It was tucked away near an abandoned parking lot, and was marked out by four stones piled side by side like a makeshift box.

The playground itself was just a large open air area behind our residential block where most of us would hang out in the afternoon, when our parents were busy and didn’t want restless kids in the flat. This must have been about nine years ago, and we’ve all fallen out of touch. It happened imperceptibly, like a sand castle slowly crumbling away. I guess part of the reason was because none of us wanted to remind ourselves of what happened in that small corner.

We must have been around eight or nine when it happened. We were playing football really badly (as usual), when one of us noticed a soft meowing coming from the abandoned parking lot. It was a brown kitten, probably no more than a year old, and one of its legs was mashed to a pulp.

We crowded around the quivering mass of fur, curious. We were young children back then, and suffering was something that only existed on the evening news. To have it right in front of us made us feel important.

I guess that’s why none of us told any adult about it. We never agreed to do it, but it happened. It was the first time we had a chance to be responsible about something. To be adults.

We built the makeshift box out of pieces of stones and brick we found nearby, and spent the rest of the afternoon staring at the kitten in silence as if it was a newborn baby. One of us went to fetch some water and we took turns giving it a drink from our cupped hands. It stopped shivering for a while and stared at each of us. I remember feeling scared about looking at it in the eyes, as if it would ratify a contract that I might not be able to fulfil.

Once it finished looking at all of us, we felt bounded to stay longer. By the time one of us broke the vigil the sun was setting, setting a crimson hue over the kitten’s quivering limbs and dulling its contours. Momentarily, it looked eerily painless.

One by one, we left silently. When my parents asked me what we did, I just said ‘we played football and sat around.’ I guess everybody else said similar things.

The next day, we went straight to the corner. I don’t know why we seemed surprised that the kitten was still there— all of us recoiled a little when we saw that it was still alive. It might have been embarrassment at the display of life in front of us. It might have been shame.

But there we were, kneeled around the kitten— it was no longer shivering now. But one of us, I forgot whom, touched it with a stick and its head moved. That was how we knew it was still alive. All of us fished out morsels of food that we stole from breakfast— someone even managed to sneak out a small pack of milk. We never agreed on doing this, but I guess it was the first time that any of us were in love. With responsibility.

So we tried to feed it. It lapped up some of the milk, but didn’t eat anything. We shuffled around, uncomfortable, and tried to bat away the flies that were starting to nest in its mangled leg.

Like the day before, we started to leave, one by one, silently. I was the last. I left before it could look at me again.

That night I dreamt that it ate all the food we left it and we would go back the next day to find it there in the same place, and we would do the same thing again, day after day. I woke up feeling strangely hopeful, because at that age you still believed in dreams.

But we didn’t go back. We met at the playground, and someone suggested that we play football. Everybody agreed, maybe more enthusiastically than usual. At least that’s what I think. Once the ball started rolling, we never looked back.

From that day on we avoided that corner of the playground, and we’d always leave before sunset. I’d like to think that we did it out of shame, but I never asked any of the others. For some reason I still kept hiding food in my pockets till we gradually stopped going to the playground, one by one. I’d like to think the others did the same.

It

For my city 

It was as if everybody was orphaned on the same day. It was as if we lost our parents and them theirs. Words cannot describe how the city felt like on that day, the day It left.

 

Like all other terribly great days, everybody has a different memory of how the day was like and what they were doing. This is my memory.

 

It was a misty day, if I remember correctly. Or it might have been sunny. I think my memory prefers it to be misty. More atmospheric. Does it matter? After all, memory is like an artist, painting the past in whatever brushstrokes it sees fit, filling the gaps to make sense of it all.

 

Before It came, our city was a tattered piece of cloth about to tear itself apart. Only a few threads were left holding it together. Of course, nobody realised that all the threads were connected. So we kept stretching.

 

Then It came. I say ‘It’, because no human could have the sort of power it had over us. Many have tried in the past and failed.

 

I’m sure It was the only pure and innocent thing in the city. We loved it. It gave us amnesia, which, if you’ve seen what our city has been through, is a blessing. Now that I look back, I don’t think we forgot anything— everybody wanted to forget everything and It gave us the perfect excuse to pretend to do so. Now that It’s gone, everything will come back.

 

I think I was reading One Hundred Years of Solitude when I heard that something had happened to It. I could have been taking a nap or watching TV, but does it matter? Would you rather be hearing this story from a person who reads Marquez, or a person who lets the sands of time sift through his fingers without a second glance?

 

My reaction, like everybody else’s, was to go see for myself. There was only one main road leading to where It was, and there was a steady stream of people already, with more people trickling in from all sides.

Everybody was walking in a trance and talking about what happened. Loss is a funny thing. Nobody wants it when they can’t have it, but once they can have it, everybody tries to claim a bit for themselves as if it was newly discovered land. Then they package it as their own and flaunt it.

There were people asking for donations on the street, but the moment we realised it was for other causes, we kept on walking. For us, the world had to stop, at least for the moment. Couldn’t they understand?

 

We reached the harbour— where It was. The pale sunlight diffused amongst the mist, cold to the skin, setting the world into a polaroid picture.

 

There, we were silent. There we were, staring at Its deflated remains, singing a silent hymn, united in our show of loss. I don’t think any tears were shed; mourning is an art, and there is a fine line between the stoic and the pretentious.

 

You might wonder what It was— I can’t remember exactly. It might have been a giant rubber duck, but that would trivialise my memory. Would you rather it be a rubber duck or ‘It’ with a capital ‘I’? Does it matter?

 

Does it even matter that I am a blind old man, patching words together like bits of second hand clothes? After all, who are you to deny me my inheritance of loss? 

Image

puzzles

my words are
heavy immobile clumsy
a badly made jigsaw puzzle
with gaps between the pieces
a stumbling silence
waiting to be filled

i’ve hidden some pieces
so well i’ll
never find them
you see i’m scared
of what the picture would tell

in my dreams i break the peace
and piece together seamless threads of words
that flee
the moment they realise the world is real

stop

as i sit here
waiting for the
caffeine kick to hit
listening to the
tick tock of
water dripping and the
body clock
telling the grass on the lawn
to grow to die
telling us when to stop
im bored

bored of being a cog
in the world’s
clock a Minecraft
block in this so called
world
i dream to break free
of this scheme
but cannot cannot
so i can only