I told you I would be fine. And you lost all hope,
As I lay comatose.
Gasping for life, on my death bed, numb, cold, As dead as a doornail. I did appear in your dreams, didn’t I? To let you know that I am on a sabbatical from Life. And I would return just like the adamant waves to the shore, But you didn’t bother, you lost all hope!
As I lay comatose, I remember everything. Each and every memory of you, is as fresh as a bunch of Blossomed roses. Our moonwalk on the brightly lit stage, your sedate flips, The lifts, your moves, my whirls and…you trying to woo all those pretty girls Was like a knife twisting in my dark soul.
I felt so miserable, so helpless, like the injured tree struck with innumerable Shooting arrows innumerable times by a skilled Archer. It bled you know, but no one could hear the sobs. But I also remember the long walks into the forest of nothingness, Those mesmerizing dance sessions, Our secret conversations, yours and mine, on open air roof tops, How we sat there the whole night, promising each other never to let go.
But you did go, left me to die in this bone-chilling snow. Did you not say, “I promise to dance with you all my life, dance with you in the heaviest of rains, in the deadliest of storms?” But then I wonder if you remember me at all, Any lingering trace of me? How I looked, how I spoke, my face, my grace? Or the red satin gown I once wore, that you said matched the color of my lips, Or the way the satin, during the whirls, from your dexterous hands slipped,
My memories have slipped from your head just like the satin, Because you consider me dead, when I am still alive, like a fish out of water, on My death bed! Oh I know you always had your eyes fixed on that blue eyed girl in the audience Who sat on the fourth chair in the first row! And me? In spite of being so close to you, shoulder by shoulder, arm in arm, I felt so distant. So hopelessly cold.
Our last dance still flashes in front of my eyes, Our dance in the air, I can still feel the silky ribbons brushing my skin, The maddening crowd below, those cheering voices, The shine on your forehead, the twinkle in your eye, The feel of your fingers trailing along my belly cove, Your touch, oh what magic it wove. And; The dilapidated, Mind numbing, Skull shattering fall, That ruined it all.
Everything is over.
The sun hasn’t risen for decades on the arid stretch of my heart, I am in perpetual darkness here, There is no room, For any unwelcome memories, thoughts of you, Because I am unapologetically hopeless now With still a tiny ray of Hope, to bloom.
And although, the red satin gown in my closet still reminds me of you, It also feels beautiful just to wear it, to feel its satiny material, And although it reminds me of your love, free like the wind; scattered, unbound, It also reminds me of my love, deep like water, intense and profound, It is beckoning me, “Come, and embrace me like a wailing mother embraces her Lost child,” it says, Put on your stilettoes, hold your head high and walk the aisle, Show the world your vanished smile.” Must I do that? Yes I must, if that should be the reason to live.
And my reason to live is not you anymore, Because you vanished like smoke when I needed you the most.
But you know what? One thing has stayed ever since my existence, Ever since I was a little girl. I remember tapping my feet to the rhythm of drumbeats, Snapping my fingers, swaying my waist, playing the same dance songs on repeat. I remember practicing my whirls, While my dad sat reading the newspaper Listening to old Bollywood numbers on the radio. I remember swaying my hips to Chittiyan Kalaiyan at my cousin Anisa’s Mehndi, All eyes were on me.
I remember being proud I remember people asking me where I learned to dance so well, People telling my parents to enroll me in contests, Put me on a real stage. But most importantly, I remember being happy. My dance has yet again given me the strength to simply let go of disloyal human ties, And like a smoldering phoenix rise. It was while dancing that I fell down in the darkest pit of sorrow, And it is while dancing, I will rise and make for myself a better tomorrow.
Irtika Kazi is from Pune, India and works in Mercedes-Benz India. She is a poet and performs her poetry in open mic sessions and poetry slams. Writing short stories is also one of her passions. She can speak fluent German as well. Poetry is the most creative form of expression, according to her, because people use lesser words with deeper meanings in a poem. She considers it to be difficult, yet interesting and definitely challenging. Her poem ‘A Call from the Alpines,’ which was written in Shakespearean English, got published in YuGen literary magazine in July 2017. Some of her poems will be published in December 2017 in The Indian Literature Magazine of Sahitya Akademi, India. Someday, she wishes to be a widely published poet.
“Take what you want//Take everything” reflects on a time with my partner and our cat, Layla. It’s a retelling of the chaotic night I adopted her. I didn’t know why Layla hid from me. When I chased her around, it scared her more. “Take what you want//Take everything” juxtaposes our first night, filled with misunderstanding, with the rest of the time we spent together. My fond memories call back to the loving moments Layla and I shared.
Such memories defined us; they reverberated in my partnership. I wonder if my partner, like Layla, only remembers her fear of me, over our shared moments of love. The title, a Kanye West lyric, is an acknowledgment that their happiness together–without me–destroyed my sense of self. When I see their photos, I wonder if I can see myself reflected in their eyes. I wonder if they still keep kind moments of our time together.
I remember when she would look at me from behind a laundry basket.
A small simple cat with green owl eyes. She was afraid of her new home and its owner. Shit, I remember the night I got her, she hid under my bed, in the middle just out of my reach for maybe 6 hours, watching me. She didn’t eat anything the entire day. When the night fell I was afraid she’d starve or come out and attack me. I was just scared. I didn’t have a childhood pet, I’m not white, I didn’t know what to do. I picked up the whole bed and yelled that she needed to move. I chased her into the closet with a vacuum cleaner. When she ran in, I called my lover and yelled to her that she wasn’t helping enough, she needed to be there to help me. That was our first day together, me and that cat. No one will ever have that memory but me and maybe her.
It was during Ramadan, my first year fasting.
Our problems had already begun by then. Enough so that I decided to fast and show retribution. I’d try to change into a more patient and understanding self. Like the Prophet (SAW) I guess. To become someone that my lover could feel safe around. Somehow, getting a cat felt like it fit into that picture. I’d be a cat dad, you know, gentle. We’d raise her. I’d fast and become New Again. Maybe I’d wrap an inked tasbih around myself and show I’m a man of God.
I don’t know how a cat remembers fear any more than I know how a lover does.
I know her body stored it. My cat’s must have stored it too. That first night, I wish I could tell her that I was afraid too. It doesn’t make sense that I was afraid really — I’m bigger, more threatening. We don’t speak the same language anyway, so how could I ever tell her? She learned to trust me though, in her own way. Her small bean paws would press on my chest in the mornings. She’d meow to berate me for locking her out some nights, or when I was away from home too long.
She lives with my lover now. They share photos with me, they’re happy together.
I saw my lover once, it was on 55th and 7th, Broadway shined blue performance lights over us. She wore a red sacral dress. She said her mental health has never been better. I think she was trying to tell me that she’s doing well, because she knows I care for her. I don’t think she was trying to say she’s happier without me. We don’t speak the same language. I actually think they are happier with just each other. And I loved them both, so it hurts. Sometimes, not all the time. And it doesn’t always hurt that bad. Other times it does get pretty bad, though. I probably owe it to myself to say that.
I look back at the photos, the ones of our life together, and the ones of their new life.
Two green owl eyes, and two brown moonlit eyes. I look for myself in them.
“Confessions to a Moonless Sky” is a meditation on the new moon and guilt. I wrote it when I was living in Dallas and was driving back from a dusk prayer. The new moon terrified me on that drive. I was diseased by the knowledge that my partner, at the time, had seen the worst parts of me. There’s immense shame in this piece—it seized my self-image. If the moon could become brand new, then I could start over.
I often ponder on the moon’s reflective nature and pairs of eyes. I’m hyper-fixated on how I am seen by others. Unfortunately, the brilliance of seeing your reflection in another person leads to negativity. After all, those who are too keen on their own reflection are the same people who suffer from it. It is possible to use shame to fuel one’s retribution and personal growth, without becoming consumed by it.
We can look to Shah Rukh Khan succumbing to alcoholism in his own sorrow and then later imbibing his sadness in Chandramukhi. “Confessions to a Moonless Sky” is a lesson for us: Don’t be Shah Rukh Khan in Devdas, instead embody pre-incarnation Shah Rukh Khan in Om Shanti Om!
Sometimes when the moon abandons the sky, I wonder if I drove her away.
If she comes back, will she be the same? How I wish she would come back new, truly new! That way she’d have no memory of the sin I’ve confessed to her. You noxious insect. Sin-loving, ego-imbibing pest. You are no monster, for at least a monster has ideology, it sins with purpose. You sin just to chase ignominy.
But the moon won’t say that, she never does. She’ll just leave the sky and return days later, slowly. And I’ll wonder if she’s new, perhaps she won’t remember my past confessions. What does it matter? Were the moon replaced with one from a different god, I’d drive her away, too.
Social media has stretched a number of news headlines:
“Social media rots kids’ brains.”
“Social media is polarizing.”
Yet those most affected by social media ideals are the teenage users. Apps like Instagram and TikTok perpetuate an image of perfection that is captured in pictures and 30-second videos. As a result, many young women chase this expectation endlessly. “Her” personifies this perfection in an unattainable figure the narrator has always wished to be. These ideals deteriorate mental health, create body dysmorphia, promote a lack of self-esteem, and much more. Even so, social media is plagued by filters and editing—much of what we hope to achieve isn’t even real. Therefore, young women, much like the narrator of “Her,” strive for a reality that doesn’t even exist.
When she walked into my life
Her smile took up two pages of description
In a YA novel.
My arms could wrap around her waist twice
If she ever let anyone get that close
Her hair whipped winds with effortless beach waves
And a hint of natural coconut
Clothing brands were created around her
“One Size Fits All” one size to fit the girl who has it all
With comments swarning in hourglasses
But when sharp teeth nip at her collar,
She could bite back biting back
And simply smirked with juicy apple lips
Red hearts and sympathy masking condescension
“My body doesn’t take away from the beauty of yours”
“We are all equal, we are all beautiful”
A sword she wields expertly
Aphrodite in consistent perfection
Cutting remarks with sickly sweet syrup
And an innocent, lethal wink
When she walked into my life
She led my life.
My wardrobe winter trees
Barren, chopped in half
Unsuited for the holidays
Mirrors were refracted under in my gaze
Misaligned glass was the only explanation
For unsymmetrical features
And broken hands
Still I taped them fixed
Over and over
Hoping to mold stomach fat like wet clay
Move it upward
Instead of sagging beneath a belt on the last hole
In the spring
She would stir me awake at 2 AM
“You need to be me”
Lies spilled from her tongue but
Fabrication spelled dichotomy
And I drifted farther out to sea
When she walked out of my life,
I was drowning.
Reliance had me capsized
Furrowed brows and glances away
Like spectators of a shark attack
They can watch but the damage is done
They clung to my mangled pieces
But I was mourning too
Today I looked back at my mirror
But glass turned into prism
Broken pieces rainbow
Colors coating clothes
She didn’t pick
She wasn’t perfect
Just lost at sea
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