"Some days, I am my flower namesake": Three delightful poems by the brilliant Aparajita Deb

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"Some days, I am my flower namesake": Three delightful poems by the brilliant Aparajita Deb

Poetry by Aparajita Deb

Childhood as Color

My childhood is twenty-three
and the dread of going home

vibrates between my legs,
the throbbing headache of
jet lag from a domestic airplane -

imaginary. “Home” makes
my tongue curls in foreign ways.

My childhood, fifteen
rooted in negative(ity):

irrational number
of miscalculated days.

Baba is away so long,
he is every voice
on the radio.

My childhood is white skirt
soaked in Ujala blue

and hot embarrassment.

Scotch Brite scrubbed,
bleeding nails at work

to get blood stains off.

My childhood is thirteen,
shamed red,
flaming cheeks,
my mother's blood
my mother's mother's blood.

If I chant it long enough
will the blood wash
off my hands,

will the blood wash
off my hands?


Will my childhood's red fade
to more acceptable shade?

My childhood is generations
of infectious women
on disinfectant knees,
scratching hard at itch guard skin,
dirt-colored.

My childhood is twelve,
sobbing at a face that
is too brown but
never brown enough.

My childhood is envy green,
digs nails into yellow palms
glories in a flash of
Ponds’ white
before skin rebels
red again.

My childhood is as white
as my skin ever gets -
my first kiss
wants me for
the size of my breasts.

My childhood is
a peeling black chest left
to rust, dust, and disgust.

I am three
boxes of crayons, similes.
Blue like the sea, pink
like strawberries, yellow like the sun.

My childhood is
twenty-six years late -
crayons coated in algae,
sharpened to shavings
swept with common epithets -

new-born red faded yellow,
quiet brown, bruised purple.

***

Till Death Do Us Unite

I beat the utensil of my love
to the ratty Playboy passed around
by five other men in the house -

Privilege Edition.

Aunty beats frustrated utensils
for ‘karuna’ in her marriage,
her jugs spilling over the balcony.

A mosque stands beaten;
vines and trees have begun
to cover up its murder scene.

Its walls will be sanitized,
its existence sealed
into hazmat suits
of sterile narratives, at best

a whispered cautionary tale.

A little beyond it lie
the unmarked graves
of Shaheen Bagh.
The haphazardly buried

have nothing to b(l)eat about.

But the caretaker says
he finds it uncomfortable
to stand up straight
at odd hours of the day

to sing along to sirens of
the National Anthem

which the buried had begun
to wail on orders
before they were beaten to death.

***

Shoe Fetish

My nose has a shoe fetish. It can be found pressed against glass panes of all the shoe showrooms my wallet has no room for. At ten, my picture book and I spiced up the stale tale of a family in a shoebox, aided by illustrations of plastered grins. There'd be days our plaster crumbled - an angry dad thump or a muffled mom screeching out shoestring threats.

High grades are no cure for higher expectations; when you live in a cramped and tiny shoe, your father's imaginary ceiling surpasses the सीलन on damp walls, trickles down to water fake flower vases in imaginary Louis Vuitton boxes. Head bowed, pride bumping against the plumbing he'd say, "There's always room to be better than the best," in our battered butter-knife shoe. Baba, I tried so fucking hard to shed the insecurities of

"Apr...Apr...cheeta who?"

I do not know which one of us
took my name too seriously.

Some days, I am my flower namesake, and these five syllables do not crush me with the paperweight of fictional Gucci boxes you raised me to inhabit. I live in a bartered Bata box, shared with more unopened boxes, each housing an expectation I was unable to fulfill:

Four for diaries untarnished by horrible handwriting. I stopped writing. Three for all the culture I couldn’t soak in, choked in naphthalene folds of Ma’s saris, her sterile love. For all the hair I've cut against your wishes, two. And one label-less shoebox for sharp shiny things and jumbled bits of paper. Torn. Assembled, they tell you how

to
rip
apart
without
crumbling

all the never enough years of never being enough.

When the time comes, I hope I'd have sliced my wrist, cut my foot right for the shoe to fit tight. Baba, don't sell anything to bury me in beautiful Nike whites.

Cremate me,
I'd like you to keep my ashes in your Khadim’s shoe.

***

Aparajita has been a part of the Delhi Slam Circuit for almost six years. She has worked in collaboration with the United Nations and the American Centre in addition to performing at, judging, and hosting many college-level slams and poetry-music showcases across the country. She is a member of Pandies’ Theatre Group and the co-founder of Delhi-based artists-collective, Soulstuff.

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