(Founding Plath’s ‘Insomniac’)
All elements around me swim in placidness,
there is hardly a misfit amidst the intermingling
parochial cause of existence; all boxes ticked,
all customs tucked righteously in the soft
cotton duvets of an orderly bed. Disorderly
sheets scramble to stretch, pinch pulled
into woody, sturdy (though half scraped) corners
joint by stalks of an equally tenacious guard.
These protracting tendencies of an eddying night,
everything around and under it in prim stance
of a recruited soldier, without delay, quick reflexes,
the moon adroit in throwing its blinding glare
upon an attempting escapee; ambitious to turn
renegade of the pillow it has rested on far too long,
the sheets of the cogitating bed tossing in earnest
agitation to be thrown off its long serviced premise
for a day on the floor, on new ground, new air.
(for Heather Maecherlein Browne’s weeping skin – sweating grief)
Recently I read of a passing,
what struck me most was the coping –
the griever exfoliating pain off
of their skin through sweating –
she called it weeping. Her skin
wept in nights – flashes
of memories expunged her body.
I remembered how I’d visited
our cemetery, in the day, when the sun
couldn’t have been tougher on us;
its heat flooding like an engine gargling
up and spitting out repressed blackness
like in an anger contest with the heat.
The walk was long and tedious,
harrying like the life lived on edges,
across many graves, pitchers
of water in hands to wash them with,
it was a process, a ritual, nothing
more, nothing less.
The skin weeps,
and I wonder of the graves,
the ritual – the washing, if there are
skins of souls still tied to its stone.
The dead, who lay, I have visited
in pictures, their stories aholt through
the motionless eyes staring straight
into the camera – these that now
lay under a sand I cannot see beyond.
Needless to say, I washed
the sweat off of the graves –
their weeping, if they grieved
for the skins on bodies not yet
claimed upon by an end.
Though they are under, their skins
can’t meet mine. But, I wash
their perspiring stones and ease
in a peace I solace my weeping skin
of a restful kin.
They came in the shadow hours nobody but those who knew
knew and could see, see; they didn’t wear specific apparel
but usually described to be in white, identical to the lights
and floors of his linoleum home, robes that he had donned
from the time he had forgotten to spruce by eclectic wardrobes.
He said they brought hands that sent something through the air
all the way to his ears, of those meant to hear, so the voices
became legibly louder. But they couldn’t fix his arm that had
begun to flag like a bone lost in a mass of jelly, and his feet that
had grown carpet-corns from dragging, like sensations fled
from its muscle cages; everything in his body had emancipated
except for his mind. We’d watch in awe with the way he owned
his motionlessness, like Sinatra would a lamppost in his song,
and silence at his replies he claimed were in tandem with them.
They would sit on a ledge outside his home, in pairs or threes,
telling him where they could take him while we’d nod feebly
swallowing our tongues, and with it our practiced betrayals.
The few short hours of our visits would end where we left him
with his loneliness, a wife who stood as erect and majestic
as his IV drip stand, promises pungent like his palette of pills,
noisy shuffles, and them – the ones we didn’t cumber about
as long as they inhabited the whites he wore leaving our colours
We spoke for the first time in eight years.
Watching her, in distance, being veered
in all the time that I watched her,
one would judge her mentally deficient,
as her eyes moved in the unmoving way
a lucid shard of glacier melted under a detached sun;
there was knowledge of all things breathing
in her sight, though a vacancy beyond traceability
swirled, like a storm thrust into the body of a breeze
and her hands showed she had never been
bothered with tediousness before; her daughter’s
eyes were like the breeze, probing into the miasmic
incoherence when she spoke to her but first calling out
her name like a prefix lasting a good stretch
of seconds till her pupils dilated with warmth.
My assumptions of her only took me so far
as her smile that welcomed everybody,
like a pigeon betwixt a foggy mass of familiarity;
but the day she grabbed my hand, pointing me
the new face in a crowd she’d been watching
(back) for all these years, I became known to
my identity, the importance of existing to a departing
memory, of decency of unstaring, allowing the hidden
to stay hidden, of a mind embalming in its own leather
strips of incognizance. Of her promising to remember
me prefixing her sentence with In sha Allah (God willing).
The moon fell into the ocean the day he came for my wings;
my world was like a rivulet caught in a fountain flurrying
in the same waters that the moon bore in its hollowed bosom,
from drowning many shores and enlivening depreciated horizons
while all I ever did was watch from my symbolic dwelling,
the ceilings didn’t arch too far out to any skies or deities
the ones he called to, where my voice submitted subserviently
to the waves, and his wanting. ‘Twould be the moment when
time held no parity with my feathers coming alive under
a petting breeze on the tunes of which his empty seat would swing
out to a wild ocean. He rarely ever visited but as the sun
of his grandiose love became draped over by dark clouds
of melancholic soliloquies, he’d come to watch my grey body
for pageantry demanding a promise that could travel to the moon.
Stark eyed, I’d goot in a melodious way a bird caught in a net would,
imitating the songbird’s chirp, peacock’s strut, or the flamingo’s posture
just so his heart would unbreak each night he swam to my abode.
But the sun would rise once again, swathing his laments in a heat
of fury sending him back to his broken reality until that one night
when he came for my wings, as relic, he said, as amour, for surviving
his dreams that lay strewn like a mirror of scattered melodies
across my bloodless guilelessness.
Sheikha A., from Pakistan and U.A.E., is the author of the poetry collection Spaced [Hammer and Anvil Books, 2013]. Her work has appeared in over 40 publications and several anthologies. She harbours an (over) ambition to someday hold the world hostage, in trance, by her (creative!) words. To list a few places, her work has been published in DM, Red Fez, Carcinogenic Poetry, Shot Glass Journal, Pyrokinection, A New Ulster, Knot Magazine, and upcoming in Poetry Pacific and The Stray Branch. She edits poetry for eFiction India.