I watch your face hanging open
Your warm wet mouth, your tongue flickering
Your spectacles grimy, your hair alive
Your forehead broad and wasted
Your cheeks alternately limp and bulging.
I do not need to watch your body
I have tended it often
Eased its pains with capsicum plasters
And prayed I was easing your mind too
With my litany fresh off the shelf:
Tegretol, Anxol, Espazine, Hexidol
Neurobion, Arrovit, Shelcal, Diazepam.
I cross your palm with powder
And pray, entire rosaries and masses,
satsangs and majlises, that you should not
Tell my future.
When I last lifted you off the floor
You were sitting close to my bed.
You did not expect to fall
Not under the knowing eyes of
Mother of Perpetual Succour.
I direct your gaze to the falling slipper
Of the child in her arms.
It falls, you told me some lives ago
Out of fear of the foretold future
I understand that slippage
But you? You live it.
Some nights you let me sleep in patches
I have grown used to it, relying on my
Ability to turn you off, and your pain.
I have survived to write these lines
To turn you, baste you and marinate
Our twinned lives into a poem.
But I wish I could keep
My heart unguilty, my love fresh
My thoughts wide-ranging, my eyes new
and that wound — inflicted on days of empathy —
raw and open.
What happened to the in-betweens?
The Erle Stanley Gardners and the Agathas?
The monotonous card games and the inedible food?
The forced Vicks-ings and the rage of Tiger balm?
Did we take them away
With our conscientious powder formulae?
There are many options I know
The glaze of stillness and the panacea of
Or the black snot that stained granny’s kerchief
A trust in the occult, born of grief.
A faith in God, born of habit.
So many options and I, on auto-pilot
Cross your palm with powder.
Outside, I turn my face to the sun
Laugh, play, pun, work, entertain, function.
I know from a few grim examples
And one bright shining one
How the world fetes facades.
I have grown used to seeing the one I devised
Reflected in your laughter-silted eyes.
Inside, I shrink from metaphor and magic
I have no beliefs here, only a watchfulness.
My world condenses into an ink-stain
As your voice trails after me from room to room.
I made promises for you, standing in the toilet
By the skull of the Cyclops that drank my piss
I broke those promises, one by one
And know that is why I cannot love.
Mummy, find it in you to forgive me
And I will try to be bigger than my guilt
And forgive myself.
Jerry Pinto is a media professional and writer. He lives in Bombay