Second thoughts

    By Barnali Ray Shukla

    Second thoughts

    This poem sees the woman and a book as a dual protagonist. Woman as the book, the book as the woman. Of all the incarnations that are spoken of, no one speaks of this. As Heidegger puts it, “the brightness sheltered in the dark is blueness”. This ‘blueness’ is that isthmus which I walk on here, as a woman and in my unfazed love of books.

    Second thoughts

    I am more than words
    splayed between covers,
    even as few sleep
    with their hands on me
    with strands of light
    from the bed lamp
    on my skin,
    the air wraps me with secrets
    that are lost in a vapour
    of second thoughts

    They try and tame me, as they inch
    their fingertips on my last read chapter,
    smudge my words like the lines and
    grime on their palm
    they leaf through
    my letters, at a go, some slow
    but get lost in me, as I unfold.

    Most pry me open, for the cover,
    the word, the pen that spoke to me,
    their eyelids dance to my scent,
    they hold me for that evening,
    an hour,
    an eclipse,
    some for a season,
    a high-tide; gift wrapped in thoughts
    that burn their darkness bring them to a shore,
    unsure of why
    they had me.

    They call me evil, unchaste, real, too real,
    too close, too open, unopened
    flung into leaping tongues of pyre
    where I turn to ash
    but that’s my body, just the body,
    the light lets me live, longer than logs
    on which I yearn to be their kind evil
    The flames scorch my blues, my grays,
    my black,
    the warmth of the embers remain,
    little read, little red,
    nothing blue
    on second thoughts.

    Barnali Ray Shukla is an Indian writer, filmmaker and poet. Her work has been featured in many national and international journals and anthologies, and her maiden poetry collection, Apostrophe, won the RLFPA 2016. Barnali has written and directed one full length feature, two documentaries and one short film. She lives in Mumbai with her books, plants and a husband.

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