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
again…
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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