A Chapter full of Living Things

    by Rahana K Ismail

    It’s the tree,’ said the dryad shortly.
    ‘What’s it doing?’ said Rincewind.
    ‘Living.’
        -Terry Pratchett

    and the eyes. the fever
    of their gaze. being watched.
    being smelt

    from one haze. being herd
    with our-coloured,
    our-tongued, our-haired/

    head-covered. skin
    like one sky
    cut out as rubber

    sheets. talking
    of the same swords,
    same haste & honey. tilling

    the same loam
    & lumber & lamb & loathing.
    loathing that volcanoes.

    walls & wells
    it forms. that which
    swells and of which swallows

    as ours. now it’s living.
    only now it’s
    living.

    As Spectators to Demolition

    They are categorising
    what has fallen
    from the house.
    Plastic is a conglomerate
    of colours. Metal shards of suns.
    Of wood a consortium
    of old and golden: teak, palm, window,
    willow, bark, bureau, bundles of
    bookends. A ledge
    held more than you ever thought
    it would. A 50p coin, nail clipper,
    potted Tulsi, tape recorder,
    a key, nights
    and niches of you.
    Now barren. Now bloated
    with senseless light.
    Demolishers weighing
    liveries one would don in this drama.
    Coastal wind takes
    a turn here as if it can come down
    and unsee like a blind.
    As if barrenness rhymes with
    its sound of slicing down
    all at once in a guillotine-flash.

    Eyes One Lake of the Same Season

    Whistling Duck
    Whistle. Whistle. Whistle. Whistle. Whistle. Whistle. Whistle. Whistle. Whistle. Whistle. Whistle. Whistle. Whistle. Whistle. Whistle. Whistle. Whistle. Whistle. Whistle. Whistle. Whistle. Whistle. Whistle. Whistle. Whistle. Whistle. Whistle.   Whistle. Whistle. Whistle. Whistle. Whistle. Whistle. Whistle. Whistle. Whistle. Whistle. Whistle. Whistle. Whistle. Whistle. Whistle. Whistle.

    Purple Moorhen
    Screech. Tuk tuk. Screech. Tuk tuk. Screech. Tuk tuk. Screech. Tuk tuk. Screech. Tuk tuk. Screech. Tuk tuk. Screech.     Screech. Tuk tuk. Screech. Tuk tuk. Screech. Tuk tuk. Screech. Tuk tuk. Screech. Tuk tuk.     Tuk tuk. Screech. Tuk tuk. Screech. Tuk tuk. Screech. Tuk tuk. Screech. Tuk tuk. Screech. Tuk tuk. Screech. Tuk tuk. Screech. Tuk tuk. Screech. Tuk tuk. Screech. Tuk tuk.

    Spotbilled Duck
    Quack. quack. Quack. Quack. Quack. Quack. Quack. Quack. QUACK. Quack. Quack. Quack. Quack. QUACK. Quack. Quack. QUACK. Quack. Quack. Quack. Quack. QUACK. Quack. Quack. Quack. Quack. Quack. QUACK. Quack. Quack. Quack. Quack. Quack. Quack.                                                   QUACK. Quack. Quack. Quack. QUACK. Quack. Quack. Quack. Quack. QUACK. Quack. Quack. Quack.

    Bronze-winged Jacana
    seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-  -seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek–seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-seek-

    Corollary

    Migratory birds were shot down between their route from Baikal to Chilika.Lake.

    Wall

    If not for, when waiting for elevators to down itself,
    counting holes of smoke detectors or the sieving seamless walls
    or sweeping the helpline numbers to clear the antlers of mist
    over the first phone number I memorised, what’s living composed of.
    Or the teacher I forgot the name of yet list out the anger of
    or urging birds—their feathered forms—to leave the building
    I call home wherein they gurgle like roebucks preening
    ruins awake with their tongues torpid. These birds manage to
    make an aperture of all things that manage to make a wall.
    They must assume that the other side of every wall is home.

    Widening of NH 17

    1.

    Acquisition came to occupy
    like aalmaram, alamara, alarum
    districts of our tongues
    that wouldn’t budge but was made to
    to accommodate. It became how dinners ended:
    a prayer in an adventitious tongue that we intone
    to keep us either safe, locked,
    exposed, open, whichever might be—enamoured as we are
    metamorphosed to moths overnight
    buzzing ‘what if that light is what I think it is’
    burying what-if-it’s-nots
    just happy
    to see hope as a serving on a platter.

    2.
    It also became how the newspaper,
    when brewed and downed, made us gaze
    beyond our gates
    till our eyes turned into bore wells
    craving sight.

    3.
    ‘We know selling and buying’,
    a he or a she would pronounce, pause,
    and, very carefully, place ‘home’ to ward off
    a strafe as you position mothballs
    on every cupboard of your alamara
    like a ‘keep off’ sign.
    Old senses in youthful lenses stare at maps,
    cleanly cut by asymptotic lines
    that mulch and march to either edges of the paper.
    A paper can’t always contain the world,
    still it cuts and culls ours like a crazed collop-man.

    4.
    grouped and sub-grouped,
    submerged in ourselves,
    by what we stand to lose (and not what we own) as in a hospital ward—
    I lost my kidney, I lost half of my liver, I lost my tongue, I lost my big toe, I lost my brother, I lost my beginnings, I can’t clot my blood, I can’t clasp my keys, I can’t feel my knees, I can’t remember, I am membered
    into many.

    5.
    Gates. Gardens. Gardenias.
    The guava tree. Porches and pot-plants.
    Arches and orchards. Corbels
    and courtyards. Front-doors and foyers.
    A fistful of welcomes. A furlong
    of lingering. Where we sat
    and planned vacations. Where we potted
    anger to harshen. Like those chairs we settled on
    and likened the world to—limbed, limping, losing
    things they gave homes to.
    Where the old woman would stand and sand out her acquisitions to atone for living so long.
    The woman who wears her room like her bones counting watermarks on her ceiling than moles on her skin.
    A child who comes to cry into an elbow of the tamarind tree. A mynah soaking it up and making it home.
    A wanderer who comes to these shoulders to curl and wait for wandering.

    6. In place of houses, we picture caves and turn cavemen, feverish, (and eventually futile), in our search to find boulders to seal mouths.
    Reaching for roots is hardly what will solve this, acquire means ‘add to possessions’, quirere meaning ‘to search’,
    where do you plan to home in grilling through to bedrock, what do you ‘acquire’ by destroying than destroy,
    acquisition despite being downed like pills and draped like poultice leaves a stain, a staleness which when animated becomes a giant who wrecks homes as he walks.
    Its cupboard doors keep rattling on hinges keeping us awake and insane
    in our awakening.
    It becomes an alarum that keeps saying what it said before. Wake up so that I can cut you and watch you unbleed into quicksand.
    We have to go back perhaps countless times and keep searching so that it forgets the greed, the grating never-enoughness of acquiring and stops at the instant short of finding what it found once in acquisition.
    As of an aalmaram that keeps coming back and roots and, endlessly, roots around.

    Rahana K Ismail is a poet and a doctor from Kozhikode, Kerala. Her poems have been featured or forthcoming in nether Quarterly, Contemporary Haibun Online, Usawa Literary Review, Verse of Silence, EKL Review, the Chakkar, Alipore Post, Pine Cone Review, and elsewhere.

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