Kindness and Other Poems

By Nithya Mariam John

1 – Kindness

a silent lizard
flicks its tail,
patient companion
as I sit staring at the fan
whirring above the hospital bed.

a monk
who sits alone
hugging an invisible soul,
a pod of a smile
bursts open his lips

the last leaf
that clings on to the stalk
remembering those little arms
which had caressed it to life

a word
which is left unsaid
so that the parting remains

three legs and a cane
glide down the aisle:
she is blind, and he is lame
but together they paint
smiling faces

2 – Menu

My grandmother knew a woman
whose kindness
spluttered like mustard seeds in hot oil,
scented like curry leaves and sautéed shallots,
and flavoured like grated coconut
when layered on wheat puttu.

She spoke no language of love,
but was kind enough to wash away
a man’s abuses in soap water
which trickled down the drainage every night
for sixteen years.
For him, every day,
her kindness was ‘overcooked’, ‘unsalted’,
‘extra-salted’, ‘extra-chillied’ or ‘burnt’.

One night
she fed him the finest biriyani in their village.
Their daughter past fifteen, stared
at her father’s unkind hands-
which groped her breasts and felt her ass,
when mother was not around.

The next morning, he died.
Autopsy read, ‘Poisoned’.

“That kind of a woman”,
said my grandmother
over the din of her grinder.

*puttu- steamed flour layered with grated coconut

Nithya Mariam John is a poet and translator from Kerala, India. Apart from the published three short collections of poems, her scribblings are housed in Indian Literature, The Alipore Post, Borderless, gulmohar quarterly, Hyderabad Literature Festival-Khabar, Muse India, The Samyuktha Poetry, Malayalam Literature Survey, Ink-Kochi, Usawa Literary Review, Sanglap and DoubleSpeak, and upcoming in Last Leaves and Muddy River Review. Her poems have been translated into Odya, Malayalam and Tamil. When not writing, she loves to converse on life, art and literature with her students in BCM College for Women, Kerala, India. 2021. He lives in Bombay.

Subscribe to our newsletter To Recieve Updates

    The Latest
    • An interview with the Editors of Poetry at Sangam

      Taking down Poetry at Sangam must have generated a plethora of flashbacks of

    • The Usawa Newsletter February ‘24

      How JLF helped me with my undiagnosed dyslexia and ADHD In the bustling city of

    • Artists’ representation of the human body by Ruchika Juneja

      the years of growing up were spent in finding ways to belong and belonging in

    • Preface to Mumbai Traps by Anju Makhija

      the years of growing up were spent in finding ways to belong and belonging in

    You May Also Like
    • Small Farmer, Big Heart, Miracle Bike by Aparna Karthikeyan

      “Look out There goes the miracle bike, driven by a sack of vegetables!

    • In Lieu of a Manifesto by Ranjit Hoskote

      We have known, at least since the late 1960s, of the hazardous effects

    • Three Poems By Pallavi Padma-Uday

      Pallavi Padma-Uday is a writer, journalist and business historian based in