Kindness and Other Poems

By Nithya Mariam John

1 – Kindness

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

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

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

(iv)
a word
which is left unsaid
so that the parting remains
anaesthetised

(v)
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.

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