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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