I won’t say there will be darkness, because there won’t —
There won’t be a place for you to hide just yet
Instead there will be light, relentless scorching light
In which you will stand alone, having to face yourself.
I won’t say there will be silence, because there won’t —
You won’t be allowed time to reflect just yet
Instead there will be shouts, screams, banshee screeches
In your nightmares you will stand alone, defenseless.
I won’t say it will all be bitter, because it won’t —
That will come later perhaps, but not just yet
Instead there will be vapid tasteless nothingness
In which you will have to rediscover, life itself. …
I stand in the nub of a crowd of trouser legs, trying to remember a word starting with C that I’ve heard my mom use when she asks me to open the windows.
Claustrophobic. That’s it. I roll the word around in my mouth as the trouser legs press in.
When you are the youngest child in a family, all of 3 feet in height, you spend an awful amount of time at eye level with adult legs.
And at that height, you can’t tell who they belong to anymore. You can’t tell who’s white, brown, fat, thin, or has varicose veins. …
Covfefe! shriek the lusty orange monkeys from shaking treetops. Covfefe! Covfefe!
The Afghan girl stares out of the National Geographic magazine. Stark, unblinking. She’s been looking at us speechless, for thirty-five years. Silence framing words that transcend time.
Covfefe! the monkeys jibber jabber, rustling the branches, their monkey molars displayed in ghastly grimace. One of them scratches his armpit, the other scratches his groin. They hold their hands up to their noses, guffawing.
The Afghan girl with the grey green eyes mocks our impotence. You’ve been gawking at me since 1985, she seems to say. It hasn’t changed my lot in life. Or that of countless others like me. We are still speechless.
Words are just an indulgence.
It is silence that haunts.
Paroma Sen 2021
In response to J.D. Harms’ prompt:
I’m out of breath. Speed has never been my thing. Short bursts of breath slowly re-oxygenate my red backlit eyes, coating the rear hemisphere of my brain.
I tell myself to calm down. To think. To find a hiding spot.
The last time I looked back he was gaining on me. His dirty tan hoodie plainly visible against the contrasting Prussian blue of the night. The serial lamps on the streets creating ignominious globules of visibility that told me to stay away out of sight, use the cover of darkness.
I must mitigate the risk. If I can’t outrun, I must conceal myself. …
As the plane takes off, the black tar zooming by underneath, she shifts her gaze on to her lap. Looking at her left hand. The missing band has left not just an untanned rectangle, but a dent, from years of wearing a ring.
She glances up with a sigh, looking again across the aisle. A woman in an ivory sari keeps touching her index finger to the empty spot between her eyebrows. As if the finger itself was searching for a bindi* that’s no longer there.
She sighs again, looking back out through the window. Death across the aisle mirrors divorce on this side. …