a poem by Charvi Bhatnagar
the house has walls built of stories,
that are nothing but paper-like waiting to be crushed by the weight of the roof
which is always damp with tears.
father tries to fix it with his sharp-edged toolbox
that we never touch as it grazes us in blood,
yet father forgets to come back down
“he stays there now”, mother says and then livens the grim walls with her aroma of spices,
laung, mirch, kadi patta
her toolbox which she keeps on the kitchen table is different as it is moulded in round corners that don't pierce you when you caress them.
the house has rooms like any other,
a bathroom where the taps are always running hiding the mourns of my crying mother,
a bedroom where the walls are red
painted in agony and desire and perpetual hate.
I do not go there to sleep anymore
maybe on account of how there the nightmares well up the waking eye,
but I do still sleepily linger around it in oblivion of how little I know of its closed doors that hide
screams, shouts, broken kitchen utensils
though I only sleep under the kitchen table where the hands and nightmares can't reach you.
the house has a lot of things,
my brother keeps his cricket bat behind the sofa on occasions and destroys the tube lights with his balls,
the television only shows channels
of soap operas that don't make sense to any of us
because everybody there seems too artificial and too happy,
they have perfect characters and male leads who don't get angry.
I try to picture the house members as them but sometimes the play recedes reality or even our bedtime and we can't hide
footsteps, balls, cricket bat
and the male lead picks the bat up and rages it at us angrily – though I can't see much hiding under the kitchen table.
the house is of men,
“they are always more knowledgeable”, mother says and I dictate myself around the idea of it,
my clothes cover too much skin now
and I carry trays to every room.
I do not look in the mirror too often as good girls don't
but once in a while I catch a gaze of a woman in my reflection and almost ask
“what of women and what of their will” in the house that is dictated by the knowledgeable men who are but absent,
“rooms, things, stories”
mother says, “are where woman live as they never leave the house but become of it so they could place it where the heart should be,
and do you know where then their hearts lie?”
“underneath the kitchen table”, I say.