Two Poems

Rakhi Dalal


On the Edge

I sit next to the window
of my third floor room,
writing about life.

The day slowly wanes.

I think I hear
burning pyres on the ghat crackle
when I see them from afar.

I turn around
and find you looking at me
from the balcony.
Your cigarette stub flickers,
smoke veils your face.

The river between us
streams turbulently,
waves of silent words
ebb and flow.

I return
to writing this poem,
hoping the words
make sense of this evening.

You watching me watch the pyres,
as I singe in this small dreary room.

When you cross,
stand behind me –
your unspoken words
whisper on my shoulders.

There is no place for
the dead, you say
as you look outside the window.

I wonder if the river
carries enough water
for all of us.

I find myself standing
on the edge of the stream.
How long before I slip
and never come back?


On Learning

Are you sleeping?
My eleven year old ears could tell
a crack from a concern
So when my nine year old brother asked
slurping asafoetida tempered Kadhi with rice
I lay feigning annoyance
over a day’s penalized
famished innards
my tongue recalling the tangy flavor
the taste of melting soft pakoras inside my mouth

Would you like a spoon?
anger turned into agony
the pangs in my belly
raging against my resolve
I got up
traipsed to the verandah
where mother sat on a chowki
reading a blue inland letter
which arrived in the morning

I am sorry, Ma
She looked
her reprimanding eyes
now mellowed
You must never speak like that before your elders
I promised to be a good girl
no raising voice
no arguing
never to cause embarrassment

Since then
never did I go without food
the Kadhi now tastes
either too vapid or too sour


Illustration: Sushmita Sridhar

Rakhi Dalal writes from a small city in Haryana. Her work has appeared in Kitaab, Borderless Journal and nether. Her essay on Memories of Partition,  invited by Bound India and judged by Aanchal Malhotra, made it to the list of winning pieces.

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