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Coffin Flowers - Prathiksha


You have brought me flowers

like evening brings you home

(a boy and his bicycle

wouldn't leave your side

till you bought them;

30 for 4, 50 for 8).

On the bed, at night,

I spread the ebbing blue of the lilacs

between my temple and your back.

Three flowers short

of bridging the distance,

I fall asleep.

The way our silences have grown

into the walls of the house

reminds you of the year

when tufts of periwinkle

dug their obstinacy

all over the ungiving terrace,

consoling the summer heat.

And, it reminds me of how

I spent the first afternoon

of a summer vacation,

clutching a can to my ear,

waiting for a voice

to travel down the string

from the other end

(the limp end)

of my tin can telephone.


The boy parts his hair

towards the left now–

it makes him look older

(13 instead of 10).

On a cycle, he wades through

the sleepy indifference of his city,

scouring the cemeteries

for flowers people have left

on the graves for their dead.

On kinder days–

when the dead are remembered

and the living are loved–

he makes good money

selling the pilfered flowers

at the city bus stand.

He's a little distracted today

by an elusive whistle

he has been trying to perfect.

But, he does not lose his balance

despite the two plastic bottles

tied on each side of the handle.

(Tahir Bhai has taught him

how the water keeps

the flowers from wilting.)


It has never occured to him

to learn their name,

but he has grown

the same blue flowers

for the last ten years.

What is left

in his modest kitchen,

the man takes to the patch

of loosened soil in his backyard;

offering the plants

most of what he allows himself.

He leaves for work

an hour early today

so he can take the 8 flowers

he woke up to this morning

and lay them down

at the chipping headstone

of the corner grave

in the now crowded cemetery.


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