Linda Ashok

the forest gradually thins into a narrow pass. I keep walking on it. Birds address me by my name; they ask me for clean mountain water. I debate their question in silence and look at the distant power plants. For ages, fireflies have been emptying their fluorescent blood to light the villages. Now, there are a very few left for the two of us and nights many more. Can they produce enough steam if I volunteer, can it turn a turbine and light the path of my own walking? I am split. We are split. Our ends are like fruits weighing down on our own shadows; garbled and hungry, nervously looking for our bones.

I have nails to read and you, the frozen butterflies inside her milky white skull.



Those days, my father was a different kind of man;
he was young, and well built on temper and lust

My mother’s job was to keep silence at home
and breastfeed my brother and mop the floor…

She never questioned my father’s foray into the clothes
of other women. She only regretted her not-so-endowed body

and dyed her hair in the dusk, evening would bring
from polluted cities. I was a feet tall and could barely see

if mother turned around to paint the walls with her eyes…
brother still latching on to her right, the one that was my favourite too.

Mom loved me more than mother, I felt. She did
those pony tails with fancy ribbons and cooked dishes

She never cooked before in her hostel; she made fish curry
and missed her focus to the vegetable vendor while father

was frantically looking for the spatula to give the nipple
an extra dough of acrylic. The fish burnt my tongue and I

could not stop behaving half a feet, in my one feet body
The next morning, my ears woke up to the groans of a plastered

moon, so white and pale, so resigned and muffled… Father took
me on his bicycle and returned me home with a basket of herbs

Twenty six years down the line, those cries are protozoa
spreading from the edges, as inside me there’s no sun.

Father sits by the window. Mother sits by the oven.
I sit in the lounge of her shadow trying to recall her face.


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