by Nandini R. M., 17

love comes wearing a shawl,
and her hands are besmeared
with cement at odd gaps between her fingers.
she drops a dull parchment
my mother had sent minutes
ago, you don’t need to die like i do.

as a kid i never liked evenings
as a teen i never liked confinements
and i hated when my mother stroked
my hair with the word adjustment.
she had mentioned that rebels aren’t invited
to gatherings of elites, she tried to
teach me geometry while cooking,
she tried to teach me geography
through games like atlas, she learnt
mnemonics to fight my dyslexia,
yet after all this time i couldn’t understand
the anatomy of plastered smiles.

i was weak in sports, failed in games,
but i knew how to fly, how to open wings
and carry gazillions of dreams in the space
between adjacent feathers. my mother brought me
up amidst monster men and claimed me to be
the strongest even when i failed at the easiest
spheres of life. she didn’t give up teaching, so, today
is the day when she wants me to learn the lesson of
running miles without looking back at the tangled strings.

oh, how we both wish
to just fade away from this
marital ceremony but one has to stay,
and like always, she chooses to be the one.
i know my mother on seldom days tries to look
for homes instead of an orphanage inside me
and as i look at her for one last time, she smiles a tranquil smile
as if her dreams and dilemmas got a permanent address.  

Delhi, India

Notes from our interns on selecting this piece: This is a haunting poem, where the struggle to live up to someone else’s dreams pulses through the imagery and details. The ending sings, and that last metaphor has a permanent address in me—I’ll remember it.