Light fell through one window
in a house, once
bending through a thicket
Rooms drowning in mirage-like silence,
its inhabitants seeing alphabet
debating in diverse languages
with visions turning rods and cones.
Rooms with lesser light had shadows flickering,
in the braille of grey
with books melting into roots
as ancient knowledge drew out superstition.
They held books upside down,
forming new letters and language.
Rooms in total darkness made from shapes of fantabulism.
Now inmates met
in the common room
(sometimes) as bedfellas.
Beings of Dark
lusted for fruit.
Clashes don’t need a vocabulary.
The Darkroom people used gibberish,
the Lightroom, polemics.
The dining room was in half light,
recording these mismatches
barbaric or warmup . . .?
as the Darkroom people amplified dread
the Lightroom people argued
unease. terror. jolt. bogey
Then one day
the Light itself retreated
leaving the mansion
The people of Light couldn’t go back to the Dark.
So the people of Dark inherited the whole house.
And this happened in every corner
Of every earth.
The metamorphosis of the moth is
in the murmur of the flame.
sometimes everything merges
like the violence on the Manipuri women
like the podcast I chance upon that says
why women’s voices are marginalised in Games,
STEM, and on social media
and how they were the first ones—the marginalised
Black Women who started the Metoo movement.
the Chipko women of the forest
stood with lanterns in the day
and when the policemen laughed at their
stupidity, they said
the lanterns were for them
because they couldn’t see the truth of the forest
that it wasn’t the capitalism-wealth of felled tree logs
but a mother that fed water, earth, soul, sky.
sometimes it all merges
the mental ill-health of women screenwriters
their daily hustle for rent and dermatologists
as they escape reporting sexual violence
for the sake of mental peace
because mental ill-health is on both sides of
reporting or non-reporting,
speaking or staying silent,
getting trolled or staying immune—
mental health like a see-saw . . .
sometimes these women’s pain reaches me
as I squirm in my cocoon:
the stupidity of life’s school, earth’s school
where all the hours
the timetables and syllabi change.
that sitting alone on the second last bench
writing this essay
an ocean gets out of me
so I can be the conch shell I always used to be.
then they say it’s one short life
in which things this extrapolated, this expansive get to be—
a long stretch of beach, a lengthening horizon
a seashore from Marina to Pondi
in ever-growing shades of Vesper.
they have the gall and the balls
to speak on theories of relativity:
all math that was essential philosophy
spiritual quantum: genesis.
and then i stop crying
because someone somewhere who had a bad-corner day
stopped with his or her melancholy
and nodded their furious heads
making further peace with this irrationality
and not for once thinking of what i know:
that you don’t always bend in front of or genuflect to reality
that sometimes you make it . . .
you make it bend
for no matter how unrelenting it all is
even David had just five stones
in his pocket
Rochelle Potkar is a prize-winning poet, author, and screenwriter based in Mumbai. The author of Four Degrees of Separation (free verse), Paper Asylum (haibun), and Bombay Hangovers (short fiction), she is an alumna of two international writing residencies: Iowa’s Internatinonal Writing Program and Charles Wallace Writing Fellowship, Stirling. Her first novel and third book of poetry is due out in 2024.