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Rosheena Zehra

Look what you have done. Welcome oblivion.

Pain

Dated: May 2017
Photo Courtesy: Artmajeur

I wish I could explain to you what pain was all about. It was in every lost lover, every ignored glance, every mind game I ever played or was played on. It was in every cancelled trip and missed deadline and disappointing grade.
Pain was about bad weather and missed meals and a flat tyre. It was in nightmares that shook me and in pms’ hormonal changes. It was in an ignored phone call and an unreplied text and an unnoticed status. Pain found me during a stomach ache, and in a dysfunctional limb. It was in a cancelled date and a bad photograph.

Pain was with me when a friend left, another died. It was in misconstrued thoughts and more misguided actions. Pain was in sad twilights and longer nights and in every beautiful drive that ended. I wish I could tell myself what pain was all about. It was in every lost story, in every missed opportunity, it was in many things that preceded laughter, love and hope.

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The Slayers

Dated: March 2018
Photo Courtesy: Max Pixel

We sat huddled in a corner, keeping ourselves warm with the dying fire. As embers flew in the air around us, I tried to inch closer to it as noiselessly as possible.

Sometimes in the middle of the night, they wake me up to tell me to breathe less noisily. Who knows what would have happened if any of us snored?

I’ve heard stories about teams who gave themselves away because a member happened to sneeze at the wrong time. The Slayers picked their noise before they picked their scent and that was the end of it. Like how it always is.

This is my seventh team. I barely know any of them here. They do no speak my language, or each other’s. This tells me we are a team of survivors, it gets my hopes high. We are the toughest of the lot, and since we have survived so far, we will survive right till the end. I conveniently ignore the long bloody trail of companions and family members all of us have left behind.

We were a family of three, mom, dad and I, before the Slayers got them, my parents. I was with my parents till my third team. None of the members survived from that one except me. The luckiest of us were in the fifth one, eight of the twelve of us lived to join different teams, choose paths that led us as far away from the Slayers as possible. They say there’s no getting away from the Slayers, that they are everywhere, growing everyday in number and strength exponentially. But I believe otherwise, I’m still hopeful.

Back then teams used to be bigger. It was before we realised that they should be big enough to provide adequate protection, warmth and sustenance, but, at the same time, not become an encumbrance.

My current team has five members including myself. We travel during the night and hide (rest?) during the day. That’s when the Slayers are at their strongest. We, on the contrary, have major trouble with sight in daylight. Our vision is mostly like a blur of colours and light intermingling with a constant swirl of objects. We see best in dim light, during twilight and dawn, when we are at our strongest. Nights are moderately better than the day, because that’s when the Slayers are most incapacitated by the darkness.

I still remember how it started. I vaguely remember the last few vestiges of peace between us and them, when there was no ‘us’ and ‘them’. My Pop, my dad’s dad, even told me of a time when the Slayers were called by a different name, one I don’t recall now (not that anyone has even used it in years). He told me stories of a time when Slayers actually lived in harmony with us! I once brought it up with my last team, and almost risked being thrashed to death by a member who had lost his better half in a Slayer attack in his previous team.

Pop has been dead and gone for a while now. There’s no way I’ll ever know the truth of his tales. Slayers and us in harmony? I’d rather believe my ancestors could breathe under water. But if only I could recall what Pop called them.

Sitting next to the fire, I fell asleep…on my watch. Even though we normally are safe from them during the night, we still made it a point to keep watch. I had not slept properly in three nights, obsessing over trying to remember what Slayers were called when they lived peacefully with us in Pop’s tales.

As I steadily handed over myself to sleep, involuntarily of course, I failed to see how the fire had begun to flourish. The embers had found a safe harbour on nearby brambles setting them afire. The warmth patted my tired back like a gentle mother lulling her baby to sleep, and I forgot about the Pyro protocol -the fire was never supposed to be beyond five Tersa, our measuring unit. The Slayer vision started at six. We were supposed to risk freezing to death than let the fire go beyond five Tersa according to the rules.

As I delved deeper and deeper into sleep, the fire became a being now well over eigth Tersa.

The Slayers had been our friends for centuries until one day, Pop said, they ran out of space. And that’s when trouble started. We had mostly stayed out of each other’s way until then.

Was that the harmony Pop was referring to –steering clear of each other?

When they ran out of space, the encroachments began. Soon the birds lost their nests, rodents lost their burrows, herbivores ran out of fodder. We thought that was the worst of it, but it didn’t stop there. Huntings began, food webs were disrupted. Wherever Slayers went, bloodshed and destruction followed.

While I traversed the history of our kind and the starting of the War against the Slayers, I could feel myself getting closer to the name Pop had used for them. It was like a hiss.

Ssssss….

They had enough space, food, everything they ever needed. But one day, it wasn’t enough.

Saaaaa…

The fire had reached ten Tersa. Someone in the team began to stir awake. There was a rustling noise outside our encampment. Now fully awake, she pounced on her four limbs and snarled into the darkness.

Sapiens. Homo Sapiens. Humans.

Someone shook me awake. Another team member howled with pain as a dart-like object hit him in his stomach. Blood matted his dark auburn fur.

I found myself trapped between the raging inferno and a trio of long, metallic nozzles pointed at me. There was a clicking sound inside the nozzles as three triggers were pulled simultaneously. The Slayers had arrived, I realised calmly.

Twilight

Many days ago
During a sombre twilight
A boy sat next to me
Struggling with a gadget
Or a song
Or an emotion.
You and I might never know,
He tried a tune
Then another
Then one more.
I sat there
Watching
Mulling, pondering
How many twilights
Had I spent
Over and over again
Sitting next to someone
Struggling with a gadget
Or a song
Or an emotion.
I could tell you what I felt
If I could put it in either a box
Of pain or pleasure
But it was neither and both
Like love
The Schrodinger’s cat of the equation;
Like moving in a circle over a circle over a circle.
How many twilights I’d left behind
And how many twilights were ahead of me
It didn’t matter what paths I chose
What decisions I made
I knew I would still be here
Sitting next to a boy
As he played the right song
Opened a closed door
And closed another.

 

 

 

Artwork @ohgigue. Also, a special mention of the people in my life. My poetry wouldn’t exist if they didn’t. 🙂

I’m Gonna be an Optimist About This

When I look away,
From the lights and cameras,
And stars and stardust,
Who are you and who am I?

If I forget about the wrinkles
And tired eyes,
Of hours of practice,
And talent and skill;

Once there was a purity untouched
Now tarnished by Twitter hearts
And Facebook likes;
They as guilty as me

Beyond massive crowds,
Singing along,
To songs, once illegally downloaded,

All my flaws are exhumed,
One by one,
Along with pirated merchandise
The stash now on the ground.

Take your art away,
And the beauty it wove with words
And strings and keys,
And percussion,

And there it lies,
On the floor,
Next to your merchandise
(Or is it mine?)
Not reduced in its greatness,
No, just violated.

I liked a band once.
On a dark night,
When it sang about,
Finishing what I started,
In matching black tees,
And of volcano eruptions and lost cities

Was that a favourite TV show they just mentioned?
Or maybe a surreal, trippy director?
Or both, who knows?
It was not the art, it was never the art,
But what the world made of it.

(The title is part of a line from a favourite song by a favourite band. Featured image not owned by me.)

While You Slept

While you slept, 
I found in my heart a secret,
To share,
But you stirred and stayed
Calm and peaceful as death,
Away from a wailing heart
And the dread
Of stories lost
And too far gone.
I willingly stayed 
Beside you instead
Watched as you slept
Safe, and sure
Of my secrets and dawn

I Love You. Scream

I love you. Scream.
Or call it difference in principles.
Or shall we blame past lovers,
For the mistakes we make with current ones?

You should have held the door.
You should have stayed up late.
We lost the day when we looked away
In opposite directions
From the same window
Letting the mess rot away
Filling and over flowing
The putrid water on the floor now
Spreading, black and cankerous.

My hair clips on your bedside
Your ashtray on mine
The lock on the door
Same as before

But for how long
Before we let go
Of the pretty place in your heart
Where I nuzzle and cuddle
And repent and be saved
From a future scary and unknown.

I will isolate you
Like you me
And find in my heart
A similar pretty place
But not for you

Only me
And finally drive the nail
Through the coffin
Now ridden with garlic
And metal

Scream. A last time, I promise.
Yes, that’s how it’s done.
Beautiful and glorious.
Scream.

(Photo: Kyss by Edvard Munch)

Of Books and Launches

 

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Book launches over the years: Candy Stripes (2009), Moon (2014), Dreamcatcher (2016) ^_^

 

Find here the teaser to my latest publication, Dreamcatcher, a novel on clinical depression, madness and schizophrenia.

 

 

My Last Weekend

This poem was written one August night in 2014. I thought it’s on my blog until tonight when I chose to revisit it and found it missing. So here it goes, one more time after two years.

The beauty is in the imperfections, the flaws,
The fears, doubts and vulnerability,
Just like the poetry in a jigsaw puzzle.
It’s in having a few secrets,
And in learning how to keep them.

In the uncertainties and the exhaustion,
In the realisation of the absolute lack of control,
And awfully misfired plans.
In wrongly interpreted intentions,
And in making far worse choices.

It’s in the folds of the sheets after a long night’s sleep,
Or in the Sandman’s burden in sleepy eyes.
It’s in the warmth of a hot bath,
And in the chill of artificially cooled air.
It’s in the daily threat of skin cancer,
And in the life and comfort we still manage to derive out of a burning orb.

And in the nights -I haven’t forgotten them,
Oh, no, not at all!
And in the highly underestimated city lights we ignored while looking at the stars.
The beauty is in the tears of pain,
In the ability to be able to create these tears;

The beauty is in the terrible,
It’s in the fear,
Of the darkness of the unknown,
Working along with the vindictive scales of time,
As it goes about fulfilling its daily duties of transitory joys and illusions.

Yet, let me repeat, the beauty is in weakness and fragility,
In having deep, dark secrets;
In having crossed a certain threshold of sanity,
And still have come back,
In having been on the dark side,
But have found light again.

Beauty is in the swift night wind,
The shimmering concrete bathed in the golden of the street light.
Beauty is in the glowworm,
It is in making mistakes and the lessons they leave behind.
Beauty is in never forgetting those lessons;
In never making the same mistakes twice.

Yet,  beauty is in the imperfections, the flaws,
The fears, doubts and vulnerability,
Just like the poetry in a jigsaw puzzle.
It’s in having a few secrets,
And in learning how to keep them.

It’s all about the poetry in a jigsaw puzzle.

When You Embark on the Journey of Getting Published

I wrote this almost a year ago. On most days, I don’t agree with the views expressed here. Also, I was going somewhere with it when I began, but there was an interruption in the process of writing it. By the time I got back, the momentum had been lost. Here’s whatever was left of the piece.

 

Once you’ve decided to put yourself through excruciating self torture of getting published, take a leaf from my little glittery book of experience.

Firstly, brace yourself for more torture, shameless publicity and a dalliance with the Devil that includes your soul. At no point think of aunties of the realm of Extended Family who had questioned an idealistic you a couple of years ago about the practicality of writing. Do not, at ANY point, I repeat, do not at any point remind yourself the truth of their words all those years ago.

You know the quiet but strong voice of conscience we all have, that tells us from right wrong, always takes us on the right path? Kill it. The time to listen to it was years ago, you’re too far gone now. I mean seriously, who even does art anymore? Unless of course you’re Ben Whishaw from Bright Star (whose character in the movie was also convinced of his loserishness. just putting it out there that’s all. But if you’ve lasted this long, this isn’t likely to daunt you.)

By this time you may have probably realised that your written word is not sparking off a revolution anytime soon. Good-bye to subversion of conformity of any degree for now. Thoughts like ‘I should have just become an engineer like they said’ are fairly common at this point…

 

To be continued.

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