Windows to the Soul

This week’s writing challenge was about “collecting detail”. Though it was constructed around the details from a more recent time (this week), I looked instead at a memory from my childhood, because there is a power in those simple details that can never be forgotten.

———-

The first thing I noticed was the once-white vest. The last thing I remember was the eyes. Large, teary, haunting. Her six-year-old eyes staring into mine. They shouldn’t have been so different. Even with the advantage of having the same relative background- similar features, the same skin colour. So why would her eyes be so different from mine? Maybe it was because we both held dolls, cradled ever so carefully in our arms. Only, while mine was fake- a blob of plastic with a meticulous paint job- hers was real. Very real. Held just like mine was, her doll would occasionally reach up to touch her face or bite its own fingers with a gummy mouth.

Mine didn’t do that.

Nearly 13 years later, those eyes remain branded in some corner of my mind, surfacing every now and then as a reminder of what I saw, of what I realized many years later.

Eyes are windows to the soul. There was innocence in those eyes, mirroring mine, but a kind of maturity that I can’t even imagine knowing at that age, or any age really. Her soul? Veiled beneath dark lashes that reached out to the world in a silent plea that her words couldn’t voice, those eyes were at once both open and closed to the world. A foggy window where only glimpses of the other side are visible, the rest a secret never to be shared.

It’s interesting how much a one glance can tell you, how long one second can stay with you. Memory is a finicky thing- it slips so easily, like the sand you try and hold on to, falling away faster the more you want it to stay. Then other times, it like a burr, stuck on you no matter how hard you try to make it release you, ensnaring you with tiny claws otherwise invisible. Wanted or unwanted, we have no control over the snapshots that pin themselves onto the memories of our life.

The first thing I noticed was the once-white vest. The last thing I remember was the eyes. Large, teary, haunting. Her six-year-old eyes staring into mine. And then they were gone. What seemed like an eternity escaped by in a mere moment. The commotion of the roadside- the honking and yelling and laughing and ringing and talking; the noise that seemed to have disappeared completely- came back like a gunshot, and suddenly we were driving on even as she stood, her doll still clasped tightly in her arms, moving on to the next car. Life went on.


The Wish Catcher

Photo cred: "dandelion fluuf" by Silvermist (2011), from fotocommunity

Photo cred: “dandelion fluff” by Silvermist (2011), from fotocommunity

In a silent call to each other, the flowers turn as one to face the rising sun. It’s time.

No ticking of the clock or ringing of the bell is needed to alert the petals. Each, in perfect unison, flutter a greeting as they twist, leaves bowing down in respect.

Like thunder clouds storming in to devour the sun, a torrent of white- seemingly one being- appears, floating, moving closer with every breath but stagnant, motionless.

They near, and we see thousands and millions of fuzzy umbrellas.

The air clears; a man appears on the horizon, hat in one hand, twirling straw with the other over and over and over.

The Wish Catcher.

Somewhere else, far from the man with the hat in his hand and barrel of wishes by his feet, three children frolic away in a field.

The youngest, angelic in face and manner, still learning to walk, plucks a dandelion on a whim known only to her.

Her chubby, childish hands caress the top only to release the snowy fluff that fall like buttons off a sweater.

The oldest, wise in face and manner, still learning the ways of the worlds, senses the barrage of tears and plucks yet another dandelion and presents it to the youngest.

“If you blow on it while making a wish, the umbrellas will fly to the wish catcher on the island of blue and green.”

A hopeful glance. A smile. A tentative blow.

There is only one kind of weather here in the island of blue and green; wish season, where the wishes fall like snow to the ground, coating the grounds with the hopes and childish dreams of so many for the Wish Catcher.

Somewhere in those clouds, there’s the wish of a little girl. A girl, angelic in face and manner, whose wish, blown from hesitant lips, wanders unseen in the crowd of wishes just like it. She waits by a window- one smooth and unblemished, the mirror to her soul- looking out into the moon, wondering about her wish.

Many years later, that little girl, though not so little anymore, still angelic in face and manner, sits by a window, a different one this time- more faded and chipped that the one from her childhood. She still looks outside, though the moon is nowhere in sight. Instead, it is the lights of a dozen other girls who sit like her, behind broken windows that reflect their broken souls.

She still waits for that wish of her to come true. That wish, from a time of innocence and happiness, is the only star that’s continued to shine for her, even when all the others turned their backs on her and sided with the cold darkness that surrounds her.

They too still search for their wishes. Some can still see it in lying on the horizon, as if waiting for them with patience not known to man. But there are those whose worlds have become entombed in darkness, who see not even a flicker of light until it is time for the white to encompass them. Their windows, far from chipped or dirty, lay broken by their feet, the shards piercing them at every turn.

In the island of blue and green, there is no darkness. Even when the set sets, the silvery moonlight and celestial fireworks fill the night, illuminating the skies. No black may enter, no shadow may linger.

Yet every so often, a dandelion wish will crumble, and the silver-gray ashes will fly away into the wind, as lost and forgotten as their wishers were. Those ashes- like sparkling dust, there for a moment, then nowhere in sight- are noticed only by the man with the hat in his hand and barrel of wishes by his feet. For every wish that crumbles, a single tear slips down his weathered cheek, splashing onto the umbrella-covered fields, landing so gently, so softly, and disappearing so quickly, as if it were never there.

He is the Wish Catcher. With the hat in one hand, twirling straw in the other, over and over and over, and barrel of wishes by his feet. So many wishes, so many dreams, so many hopeful faces sitting, waiting by the window. So many little girls and boys, but so little time.


Flying

Golden, British Columbia- Didn't actually get onto this plane!

Golden, British Columbia- Didn’t actually get onto this plane!

Traveling is always something I’ve loved. Whether we were moving homes or simply visiting, my family began traveling with me from the time I was 3 months old. For many years though, while I adored everything about being some place new, I hated the physical traveling, that is to say, I hated flying. Plagued with a motion sickness that made even the most exciting of trips begin with a rocky start, I hated everything about being on a plane, from uncomfortable temperature- always too hot or too cold- to the ear popping moment as the descent began, I hated it. As I get older though, and face the prospect of being on plane at least 4-5 times a year, going back and forth between college in Boston and home in Toronto, I find myself, dare I say it? enjoying the flights. Perhaps it’s the fact that they’re much shorter than the one’s I was previously used to, and I still do hate the odd temperatures and the way my ear pops at the end, but for some reason, as the plane takes off and lands, those few dizzying minutes where I see the world disappear and appear, going through shades of the sky I can normally only gaze at through my bedroom window, I feel peaceful. Of course, the world soon disappears, that irritating motion sickness finds its way back from wherever it had gotten lost, and everything in the middle of taking off and landing becomes a blur of trying to mitigate the churning in my stomach. Still, there is something about those few moments of watching a city reduced to nothing but little specks of colour that puts me at ease, if only for a short while.

Flying

The world rushes by,
tilts,
and suddenly I’m flying.
I’m in the air, moving
constantly yet utterly still.
An invisible hand pushes me back,
ever so gently, and I
watch as the world
soon disappears from my line
of sight.
Blues skies turn darker,
through a shroud of grey,
then finally there is a canopy of black.
The pressure eases, and shining
like stars,  specks
of yellow and white twinkle
beneath me,
lighting the paths
of towns and cities.
They soon fall away
and the surrounding blackness
ensnares me.

Up here in the air, nothing
exists. Boundaries
and borders fall away
until all that remains
is space. Empty. Free.
Peaceful.


New Waters

Boston Harbor Front

Boston Harbor Front

Just over a week ago, I moved to Boston to start my freshman year at Emerson College. It was easy falling in love with this city, with the beautiful architecture surrounding me and the Boston Common and Public Gardens quite literally at my doorstep. Every now and then, I am struck by how different it is, being in a new city without knowing anyone. At the same time, as I sat by the Harbor Front, I realized how similar so many things are to what they were back home. Everything is new, but in a comfortably familiar way. Currently, at the very top of my ever growing list of things I love about Boston is my proximity to both the Boston Harbor as well as the Charles River.

New Waters

There is a kind of peace here,
even amidst the ferries that depart,
taking with them the boisterous passengers
on board to some unknown location.
It’s in the gentle breeze that plays
with my hair,
and in the hypnotizing
rippling of the water, sometimes blue,
but gray today.

There’s a stability in the boats
that sway atop the water,
constantly moving yet utterly still.

All thought, all emotion
seems nonexistent.

There is a familiarity
in the pigeon that sits
atop the wooden pole,
unfazed by anything
and anyone
around it.

These are new waters,
different from what I’m used to,
yet so similar all the same.


A Work of Art

Just outside of the Musée

Just outside of the Musée

As a post-high school trip, two of my friends and I decided to travel to Paris. We are only here for 5 days, but even as this first day comes to a close, we are in love with the city. Sitting here in our rented apartment, the window open, listening to music from the accordion player on the streets stream through the large open window, a gentle breeze cooling the room, the rush I felt as we left the airport- the realization that we are truly in Paris- hits me again.

Our first visit was to the Musée de l’Orangerie to see the Monet’s Nymphéas- his cycle of water-lily paintings. After we left the museum, we stayed outside for a while, sitting in an upper level of le Jardin des Tuileries, overlooking the city, and this was where I wrote this poem.

A Work of Art

Past the looming arches, ‘neath
an oval ceiling with filtered
light, the colours
bleed into the other.
Where one starts
and the other begins
is indiscernible.

Away from the city’s prying
eyes, tucked away
like a secret refuge,
the water flows without flowing,
trees sway without moving,
and flowers bloom without even living.
Atop long canvases, framed
ornately to colour the white walls,
the Water Lilies
and Weeping Willows
come to life.

Outside these walls,
the alarms are blaring,
cars are honking,
and all sound
is simply noise- a part
of la vie parisienne
Here,
the muffled conversations
and hushed footsteps give
the illusion of silence:
all sound becomes music.


Fireworks

Photo Cred: Levent Erutku (Levent Erutku Photography)

Photo Cred: Levent Erutku (Levent Erutku Photography)

It’s a long weekend this weekend, as today was the last Monday before May 25, the day of Queen Victoria’s birthday. Yes, Victoria Day long weekend, a time of family get-togethers, picnics, and most of all, fireworks. From Friday onwards  every night becomes a light show for the residents. On the Monday night though, which is really night-before-school-starts, the sporadic bursts of sound and light can be somewhat irritating for some, especially as it gets later into the night. While I’m hardly an early sleeper (and personally love fireworks),  reading various Facebook posts first cursing the fireworks and then expressing relief when it stopped was quite amusing. Tonight was their lucky night though as even nature seemed to be on their side.

Fireworks

Popcorn exploding
into kernels of colour.
Some rocket upwards,
popping high above the cookie
cutter roofs,
while others just fizzle
out onto the grass.
Burst of red, green, blue,
appear in the sky
as I watch them from my window,
stories higher than some of them
could ever even
dream of reaching,
counting the minutes
until they stop.

The skies,
not to be intimidated,
call forth their own
light show,
thundering footsteps,
and just enough watery bullets
to scare away all the others,
bringing peace
to slumbering inhabitants
once more.


The Noise of Silence

Even the plants seem to lose their colour…

Being home alone isn’t a bad thing. It’s even something I like, every once in a while. It is only ever in the evenings, when sleepiness sets in, that the silence in the house becomes deafening. Though my house is never loud on a regular basis, the absence of day to day sounds creates a hollow feeling. Even with music playing through the big speakers, the air conditioner running, the fridge resetting, and the clock ticking, the house just feels strange and silent.

The Noise of Silence

I enter to
silence,
the same as always,
yet not.
The emptiness is deafening,
bouncing off the walls
in echoing waves.

The lights don’t shine
as brightly,
the air conditioner hums
just a little louder,
and inactivity latches
on to my skin
like a leech.

The clock on my mantle
counts down the seconds
till tomorrow,
when sound and life
will re-enter the house.
But tomorrow still awaits
the rising sun,
and the clock still ticks
away today.

In the dead of the night,
the floors creak their symphonies,
with accents of groaning doors
and howling winds,
for their audience
of darkness
and me.


Day 30: May Morning

The last day! I can’t believe the month flew by so quickly – it truly feels as if I was just starting on the seemingly daunting task of writing and posting a poem everyday. The prompts given were all different, many of them pushing me away from my comfort zone in poetry. I hope I can maintain writing and posting at least on a weekly basis, if not more after today.

The prompt for day 30 was to “find a shortish poem that you like, and rewrite each line, replacing each word (or as many words as you can) with words that mean the opposite”. The poem that I chose - “November Night” by Adelaide Crapsey is a beautiful poem with wonderful imagery, and is coincidentally a cinquain (day 5, anyone?). In fact, Crapsey was the one who created the modern form of the cinquain which is known as the American cinquain.

November Night

Listen.
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp’d, break from the trees
And fall.

By: Adelaide Crapsey

My attempt at ‘rewriting it’– I wasn’t able to write the second line iambic feet as Crapsey did though the other four should be fine.

May Morning

Observe.
In near silence,
like breaths of sleeping bees,
the flow’rs, warm red, burst from the ground
and bloom.


Day 29: Caged Birds

Photo Cred: Ciara D'Anella

Photo Cred: Ciara D’Anella

Almost done! The prompt for day 29 was to write a poem that had at least 5 words from another language(s). The two languages I decided to use were Hindi, which I can speak somewhat decently, and Bengali, which, while I can understand a few words here and there, I cannot speak. For this reason, the Bengali words (the first three) are spelt the way it was given on Google Translate, where as the Hindi words are spelt the way they are normally seen (and said). I found this a bit difficult to write mostly because I wanted to keep the flow while switching languages, though I’m not sure whether I really succeeded or not. As opposed to defining each word separately, I simply put a “translated” version of the poem underneath. Like in any language, words can have several different meanings and connotations but do let me know if you think I used any of the words incorrectly.

Caged Birds

Along the patha outside
the jonaki and the prajapati
flutter, flitting
from branch to branch,
illuminating the akash
with roshni and rang- free.

Inside the cage
the parindey that know
not how to fly,
can never know
azaadi,
even if udaasi
is just as much an
ajanabi as
khushi.

TRANSLATION:

Along the path outside
the firelies and the butterflies
flutter, flitting
from branch to branch,
illuminating the sky
with light and colour- free.

Inside the cage
the birds that know
not how to fly,
can never know
freedom,
even if sadness
is just as much an
stranger as
joy.


Day 28: Red Tinted Memories

The prompt for day 28 was to write a poem using a “color as a guide”.

Red Tinted Memories

Gentle twists of yarn
weaving in and out
in an endless stream of colour;
roan red to baby pink.
Though highly contrasted,
they blend together
as the threads mingle with
each other to form
a sweater
which, though seemingly
soft, is rough
to the touch.
Laden with frayed memories,
the twists of yarn
and the love
that gave them form
are forever preserved in my mind
even as the colours continue
to fade with time.

Inside my mind,
I can see her hands
fly with the needles
in a criss-cross
chaos of choreographed motions.
Balls of tightly wound
yarn at either side slowly
dwindle to add to the ever
growing bundle atop her lap.
A vision- not a memory,
though very plausible
all the same,
that makes smile
nonetheless.


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