“Come and Kneel and Dream” – Nayana Nair

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Come and kneel here my child.
This is our new lord, our new god.

Come here and learn his face,
learn all things he doesn’t like to see in us.

Promise me that you will never try
to be a reflection of him, never hold him in your heart.

Even as you bow to him, to powers of cruelty
repeat to yourself again and again,

that no god ever killed freedom; no savior,
no beacon of light, no provider of grain owns your soul.

This is all that I have managed to do so far-
silently witnessing and persevering.

Cowardly, I have survived without giving in, without opposing,
without saving, without killing anyone, protecting just you and me.

To bow my head with tears in my eyes
is the only thing I could do with the strength the new gods left in me.

I do not know what to ask from you, what to teach you
but somehow you must outlive all those who prey on all things good.

My crimes of silence and tolerance leaves me no right
to speak of peace or love or future

but I feel fear and hope thinking of you.
You – who has never seen the world with open sky and kinder hearts

will either dream of a strength drawn out of blood of others
or you might just realize the value of everything that people call weak now.

Come and kneel here my child, in front of all those who teach us
to build our own prisons and build them bigger thrones.

All those who hold our lives hostage binding us with our own fear-
look at them and imagine a world where they don’t exist; not even within you.

“I hope for them to not see and not know”- Nayana Nair

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The river rises,
another flood is here
and I haven’t yet learnt to swim.
My friends are again at my door.
They knock, then they start crying.
They tell me about the happiness I can’t see,
they try to predict what you
would have wanted me to be,
and all I can do is laugh at it all.

My laugh, it must be as frightening to them as my tears now.
For even as they send me pics of kittens and quotes,
and stories saved from fire, stories filled with hope,
I hear their panic from the other side.
They know that just taking your name
had undone the strength
they tried to feed me for months.

And since now they can’t breathe
everytime I close my door, everytime I refuse to speak –
I am another hell to them.
And since I can’t let them break over me –
they are another pillow pressing on my face.

I hope for them to let me own my sadness.
I hope for them to not see and not know my pain.
But they do, they feel so much of me
that I have to open the door,
that I have to let them hold my hands.

I tell them that I’ll live no matter what
and they still tell me that it is not enough-
they want me to be who I was.
I can only smile at their cruel hopes for me.

“But it also means…” – Nayana Nair

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I guess now I am the cruel one-
the one people fear to love.
This scenario was meant to be sad,
but it isn’t somehow.
(Why do the worst cases taste so bland to me
when finally they arrive?)

I guess it makes me relieved, if not happy,
to feel loneliness more often than feeling distance.
No one knocks at my door,
and I can’t help but smile
knowing it also means no would leave me.
No one would leave me in love, leave me in pieces,
leave me hating myself again.
(Why do my hopes sound like running away
even if I am facing life in every way I can,
the only way I am allowed to,
the only way forward that doesn’t require
sacrificing myself again?)

“Telling Signs” – Nayana Nair

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“Does rust affect plastic dreams?”
I ask my teacher in my sleep.
She takes out an axe and starts cutting down
the first mouth filled with wrong answers.
Two rows away
she wipes her brows and folds her sleeves,
she takes another deep breath
before she checks the attendance sheet
and finds the next dream to kill.

She tells me I should think more and ask more
and ask the questions that help me live.
She looks at the metal that grows out of my pores
and gives me another chance.
She says only if I would try to be better
than the people I am clinging to, I could grow up to be her.
I look away from the blood that flowing down her neck,
the parts of her that she intends to kill by holding other’s breath.

“What about my mother’s arms, weak weak exhausted arms?
Are those my telling signs?
Does that mean I don’t have to worry,
that I am just someone next in line?
What about you? Do you rust like me?
Would the color of my rust, would my weakened heart
make me worth protecting,
make me deserving of kinder words?

She told me “It will not get you respect or equality,
if that’s what you are looking for.
It can sure get you love, of some kind, for some time
but it is just a matter of time
before you see the end that only you can write.
And you would end up writing it
cause that painful end would be more truer and more yours
than any love that you find by compromise.”

As she walks past me, smiling lovingly,
as she spares my life, that now she owns.
As she dissolves my only way back,
I realize too late, that my chaos and my doubts
were more hopeful than an answer like this
that promises pain to everyone else but me.

“The Sun and the Sorrow” – Nayana Nair

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The sun and the sorrow
were in my eyes.
I couldn’t see your face
as you bent down
and carefully separated
your words of love
from the pieces of me.

When I am in sorrow
I try to imagine
what you could have looked like
as you carefully took back
everything of yours.
I imagine an ugly indifference,
sometimes I imagine a tear.
I don’t know what to do
with this “not knowing.”

But in these painful retellings
I feel relieved at this uncertainty
that sometimes lets me remember you
as the part of me that I couldn’t help but love
even in my breaking.
But I also feel relieved at the ease with which
I can draw that cruel expression on your face
which won’t let me stay in love with you
any longer than this.

“Everything I Treasure” – Nayana Nair

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There is a kind of happiness
that eludes me,
a kind of fear that
grips me in my sleep,
a kiss that makes me fear
losing
everything I shouldn’t treasure.
A person who kills me every second by loving me,
by giving up his hollow self to my hungry mouth.
A person whose sadness,
only sadness is mine.
A person who has loved too much,
been hurt too much,
who now substitutes pity, anger, jealousy, and need
in place of true love
(what is true love anyway?).
I remain awake trying to make this equation work
(what is true love anyway?).
I weigh my heart against yours and I realize
what a waning moon feels like.
I collect such new feelings without blaming you
(what is true love anyway?).
All my treasures are feelings I would accept
only by your hands,
however cruel and hurtful they may be.

You stand beside the fire” – Nayana Nair

In the rubble with nerves hiding sparks,
in the nest of sleeping explosives,
again it is you.
Again you are here to prove something
by doing something unasked for.

You build a place for warm tea,
for all our shivering ghosts to haunt.
You place the chairs that are not chairs
but buckets that cannot hold anything now.
There are chairs that are lying around just fine
but you don’t want them.
You don’t want the old purposes eating away
the beauty of all that is left behind.

You console the ones holding onto what is no longer there
but you don’t want the ones who want a way back to what it was.
You ask us questions with your bleeding lips
you want us to answer with something real,
not just words.
“You are cruel”,
you laugh when we say that.
You make us leave everything we are
just so that we can finally sit on empty buckets
thinking about the hands we cannot hold,
thinking about hands that are no longer hands.

“The city is no longer burning”, you tell us
as we place our empty glasses in front of our empty eyes
and tell us it is fine if we don’t believe it now.
“Sleep. Dream and stay for a while with the molten and bombed,
the lost and the dead that still have your heart.
Take your time.”

As we lay awake in our heart-wrenching grief,
as we lose ourselves to your favorite world of sleep,
you stand beside the fire
that keeps us alive.
You stand beside the fire
that is not actually fire
but your heart
that burns like sun.

We wanted to tell you, “You are kind.
You are too beautiful for this world.
Have our heart and burn it instead.”
But we couldn’t .
We knew these things were easy only in words,
that these were things we couldn’t do, yet.
That we have not smiled and laughed with bleeding lips,
helping while being hated.
That we were too selfish to be you.

“My grief has my face” – Nayana Nair

My grief has my face.
My grief has only questions in her eyes-
questions that require me to cry
and accept the cruel face of the love I have got.
My grief instead gets my silent embrace,
my refusal to choose better, for her sake or mine.
My grief has my face
and my heart that only knows defeat
and only in defeat has found comfort of love that cannot live in me.

“Give you away” – Nayana Nair

I wonder
if the roles I play
are really what I want to be.
Or is it too late?

Are my roles,
my not-so-temporary voices
already doing
the dreaming and the wanting
in my place
for me?

I see you and utter “love me”
without thinking twice.
Even if you find
some love left in you to give up,
I wonder
is there any “me” left in me
to love you back.

Would I end up setting you up
with a heartless cruel face of mine?
Would I hold your hand, only to give you away
to the parts of me, that cannot ever understand
how precious you are?

“Eventual Fall” – Nayana Nair

She just laughed and said
“you are not really intelligent,
you know that right?”
as she packed her bag,
making space for her only notebook, with difficulty.
I wonder if she really needs all those the things.
She is not a careful person,
I know that because her list of priorities is horizontal-
everything is important, everything is equally dispensable.
I hear a song breaking at the bottom of her lungs,
when she talks of the new thing that she will love forever
when I know she won’t.

She lets me know for my own good “geniuses are not made by effort,
love doesn’t happen by hard work,
quit swimming and struggling when you are on land.”
She takes me by hand, teaching me how to walk,
teaching me her pace.
Her pace unsettles me. She gives cruel names
to my innocent actions as she smiles.
She smiles at me while I wait for my forever to end.
And only because I hate myself
for not wanting to love her sometimes
I smile back.

I wonder how far my determination can take us.
As she finally boards the train home, after missing out on a few,
she says “stop struggling, when i am with you,
i know your heart, even when you don’t.
it hurts to see you like this,
things will eventually fall in their place.”
I wonder if she is pushing herself, within the limits of who she is,
to save something of us, to save something of me.
I wonder how she can love me, if she knows how petty my heart is.
And because I do not know the answers to her,
I wait for us to fall into the places.
I think of her and find it easier, this wait.