“Understanding freedom” – Nayana Nair

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He broke my shackles with his blood
and took my hand,
my weightless hand, my almost wings,
and held them in the warm embrace of his own prayer.

As my hands created ripples for my own amusement,
as my hands broke the bread that I would now get to eat,
as I looked at flowers for hours at leisure,
and sang wordless songs without the fear of being heard
-he cried.
It was beautiful and sort of silly – his tears.

He cries at the smallest things
yet is unfazed at the moments that require tears.
Like this farewell, where with a smile
he recites his memorized list of wishes,
he recites the feelings of hope he has for the ones before him.

He looks at me. He looks at us all
and says “you are free. this is now a game without masters.
this is now a world where you are as good,
as deserving of respect
as anyone you stand with or stand against.
you are free. live. live such that
you would need no one to remind you of that.”

As we cried, he told us that
disappearing is what he always meant to do
that wanting his shadow around,
seeking his approval, and following his words
would undo everything he has done in this world.
Yet our tears won’t stop.

We didn’t know if these tears were of desperation,
of relief, of love, of being abandoned,
of being left without directions or heads that could
do the work of seeing and thinking for us,
in return of our submission.
He told us it is sometimes okay not to know.
He said it is okay to hate him
if it helps us to find a way that is our own.

It broke me to hear that because
he spoke as if being okay with being hated for saving
was an essential part of being good.
It was sad that he had to smile when he said it
as if he was not free to cry or complain for something like that.
Or maybe I have not understood freedom yet.

“in the light that smiles nonetheless” – Nayana Nair

that’s where my anger lives

on the mud stains of a size 7 shoes
swimming on the white floor of my small apartment.

in the plants uprooted, in the marigolds strewn
and trampled on, in the light that smiles nonetheless.

on the streets where lives my fear – that finds me
and almost kills me, every time i hear footsteps behind me.

on the patronizing attitudes that i dutifully respond with gratefulness.
on the potential dangers, the possibilities of violence that every intimacy invites.
on the things i say yes to with a breaking heart.

in the mirror that only prizes my delicate frame and my weak wrist,
that tells me i would at least beautiful in the missing posters,
in the files housed in grim police stations,
in the videos and photos i would never get to know of (if i am lucky)

in the speeches that tell me i am safe
in the compartments and corners made for me.
soundproof corners where either
i would finally end up believing the facade, the lie of a safe world
or where i would learn how to stay silent to be spared the worst.

that’s where my anger lives