3 poems by Ishani Jasmin, take a step back - and listen: how to be a monument, with light. take a step back - and listen: where is home without a mother tongue? take a step back - and listen: children takeoff. Artwork by Ishani Jasmin. Material from http://ishanijasmin.com/, with permission from Jasmin, or sent directly to Tunnel.
HOW TO BE BRAVE:
Lie on the floor and bathe in the dark of winter –
sit on the windowsill above the radiator.
The wood is cold, but you are white hot,
and your spine will curve into an archway.
You will be a monument – towering and covered in ivy.
You will be made of stone. You will be untouchable.
Build walls around walls and take a sledgehammer to all but one –
you only need one. Your skin will keep the rain out.
You don’t need more than that. You have turned thick,
brown and purple trying to harden yourself, but you don’t have to.
Let yourself crack open – that’s how the light gets in.
I was ripped from the shakings of my mother tongue
years before I was even born
– so I’m told.
I don’t understand the conversations between
my mother and my father back home.
I have been abandoned in the trench of etymology
and left to ride this raft between dictionaries,
between histories –
I learned about my country’s mythology
from a musty set of comics.
I paid lip service in a church I’d never sworn to
before I even learned to read big words.
Kids where I’m ‘from’
take care of their parents until they die –
kids around here don’t know how to hope for anything
but that they move out before they hit twenty five.
I will break the hearts of every generation before me
because it’s us and them –
the culture crossings are dotted across my palms
to be read on my deathbed before my body is burned to ashes
to the song of a tradition I don’t even believe in.
I don’t feel much at home here
or there – remember the last time we visited ‘home’?
I slept until 5pm every day just so that I didn’t have
to scale down my life to half hour snippets anymore:
Yes, school is going fine
No, I have not lost weight,
or maybe I have, but I don’t care.
I don’t really know if marriage is on the cards just yet.
I was kind of thinking about maybe not having children
but it’s not that i’m trying to fuck with your system.
I don’t feel much at home anywhere.
I live in the second generation ocean
of confused kids without a last name
to call their own –
who travel thousands of miles to see grandparents
and relatives with a different set of sounds;
who have watched childhood games
turn into packs of cards
and filter away down the drain
along with the water that they are not allowed to drink
because their stomachs couldn’t handle it.
Who get away with ‘hello’ and ‘how are you’
and ‘goodbye’ and ‘I love you too’
on the phone
and hear their voices echo back at them
over the long distance tone:
‘I love you too.’
– ‘i love you too.’
when are you?
six forty seven on a sunday night
drysobbing into your shoulder in holland park
over things I have lost and gained
at the time, I think what I have lost most
but I’ll find out that I’m wrong
over a year later
there are so many planes above us that
whenever I look up from your chest
I see another takeoff
and I try to think about how excited
the children on those planes are,
to be flying for the first time! or
how happy their parents are to leave
here, and us
but all I can think about is you
you destroy my conscience and I think
that might be a good thing
when we stand up
I cannot feel my feet,
and my shoes are sturdier than yours
so I can’t even imagine how you are
complaining less than me
I stumble and you catch me
when we find out we’re locked in
and have to jump the fence
that stands taller than you
december softly whimpers of the illicit romance
we never quite had
“When I have that free time I instantaneously feel useless if I’m not creating: my hands itch if they aren’t painting or playing an instrument and my mind starts to buzz unbearably if it’s left to wander for too long. I also curb these feelings with long walks and late night conversations and the occasional stress-baking session.” – http://ishanijasmin.com/