Poem winning third place in the Prakriti Poetry Contest 2013

SEASON’S GREETINGS RELATIVES – by Pooja Rathnakumar

They write on baby-smooth envelopes,
wish me happiness every new year.
They call on unexpected Sundays,
their hellos, byes, weather-talk
as predictable as their absence
on gloomy, sad days. Their love is
packed in annual season’s greetings –
lifeless words on lifeless paper.

One day, tragedy strikes. I wipe my
tears on their envelopes, not their
winter jackets. I walk like a cripple on
lonely rainy days, umbrella shivering
with my lonely fingers. Fingers that
know only the touch of paper, not
the company of human flesh.

I throw up in empty restrooms, body
trembling, wishing somebody would
hold my head for me.

I think unshared, sad thoughts at
abandoned, sanitized restaurants,
clinking glass as brittle as my heart
to raise imaginary toasts against the air.

On lonely holidays, I read the books – eyes
turning into dried tears for the only real
family I’m linked to, not by blood, but by
fiction, make-believe.

I cook for myself in tiny kitchens food
with an almost airborne density –
no appetite to feed. I wake
up on misty mornings, hands groping for
human presence – replaced in ample
compensation by the cosy fluffiness of
inaudible foam pillows.

But you know what? They’re
always there for me – on season’s
greeting cards – telling me in
unerasable ink that I’m special.
I can’t hear them, touch, smell, feel them.
I wish I could see them in their
hurried handwriting. But neither can
I see, feel, hear, touch, smell God.

Yes, people love me on greeting cards.
Actually, that’s all they can really afford, you
know.

So I wait for winter, for Christmas, then
New Year, for that one day in a year – that
one-day true love which lives forever on paper,
but ends precariously in the mere names of
my season’s greetings relatives.

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