Winning poem of the Prakriti Poetry Contest 2013

NOSTALGIA- by Annie Besant

Is this where we walked, my brother?
On cobblestones ancient
where bottle tops and jagged green glass bloomed like errant teeth.
Hopped, skipped, ran
among others like us with bad manners,
and skin that burnt brown under the Bombay sun.
Howled, screamed, hid
like savages with sticks and marbles,
breaking growing bones and spitting teeth as offerings to childhood gods.
I’ll not speak of the games we played,
daring the other to hurt, to tear, to use nimble fingers;
the inherent darkness that lives in the byways of innocence.

Is this where we lived, my brother?
In a house ringing
with furtive couplings and muffled thuds of flesh splitting skin.

In the shadow of them,
who in sweat and violence satiated our demands
that rang sharp and cruel like fledglings’ chirps.
In the shadow of their vices,
which thickened and sank like molasses into our unresisting skins;
only we thought they were gods.
I’ll not speak of the children who went before,
the ones who had bled the womb before us;
only the living are remembered by the earth and the sun.

Is this where we flourished, my brother?
In streets echoing
with stale gossip and the smells of freshly baked bread.

We chased after kites
spiraling and dipping like drunken dervishes,
coming to a rest on rooftops that we surfed with ecstatic devotion.
No, we never shunned the gutters
or the pathways that meandered through crusted yellow feces,
if only we could find a lost marble or filch a crow’s nest of hidden things.
I’ll not speak of the unfettered laughs from mouths
that had not yet learnt to love bitter words;
oh, to scoop up that old laughter like a conch scoops up the sea.

Look at us now,
sitting behind polished desks
as if that childhood of gnawing memories didn’t belong to us.

Look at us now,
like land-locked fisherman
searching for the sea.

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