the concrete floor howled,
signalling the arrival of
visitors, guests, tourists and guides
with glossy suitcases,
rolling them into our building;
to the airbnb in our block.
Sometimes it was the taxi
swooshing like a whip in the air,
parking with a creak of the handbrake
outside our lobby’s glass door.
I’ve opened the door
for many of these tourists.
I’ve collected the neighbours’ packages
and returned their keys.
I’ve picked up abandoned books
from the lobby and made them my own,
sheltering them in warm nooks in our tiny
IKEA shelf, filled with hard-bounds from India.
Some days, I stare at these books,
partly in disbelief, partly overcome with
grief, as I am reminded of being scoffed at
for reading more, for buying more when
I could give it to someone
who vegetated on my salary,
like a hungry snake tasting its surroundings—
for someone waiting to prey on my niceness.
For someone else who expected me
to be the provider, and mocked me,
pushed my thoughts away for being
radical, outspoken or simply extravagant.
For another person who couldn’t deal
with my feminine will,
a drive to own my rights,
–it would swallow their existence whole.
For someone who feared me
but wanted to exert control,
for someone who warned and shunned me,
so I’d stay where the line was drawn.
Oooh, did someone think I was Sita?
To hell with you!
I would run away with Ravana anyway.
Slut-shame me, and the shame is on you,
oh mighty warrior of the world!
I breathed fire. I revered the sun.
I wore my passion in my heart,
and swore my life to my art.
I danced to the tune of cackling embers.
I was a starfire waiting to explode.
I could burn them to ashes.
Instead, I burnt out.
I was reduced to a single
small yellow blurred spot.
A brown crumb. A dot.
Today is a Thursday and the concrete
flooring at the entrance is howling,
signalling the arrival of new visitors.
I dash to the window
to catch a glimpse
of their glossy suitcase.
The sun shines on my forehead.
I see a father rolling his child’s
stroller, the wheels crushing and grinding
tiny stones and cigarette buds
scattered on the cobbled lane.
I wait for the sound of
another suitcase to roll by,
another day to shine
through my window.
Wait, is all I can do now.