Poetry 2017 Longlist, Smruti Mahankali

Clocks
Smruti Mahankali

In a gush of silence from the percussive noise
And the psychedelic lights of the city,
I shut out the world. The only sound –
Like a heartbeat, a wall clock.
My constant companion.
           
The ticking clock reminds me that nothing stops
For me to catch a breath.
There was a clock then too:
His grandmother’s. Ticking like old clocks do,
It sat there measuring a newfound dampness
In the meeting of thighs.

It must have struck three,
As he brought his lips down on mine.
I grinned at the possibilities,
As my fingers found his neck.
The whispers of confused hopes,
Long lost fantasies, and
Heartbeats like tribal symphonies
For a ritual dance.

The next time I saw him, his arms around her,
I knew that I would plunge
into the jaws of an unknown beast.
That when talons would rip through me
I would know how his hands must have touched,
That with the taste of blood, how
His lips would feel.
And the incessant warm throbbing
At the temples, the planes of my chest,
The rips and tears in time.
I lived in the spaces between the clock hands
Forever balancing tricks of the ticking staffs;
One that thrust forward,
And one that pulled away.

There was never enough space to fit us both
In one time, always too much day
At the end of our moments.
Like every hour in every day,
And every day in the year that I knew him,
we moved. Like pendula
that can never stop, swaying between
the ever parting hands, the lips,
and the colliding of wits.
Until finally,
The seconds slipped,
The minutes slid forward
The hours dragged and bodies
Catapulted into each other.
Slick,
Smooth,

Spilling into the pores of one another
The crevices of the mind,
Like corridors of prison buildings,
The rivers of blood to quench our thirst,
The pole star propelling south;
A beacon to mark ritual love,
That has, stubbornly, persisted through darker days.

At the edge of time, the universe shattered.
Distant stars leaned closer
to watch. Weightlessness.
In ripples and waves
The skin stretched, and then stitched
Itself back. And then suddenly,
As if remembering gravity,
We fell together:
Two bags of bones,
Assorted organs, and heightened senses.
The dust had been moved,
From the resting clock,
Time had been snatched,
The fabric of the universe torn.
And then it was done.
Like clock-work feet touched ground,
Arms pieced back and stretched,
Rushed, happy whispers
A prelude to bittersweet goodbyes,
Meaningful, far-sighted glances
That have travelled time and distances
Until the last shuffling of feet.
The curtain falls, life goes on on either side;
A constant reminder that time doesn’t wait
For you to catch a breath,
That there is always a clock, ticking, like clocks do.

I sit in quiet now,
The echoes of my journey
Coursing through my veins,
Pushing blood off the edges,
Past the bits of skin we got all mixed up.
I sit in silence, that weighs
Like your body on mine.
But this time, I sit still,
The only movement, that of the clock hands
As one pushes to meet the other.

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