In my dream, there is a quiet verandah
of an ancient temple. The blue light falls
like a shadow over the verandah and me.
I wait for a leaf to stir me awake, a prayer
gong to sound, for even my cat to appear
but nothing moves here, not even me.
I carry this dream around like a talisman
inside my shirt pocket wishing for it to leap
out in front of me and manifest so I can walk
into it. I do not know what I would do in the
temple, having given away my God to the
neighbour by hiding it in the bowl of sugar.
She points to the amulet on my wrist. For a
moment I fear that my neighbour has caught
me sneaking my God to her, but she merely
wants to feel the gold string in her hands.
‘We are warriors,’ she says to me looking at
the amulet. I nod, smile, want her to leave.
I check my pocket after she has left, the dream
is still there. Unrealised. Untouched. I carry a
worn body inside my soul, the old t-shirt on my
shoulders, and a vial of sweet almond oil in dry
hands to prepare for the day. The cat surveys
the room, checking every nook for strangers.
So, tell me, what is a gold amulet going to do
in a blue verandah that my black cat cannot?
These words are not mine,
I say while holding them to the light.
We told you it is a blaze,
my plants say to me and I water them to shush them.
I do not light the golden lantern in the window anymore,
its filigree is unable to drop gorgeous patterns of light
on the floor.
My life is being wasted,
says the lantern’s filigree.
So is mine,
I say back to her.
The lantern and I are not on good terms these days.
She’s too pretty for me, wearing all that natural kohl
while I can’t even look at myself in the mirror anymore.
My black cat circles me three times, then seven, then nine.
If I am to live, I would at least like to be invincible.
I’m just passing the time,
says my cat.
So am I,
I say back to her.
The words that are not mine still sit inside my room.
I must have read them off a screen at some time.
They are Borrowed, Battered, Banal.
Where did I keep my own thoughts,
I ask the cat.
She sashays through the room ignoring me.
The lantern groans as the sun sets in my window.
I rummage through my room to find where I kept myself.
We are warriors,
I find the now-yellowed note he had written to me in
his determined, neat, handwriting. It peeks out at me
and I find a small tear forming in my left eye.
Light me up,
says the golden lantern behind me.
This is not mine!
I say out aloud.
We don’t believe in the stories of the world ending in Fire. But that is not why we invite the Ice inside our homes, turn up the music a little, and drink from old cups left behind by graceless grandmothers. The teapot is filled with red wine, a musky smell is coming from the dupatta I am using to take shelter from the cold. Electricity is out and I am sitting with my back towards the golden lantern. No sounds sway in the room except for the faint classical music coming from the neighbour’s house. If he were here, he would know how to do this — entertain the Ice, speak kindly to Electricity so it would brighten up again, fill the teapot with lemon-ginger tea. The cat asks me, do you think the world will end in Ice? Some nerve, this cat. I draw the room in the small pocket notebook he gave me, fill it with the scenes of all these unkempt days, write down the complaints of house things, pray with my nose into it that I do not become my drawings, press in flowers as gifts to take into the afterlife. Yes, we do not believe in the stories of the world ending in Fire, so we prepare to take the gentlest things with us onward. We are warriors, the Ice keeps saying and I believe it every single time. I get up and light the candle in the golden lantern, the cat comes and lays itself on my feet. I sleep surrounded by Ice, old chinaware, a misused teapot. It has been a long day.