The Halcyon Days

by | January 6, 2023

Summer opens like flesh giving way to a blade.

The sky is as pale and quiet as bone.

The golden tap of the sun sprays against my face and soaks

into my skin: these are halcyon days.

Summer rain descends like a dream, deeper

than sleep. I open my mouth and water rushes

in. A deluge washes over me and snatches

my screams… I wake up

in my childhood bed. I peel an orange and pretend

it’s for my father; I pretend it’s my heart and pare

through the tissue. Last night, I slept in the same bed as my mother and slipped

back into my childhood; she tells me stories of beasts and shadows, men

prowling in the dark and women

being entranced. I fall asleep and dream of men pinning me down,

muffling my cries, tearing me

in half. I wake up in the hotel bed to find her already awake.

I couldn’t sleep, she says with a strange upward twist of her lips like an unravelling knot.

I never want to sleep again but I don’t want to be awake anymore,

I don’t say to her. Why not,

I ask her instead and the conversation veers as a river does.

While we are away, she often calls our relatives back home

to inquire of her plants. Her garden unfurls like a tapestry

stitched with burnished colours: a scrying stone, a sliver of

salvation. I have been fighting since I was eight years old. I am tired, I have no

strength left, she had confessed to me some time back.

Once you witness a wailing woman, you never forget her;

she lives in the walls, cowers under floorboards, drifts

across deserted hallways. Sometimes healing hurts more

than the war. But I watch her

making her way to the garden with

that fragile flickering light in her eyes and tending to the plants as her own children.

She embraces me when I least expect it and drops off

home-made meals when I am at university. My father constantly inquires

if I am eating well when I am away, offering to drive up and drop off

things that I require. I fear him as a falcon fears the wrist of a man

and the bars of a cage. But I watch him build a small empire

of his own, transforming bricks into marble, spending all his amassed

splendour on any loved one who asks. He kisses me,

his scruff chafing against my cheek, and reminds me to ask

for money whenever I need it. Love is the loudest in a house of cards,

precariously stacked

with untold memories and empty mouths. These are halcyon days.

I think of cats on a corrugated tin roof. Memento mori. If I want to die,

I must D.I.Y. it. But these days, I listen to the rhythm of the wind

and sway along with the symphony of the seasons: a sound once

deemed familiar, now reverberating in my skull with an alien clarity.

This woman undulates

like a wave

across dancefloors, laughs

all the way home

in the half-light of dawn,

tells her friends she loves them

as freely as sunlight

pouring onto earthly bodies. I learn to let go of little things, floating away

into the ocean: there is so much abundance, so much volume,

you gain so much more than you lose. These are halcyon days.


Words by Farabee Pushpita. Art by Ayomikun Bolaji.