The Halcyon Days
by Farabee Pushpita | 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,
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.