Verse – Reshma Ruia

1. An Old Man’s Mouth
Reshma Ruia

Today you kissed me with an old man’s mouth
Dry lips puckered against my cheek
The grey stubble of your chin bruising mine
Your hand fumbled and felt beneath the bedsheet
As you heaved your body over mine
Pinning me down
Arms spread-eagled and crucified
I lay absolutely still
I felt my insides shutting down
The breast. The liver. The heart. The feather-thin bone
Sighing to a pause
Your rasping breath turned fevered and hot
While I quietly slipped away

2. Mother’s Love I & II
Reshma Ruia

It is at night I hear you
A single cell you grow noisily
Now a limb. An eye. A throat
Just don’t ask me to feel love
For you as yet
To shut my eyes and breathe your name loud
It’s too early to feel tender towards
This accident of cells
Multiplying within
There are no grudges against you
As yet
Just this need persists
To make you understand
This body and mind
Dozing clumsy through the hours
Does not mean there won’t be far-off battles
Still waiting to be won
Urgent footsteps shouting to run
This blood will still growl
Though now it whimpers low
You won’t fell me down
With your heart or your blows

Suddenly the hours. The vacant hours come rushing in
The children all grown up and gone
Busy feathering their own nests
The husband hiding somewhere out of reach
Tripping over shadows that he conceals
She looks at her hands
Lying in her lap
And can’t quite understand
How and why a life crammed so full of loving and living
Became so stripped of meaning
Like an empty milk bottle
Left out on the doorstep

3. Love in the East
Reshma Ruia

To Bangkok and Pattaya
The old men come
In neon-lit cocktail bars with come-hither pouts
Their Hawaiian shirt-a blaring klaxon
They barter their varicose-veins and wheezing voices
For caresses and promising smiles
I saw one of their tribe
Bending expectant over his gin and lime
Bright-splashed shorts holding afloat
Sunburnt tyres of flesh
A hero he was
Fleeing pin-striped suits
Fast food counters and the odour of the rush hour tubes
His kids grown up and gone, his wife addicted to Corrie
And she…dark-eyed and easy grace
No less a heroine
A heroine fleeing the bare-foot walk to the well
The grudging kick of boiled rice in belly
The dripping palm-leafed roof
Leaning pensive against pictures of Hollywood hunks
She dreams of young firm men with blond haired arms
They come together the hero and the heroine
Pantomiming the motions of love
Biting their feet is the sea
With its blue wrinkled mouth
There are yellow flowers in her hair, seashells on her throat
The taste of his stale beer dances inside her mouth
He pries open her legs and keeping time
Together they abuse
The Christ who refused to resurrect
The Buddha who failed to reincarnate
Inside the hunger of their embrace

Reshma Ruia is a writer based in England. She has written two novels, ‘Something Black in the Lentil Soup,’ and ‘A Mouthful of Silence.’ Her poetry and short stories have appeared in international journals and anthologies and also commissioned for BBC Radio4. She is also a co-founder of The Whole Kahani, a collective of British writers of South Asian origin.Save




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