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Psalm 7a : Samudra Manthan



what does meaning mean in a land of silence?

man walks up to the shore and picks up an abandoned shell -
hollow - in the image of God - ants on his tongue, salt in his
sentences, his metaphors lead him nowhere.

we left the city at daybreak. there was nothing left to chew there -
except smoke and eulogies of the dead for the living. the city
is a graveyard. we were headed to the horizon but the ocean

stood in our way like a God whose prayers had gone unanswered
long enough for him to end up an atheist. abandoned shells
trapped in immortal plastic. an expanse of no response.

our metaphors lead us nowhere

the sun was right over our heads, nowhere near the center
of nothingness. it gave the sky its colour, water its glitter,
took oblivion out of the silence. waves were crashing
at our feet. we were one with infinity.
your collarbones glazed with sand curved
in the shape of home. your thumb on my lip -
all we need
is a little faith
in each other
and ourselves -
your tongue against my tongue, our eyes closed in prayer -
waves invited us into the fore, water caressed a stony shore -
and we made our promise to eternity that there must
be life, there must be songs. that the flowers must
keep on blooming and the stories must go on.

the peninsula appeared at the crack of dawn
right when the dingy had started to dwindle,
little girl ran her fingers through the gurgle
of the ocean we’d later name after its shore.
she picked up meaning in the palm of her hand and held it against the crimson sky,
we named the stars after our mothers –

on the shore our children built tombs of sand
and temples of stone. even God was there;
her silence bearable. and the ocean looked up
as a mirror upon a sky that had nothing
to be ashamed of. when God breathed her last
and receded to the ocean, meaning diverged
from metaphor in the favour of silence -
as a placeholder, we picked up stones
and scarred each other. for a misunderstanding.

the lines were already there etched in sand,
when I made my way from my mother's womb,
they told us that’s what we were meant to be;
a story knitted in barbed wires and bullet wounds,
so we played our part and collected our wages,
the ocean embraced our dead and spat back
on the living. the sky was dark with shame -
the ones who left to fight were never seen again,
we all felt something was wrong but
never wrong enough to make anyone budge,
in the ocean we dumped our blood and sludge.
we were too small to know the larger scheme
of things they said. there were national interests,
international commerce and profit margins at bay.
so we fought their wars through the day,
and watched the night sky fume with smoke,
it was all for something. for someone. not us though.
but the day my lover died stuck in the barbed wire,
my enemy lost his son to the same quagmire
and we wept under the hollowed sky,
like children whose childhood was denied,
as we watched the waves caress them to sleep.

in the beginning was the ocean -
in the end mere thirst

lines were washed away with blood,
there was nothing left in that city but silence
of broken promises and shattered dreams -
the city was nothing but a graveyard,
so we left it at daybreak for the horizon
to start over again but the ocean
lay distraught in front of us like a mother
abused by her own children -

my enemy; alone, his arms empty, walked up
to the shore and picked up a forsaken shell,
hollowed in the image of God -
we stood on the lip of silence
and watched the shimmer of a setting sun
kiss the sludge one last time -
we called it inevitable we called it a mistake,
but time had passed us by - too late it said.
and our metaphors led us nowhere.

This poem originally appeared in the Remnant Archive's "Ocean Culture" issue. It was selected as the first place winner in our 2023 Seasick Competition. Go here to see the other winners:

This poem also contains special formatting. Go here to see it:

Abhinav is a math graduate student residing in Delhi. His work has appeared in Gulmohar Quarterly, Livewire and other anthologies.

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