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Three Poems by Swastika Jajoo

all dreaming as amputation

“I write, erase, rewrite,
erase again, and then
a poppy blooms.”
– Hokushi, on his deathbed 


 on this shore, there is a body with an arm cut.
i fumble with the forsythia, that nudge of spring
before i am [re]called to the blood. a crow stares 
at the massacre in kind disbelief and inches
closer, closer till the body blends
with her blackness, detached limb
a souvenir for the sea.


i listen to this metered music of skin 
being wrung out beneath the still bright
still blue still sky. i watch 
that hallowed arm hurl itself
into the sea where it can finally be 
held. i am too tired to lift my eyes up 
but all eternity must after all be brief.


in the same dream, this sea recedes
into a cellular space and i fast forward
to a family funeral. in the brackets of mourning 
is a bouquet of lilacs and incense from a skipped
summer. i am searching for a fruit at the altar,
some nectar to ease the grieving. 


factually speaking, i am always jolted awake
at the instant of bloodletting,
never brutal but poignant
like a lover curating a goodbye mixtape.
inside: it takes seven minutes of sunshine for sensation
to return to my right arm. outside: a new season 
has started to finally arrive.


“and the days have daggers, and the mirrors motives,
and the planet’s turning faster and faster in the blackness” 
—Christian Wiman 

the months, too, have their mechanics, 
my mother’s wheezy voice on the phone, camera pointing to portraits
of dusk in December: the cat has given birth 
again and refuses to leave your grandfather’s chair. in this time zone
it is still peak afternoon and i break my dreams
like coconut shells, scoop up that fruit of sulk,
bring it to my sunken eyes,
recite whatever i know of history: i am alive & my mother
is speaking to me. cats cover
the entirety of the screen and we scratch the sky, this
lucky draw coupon, our smiles old coins.
in this dream, too, we are hostage
to language, both power cut and prayer. 
there is no semblance of a goodbye. just 
cat fur come to a pause and the voice i was just
hearing a shrunken echo. a teacher told me 
in a different lifetime
to have lucid eyes and never look away
so i stay till i cannot.

Originally from India, Swastika is currently a Master’s student in Linguistics, based out of Sendai, Japan. Her poetry is much like how she understands her unparalleled love for the local matcha latte and the longing for her mother’s spiced chai: an exercise in navigation. She won the second prize in the poetry contest organized as part of the international Glass House Poetry Festival in July 2020. Her work is featured or upcoming in Eunoia Review, Capsule Stories, The Wild Word, Riggwelter, Muse India, and Huffington Post, among others, and her spoken-word pieces have been featured on UnErase Poetry, one of India’s leading spoken-word content producers. In April 2019, she gave a TEDx talk featuring spoken-word poetry at her school, Tohoku University. She was also invited to perform with Rolling Stone India for Pride Month 2020. Her favourite things are fresh snow, old books and a traditional Japanese sweet called anmitsu.