“Water” by Sharanya Manivannan.

Love means you breathe in two countries”
– Naomi Shihab Nye

My favourite memory of us
is of that day we washed each other’s hair,
standing in the waterfall
of the shower, that moment sweet
succulent as fruit, complete as a circle,
the prowl of knowledge beneath
it bitter and delicate as the powder
on a butterfly wing, powerful
as a secret.

We kissed and drew in water.

Do you remember what I had
said to you, a year before? How could
I not love you? How could I not?
We had just met. You had
a birthmark the shape of Africa
on your chest; my heart had a
void in its vocabulary just the size
of your name. Love is so small. It
could fit into the hole in a bead, the eye
of a needle, and still not seal it.
It’s this world that is so huge.

Now our lives feel reduced
to abacuses.
I count the days it will be before
I can see you, you count
the days it’s been since I left.

This is a city of rain.
And chaos – I smile to myself,
navigating its corridor-like
streets filled with schoolchildren
hitching yellow autorickshaws, drizzle
flecking their eyelashes, the morning
still not arrived in their eyes.

I lick moisture from my lips
and am sure
I taste salt, a kiss of tears.

Pain only appears in
the presence of love. This much
I can say I have learnt by heart.
Here in this place of
chaos so profound it silencesmine,

I wrap my secrets in skin and
hug them close,

imagine drawing out parabolas
of steel and silk from the centre
of my palm to the
centre of yours, like bridges,

delicate, taut
as the webbing
on a bat’s wing,

and wait for you to reach
across the distance and pick
the pieces up, so precise
I could almost taste those

slippery as our love. Almost
forget how imprecise to desire bringing
shape to a love like water –
profound, perfect, universal.

Nothing else will save us now.


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