Tiny Purple-Clad Child

Yesterday
I went to the sanctuary
Whither incense
And flowers
Sweetly perfumed the air.
They told me I’d find peace there.

Yesterday
I went to the forest
Whither I basked
In the fragrance
Of sunlight-warmed dew.
They told me I’d find beauty there.

Yesterday
I went to the pond
Whither I saw a string of ponies
Trotting homeward
Following the lead
Of a tiny purple-clad child.
They told me I’d find innocence there.

Today
I went to the sanctuary
Whither the air was heavy
With the smell of blasphemous sacrifice
That neither camphor nor jasmine
Could mask.
I found no peace there.

Today
I went to the forest
Whither the soil was saturated
With the lifeblood of an innocent
Defiled by non-human beasts
Who are running free.
I found no beauty there.

Today
I went to the edge of the pond
Whither the horses came to drink
But
I found no tiny purple-clad child there.
How could I?
I couldn’t.
She was dead.

(Asifa Banu, the child in the pictures, eight-years-old, was the victim of a brutal gang-rape and murder. This is her story: http://gulfnews.com/news/asia/india/asifa-bano-this-8-year-old-s-rape-and-murder-is-a-horror-story-beyond-sexual-violence-in-india-1.2204423

Rest in peace, Asifa. You didn’t deserve to die.)

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Okay

You spend nights
Leaving salt-trimmed wet stains
On gaily patterned pillowcases
When the house is dark
Because the shame of a pair of eyes
Seeing yours crying
Would be unbearable.
After all,
The things you cry about,
Aren’t moving enough
To be shared or heard.
You spend days
Carrying back-bending burdens
That indispose you to cheer
And tire every cell in your body,
Leaving you exhausted at sundown
But unable to find rest or sleep.
You dump your most dangerous feelings
Into a glass bottle
And cork it up.
You know that’s dangerous,
But you do it anyway
Because your heart is already
Criss-crossed with so many scars
That a few more
Wouldn’t really make
That much of a difference.
You walk around
With sorrow stinging your eyes
Like a hundred angry hornets,
But for the sake of appearances,
You’re absolutely fine,
You couldn’t get any better.
Those bags around your eyes?
You pass them off
As the consequences of a three-hour slumber.
But you’re still here…
Breathing—
You never dragged a blade along the inside of your wrist,
Heart beating—
You never fell asleep unnaturally in a filled bathtub,
Alive—
You never drowned your troubles in lethal cocktails.
You’re okay.

Becoming a Mother at 18

When I returned home from college, my mother told me how my neighbor and friend, Joanna, sponsored a child and created awareness for child sponsorship on her Facebook account.

“When I saw what she did,” my mother said, “I thought of you, because you always used to tell me that you loved to adopt.”
I immediately went to Joanna’s profile and viewed her post. It was touching indeed. She had sponsored a girl named Karina and World Vision, the NGO through which she was able to help the child, had recently sent her a brochure. 
“She’s all mine,” Joanna said in her post. 
My mother said she was proud of her and said that she would be blessed and rewarded in due time. 
Why am I telling you about Joanna? It’s because she unknowingly helped me do something I’ve always wanted to do, which is to help a little child in need. 
My mother was telling me how I could wait for a few more years—when I’d have sufficient money—to do likewise. 
A few years is a long time to wait, so I decided to go right ahead because why not? I’m working after all. So I visited World Vision India’s website and acquainted myself with who they are and what they do. I then went on to create an account and search for a child.
I ended up picking an adorable six-year-old girl from Mumbai, Maharashtra, and I can’t even begin to describe the joy I felt when I sent her what I could. Just like Joanna, I was so excited to have someone who is not a part of my home become a part of my heart. 
At the table, just before we sat down to lunch, I announced, “I got myself a daughter.”
Needless to say, my mother and grandmother were proud of me and my mother reminded me that it was a commitment I’d made to the little girl and she asked to see “[my] little baby”. 
We unanimously agreed that she was an adorable little munchkin. 
Later that night when I lay down to sleep, I thought of how I always wanted a boy and a girl. 
I went back to World Vision India’s website and found myself a son, a nine-year-old from Jorhat, Assam. 
When I broke the news late the next morning, my grandmother said she was happy to have “two great-grandchildren” from me. My mother asked me to send their pictures to her so that she could commit their little faces to memory and remember them in her prayers. 
Like a new mother who is enamored of her newborn infant, I had fallen completely under my children’s spell. 
Why did I write and publish this, you might be asking.
I’ll tell you why in case you never understood.
I want to tell everyone who reads this—whether you searched “child sponsorship stories” on Google or stumbled across this post by accident—that reaching out to a fellow human being in need is one of the most fulfilling things you can do. And no matter how little or how large your contribution may be, it will hearten you to know that someone you can’t see is probably a little happier and a little better than he/she was yesterday because of your love. 

World Vision serves in 100+ countries. If you feel an urge in your heart to be a part of someone’s life, don’t worry about thinking twice. Just go on ahead and do it. You won’t have any regrets. I promise. 
World Vision: https://www.worldvision.org

• India: https://www.worldvision.in

• France: https://www.visiondumonde.fr

• Canada: https://www.worldvision.ca

• UK: https://www.worldvision.org.uk

• Australia: https://www.worldvision.com.au

• New Zealand: https://www.worldvision.org.nz

• Spain: http://www.worldvision.es

Brave the Night

My Sun has set on this place,

This place that once reminded me of home,

Leaving it stripped 

Of warm light,

Of heartening color.
Now that my beacon is gone,

I grope in the darkness of 

This serpents’ hunting ground,

This whispering ghosts’ lair.
No more does a flower raise its head here;

No more birdsong is heard amidst the boughs—

There’s naught to soothe my senses,

Naught to allay my fears,

Naught to give me a grain of hope. 
The cold surrounds me 

Like a band of menacers.

Its sting is merciless, painful…

And I fear its evil might. 
Maybe I can try running,

But I fear my path sports 

A litter of sharp, blood-hungry stones

And a scatter of brambles.
This night is too long

And too full of terrors. 

When do you intend returning,

My dearly beloved Sunshine?

These fiends will fly far 

At the sight of your splendor. 
Your coming is certain,

That much do I know.

I’ll see the flowers bloom,

I’ll hear the birds once more.

But ‘tween then and now,

I must brave the night alone.

Prodigal Poetic Child

She returned to the dust-laden desk

   like a burdened sinner to the confessional,

   but the words refused to come freely.

They forsook her, her constant allies,

   for she turned not to them as often as

   unspoken obligation dictated. 

Now, she spins no word-web of gold,

   unaided by the agents of sophistication;

   the rich gold dust of her imagery is 

   a hundred removes from its erstwhile brilliance.

Post the better part of an hour spent     

   laboriously striking at desiccated rocks that 

   yielded no water, the prodigal child 

   turned to suppliance:

“Omnipotent Word, help me find the words again…”

Myrtle-Green Butterfly

One day, she realized that the

myrtle-green butterfly 

she was holding onto for dear life

belonged to the air.

She’d held onto it  

longer than was necessary.

Not wanting to hurt 

its myrtle wings

she had come to love,

not wanting to see it struggle

to break loose,

she set it free.

It was a butterfly unlike the 

counterparts of its species –

the dust of its wings never left

the ridges of her fingers. 

Thenceforth she sat

on the blue-gray cobblestones

flanked by withered patches 

of pink carnations

and strewn with dead leaves.

Dragonflies, aphids, grasshoppers

like mocking winged missiles 

would slowly approach and hastily retreat.

They’d whisper loudly,

Don’t get too close, it’s dangerous,

for the butterfly-catcher to hear.

Searching, sometimes for hours,

she watched slow-beating wings

draw from the bosoms of 

slow-dancing flowers,

but the pairs of wings she saw 

were either too gaudy as

a gypsy’s motley patch-dress,

or too unremarkably plain as

a scullery maid’s aged apron. 

At long last, one evening 

when the dusk was robbing 

the last colors of the day,

she spotted it – her myrtle-green butterfly –

hovering alone 

near the golden-hearted purple irises. 

With the caution of

a person crossing a field

sown with landmines,

the febrile franticness of

a lone soul crossing 

a fraying drawbridge,

she made her painstaking way thither. 

Like a sinner, going down 

on bended knees,

the butterfly-catcher whispered

her apology:

I’ve been waiting to see you

just to say

I’m sorry for catching you

the other day.

Though it wasn’t eternity,

I held onto you too long,

but then I let you go because 

it’s not where you belong. 

It made me so happy when I held you,

But happiness isn’t happiness

if the other’s not happy too. 

Myrtle-green butterfly, you were 

special to me,

but you were never mine for the keeping

so I set you free.