my mail to your mailbox by Sei
this year has not been the kindest to my hands. they shrink in on themselves when i try to put my pen on the paper and write something that i feel. everything feels far away. and i feel breathless all the time. not the kind of breathless that sinks into your skin only after a long jog, but rather the kind that you experience when the phrase in the middle of a song catches you off guard. oh there you are, you verbalized what i was feeling before i even felt it; that's how i feel when i think about these last few months in the year.
to deal with this sudden catch in my lungs, during these cold months i write a letter. a letter that is usually addressed to a future version of me that has finally learnt to live, or maybe a loved one that i need to address in secrecy. it isn't very romantic or poetic. everything written in the letter states how my wintertime was spent. especially during the period when my feet start freezing to the ground and i cannot go without any socks in the house. my bones creak like the buoy in that one poem i studied in 10th grade. (i googled it. its called "the inchcape rock" if you were wondering)
most people associate winters with unforgiving temperatures, seasonal greetings, and overwhelming emotions. all i associate it is with that moment when you greet someone at the door and the cold rushes in and your immediate instinct is to whisk them inside. you do this thinking about nothing but how you need to safeguard the warmth you've finally managed to cultivate inside the house and you don't want it to leave before you get a chance to enjoy it. there's also the letter and a few thoughts on how to deal with my hands.
chronic pain is a life-long neighbour of mine. it never leaves and when it does, it comes right back to remind me that we live too close to one another to forget each other. science says that cold usually prolongs physical pain. seasonal depression is another way it tries to understand why everything throbs so much without any physiological issue as well. they aren't wrong, those smart scientists. they may not understand the underlying hurt that runs wicked through your ailments but they do try to find their motion of cause-effect. i say, that though the cold prolongs the pain, it also keeps you alive longer. in some instances, mountaineers that survive avalanches only survived due to their blood flow slowing down and sustaining their heart due to the cold.
it is what comes after winter that brings a special kind of killing. pain is far more relatable to spring since it takes a bold leaf to start over rather than express empty promises, nicknamed new year resolutions into the air. change hurts and it doesn't cut your throat if you're nice enough to invite it in. all my relationships change with the seasons and i try to let them as much as i can. that's why i thought i'd go public with a part of my letter this year. i want to try and give change a seat at the table in advance.
this year has not been the kindest to my hands. but it's been a little more brutal for my heart. i lost a few people, gained a new source of strength, and realized that grief and love are in fact, cut from the same cloth.
to whoever's reading this, i hope you don't associate december as emptily as i do. hoping for warmer houses, wishing for and avoiding familiar faces, and writing everything you never say out loud, are not great coping mechanisms. but if you do cope similarly, don't worry. bold leaves or not, what comes after brings kinder aches. i urge you to breathe through these last few cold nights. deep breaths are important when you're standing on high cliffs. we must not waste our energy since it's already scarce during this time. if you're standing at a higher altitude, as i am, i hope you save your breaths for better things than berating yourself or lamenting over 2021. i usually try a cup of cocoa to soothe my hands. it helps with this tricky heart too. hot beverages are life-saving indeed.
sometimes, staying conscious is easier than you realize. from now, i'll try to associate these winter-borne months with more than just a pen and hands that won't heal right. i'll remember to stay and i'll try to keep this promise up with more than just hot air. i don't know how winter is going for you right now, dear reader. but i hope you find it in yourself to stay awake too. maybe the last few days will be kinder? maybe it isn't so foolish to count your breaths on your cliff? maybe, just maybe, the first morning of the next year is everything you're looking for and nothing you realized you needed before you need it.
i do hope the cold treats your hands kinder than it ever did mine.
Wrinkled Hands by Asmita Sengupta
The faded crimson sweater reminds me of your wrinkled hands.
The pickle jar in the kitchen is empty, untouched by your wrinkled hands it lies in the cabinet.
Wrinkled hands that oiled my hair under the winter sun are gone.
Where are your wrinkled hands?
I look for them in the folds of the blanket, my eyes look for them like a lost child looks for his mother.
Are your wrinkled hands woven in the pashmina shawl that you gifted me on my birthday?
I look for them in the plum cake that you made on Christmas, I can't find them.
Have they found a new home that needed warmth and love just like mine?
Mother's Hands by Asmi Kartikeya
winter suns seep and soak hot
swollen, sweltering hands moving
the light yellow muslin of saris
they stretch over the wrathful sky
claustrophobic around my eyes.
winter winds hold fingertips
father drains blood from hands
cold picks apart the spine,
erratic, bone by bone.
tree shadows fall like corpses
on traffic and slow moving
huddling together in momentary
bulbous heat; the same
as eager fingers tearing into
warm fleshy human, summer mangoes.
winter sadness is perfunctory
the sadness of institutions
and office places tucked, sunless.
About the poets:
-Sei is a young adult who struggles with writing consistently and fitting into the established cis-het standards of the world. They are Bangalore-based and are currently working on publishing more works under their alternate name. You can find them on Instagram @kingkismis
-This is Asmita's first time writing a poem. She is still learning, and aspires to become a content writer one day. She is studying in 12th grade at ASN Senior Secondary School, New Delhi.
-I am Asmi, a 20 year old poet and human, and a questionable one at that. My writing is a performance of melancholy and grief, interspersed with momentary happiness and beauty. It's both a respite, and catharsis.