In that red-bricked house we don’t call home anymore
There was an attic, where I and my Po
Would play all night in the dust with a brass telescope.
These midsummer nights were long and star-ful, filled with
Orion and Canis Major and other secret names
We made up, that I won’t tell you.
Besides, there was a trunk filled with old and magical stuff
Like a transistor, broken china dolls and some carefully folded things-
Love-letters for someone who never knew how beautiful
Their names could be. Anyway, in that sepia-tinted other world
Of me and my Po, I was a princess of the clouds in a
Dusty gown and Po was whatever my story wanted him to be.
And one day, when he was a Merlin-y magician
In a crumpled top-hat and soiled gloves, I told him
To bring me the moon. And out of the thin golden air
He conjured me this shiny brass telescope. To see the twinkling
Little stars and the castles in the clouds and spy
The wheezy old lady on the moon at the spinning wheel.
Even as my Po spun tales of battles and trenches and starless
Skies and monster rats that ate up all the dead men
In black boots but never ever my Po.
Even as I dreamt of my own secret no man’s land
Among the trail of the stars and smoky nebulas
Over my dust-scented attic sky, just for me and my Po.
So when the smoke rose up, swirling around us
And the rat-flames ate up all the love letters
And my Po became a phantom because he couldn’t run
Fast enough, it was only the rats and mustard gas
I was thinking of-those greenish-yellow fumes and the eating
Of all my Po’s friends but never ever my Po
Because he was invincible. So when my superhero
Died, I waited and I waited for him everywhere, all the time
Day after day, but there was never ever my Po
To claim the eagle-headed walking stick or the paper
Cards I would make or teach me what the golden-little
Button-knobs of my brass telescope did
When I turned them to search far and wide,
Like a knight searching for his distressed damsel
For all the lost things I never ever found.
And even when we moved into new rat-less places
I would say my prayers, like a sincere girl
Dear Lord, please don’t let the rats get me ever..
Forever and Ever. Amen. And then add a post-script
I want my Po, for Christmas, if it’s okay with you
I got A in Arithmetic and didn’t cheat from Sophie
Except the last answer because I really couldn’t spell e-phe-me-ral
And I promise promise never to cheat again if you give me back
My Po from whatever dungeon You’re hiding him in.
But somewhere we all lose the war
We lose the places we’ve called home before
We keep on losing ourselves
And we don’t know if we, at all
And brass telescopes don’t always open up to
The castles and the kingdoms in the clouds
Where my Po is surely trapped, waiting for me to save him.
So I count my stars in my dreams,
That no men’s land of colour and fantasy
Of hope and wish and memory
Where I drown myself over and over again –
A child trapped in a woman who can never give up
Who can never stop mourning.
Even as shooting stars pass me by, I am listening
To a transistor playing a broken tune
Till something switches off.
– by Archita Mittra