The Shadow Poet

She took a glance at the featured artist column of the daily newspaper and was happy to see a new poem published that day.

The Boy Who Cried…

My office chair cannot compare to the comfort of my mother’s lap, the sound of her beating heart made me feel alive
My new car cannot compare to the playground swings, those swings would bring me closer to the sky
I lost my mother to a drunk in a car, the swings to the construction of an office with more chairs
I changed into a man from a boy, but those memories as a boy, I cannot say good-bye
 

My father showed no love, the sounds of his beating my mother made me fill up with quiet rage
I was beaten too, with his hand and his belt, even as I grew bigger, with age
He showed no remorse when my mother died, I think his heart is hollow inside
He asked for respect in return for his beating and each time I looked up to the sky with tears in my eyes
I changed into a man from a boy, but those memories as a boy, I cannot say good-bye
 

The odd jobs I did after school taught me how to live and penny after penny, I paid my father’s debt
He was broke himself yet he sent me broken to bed
The sky gave me rain so I could cry without shame and I made the resolve to run away
In me, there is still a boy, a boy who still cries

–The Shadow Poet

The English was simple but the words conveyed in ample measure, the poet’s pain and his innocence, carefully separated by every cut of a comma splice. She folded up the paper and put it under her desk. The lunch break was over and she had to spend the rest of the day responding to customer queries on the phone and by mail. She knew she wouldn’t get home before 8pm.

When she left the office, she felt fortunate to catch a glimpse of the sun before it set and disappeared until its punctual attendance the following day. That was the beauty of the summer. The days would be longer. But everyone wanted more hours in the day. Her colleagues would often complain they didn’t have enough time to do the things they liked.

She was content by reading the poems that somehow brought time to stand still. The concept of time was a silly human invention, she thought. A judge can announce how much time you must serve for a sentence; a doctor can estimate how much time it will take for you to recover from an illness or remain alive, if it is terminal; a pessimist may think how much more time do I have left to live with every passing birthday and an unscrupulous capitalist may think how much more money I can make with every second of my time. Impatience disrespects the value of time and materialism prints it into a currency to expense our youth, and at times, our morals. On the contrary, it can teach us to value the moments in which time resides.

Prakash was the one who introduced her to the poetry section of the newspaper. She appreciated his kind nature and the fondness grew over the same invention of time. If she could confide in anyone about her feelings, she would trust Prakash. He had the most authentic spirit she had ever seen in a man. He didn’t share much about his life but he enjoyed hearing her speak. They both enjoyed their chemistry that way. She prodded him about his life a few times but nothing major was revealed apart from the fact that he had been living away from home ever since he joined boarding school. He shared no attachment with his family, except a distant relative on his mother’s side who would reach out to him on occasion. Prakash enjoyed listening to the stories of her family functions, perhaps living vicariously off of her memories which he could have made with his own.

The whole office knew they were dating. Humans waste so much of their time in gossip, in constant curiosity of the lives of other souls, when their own is wandering for a sense of direction.

The following month, a new poem was published under the same pen name, “The Shadow Poet.” It was shorter than usual.

Time and Love

Love has a way of making you and breaking you, all together so seamlessly, its ineffable.

It makes us do things we never imagined we could, or would, good and bad, because

from it, all other manifestations of humanity surface.

But in all these mixed up emotions, there is one thing we never fail to misplace – Time.

That same day, Prakash professed his love to her and shared his most intimate secret. That he was the Shadow Poet. That he would publish his poems anonymously in the paper, so that she could read them without knowing his identity. He felt relieved to lessen his burden by telling her.

“Please don’t tell anyone else I write them. Please. I don’t want to be seen as vulnerable. I am strong, very strong.”

She upheld the sanctity of his secret and told no one, though she was curious to know if he was the boy who cried. They would make love whenever she would come over to his place. He liked it when she caressed his forehead and would let him rest on her lap. He continued to write more poems, the quality of them becoming more optimistic than the last.

“Can I ask you one question?”

“Yes?”

“Why did you name yourself as the Shadow Poet?”

“I like the word shadow. Wherever you go, it follows. It’s an integral reminder of our physical selves and the best part is that it is only visible in the presence of light. I don’t see why people make such a negative connotation out of it.”

One evening, she hinted to him that he should be recognized for his writing with his own name. She was the brunt of his cold nature for the first time.

“I write as a means of catharsis, not for the recognition. Please don’t ever make mention about my writing again.”

“I’m sorry, I was just…”

“I shouldn’t have ever told you it was me.”

“Prakash, I didn’t tell anyone else.”

“I want you to leave.”

 “What? Why are you…?”

“Just leave.”

The following week, he wrote his last and final poem, and let it remain untitled.

A caress, a gentle stroke leading to a passionate elope,

A listless glance can very well exude the warmth of being wanted.

A forlorn heartbeat that refuses to let go of any new hope,

Leaving aside another dangerous mind, blotted.

– The Shadow Poet

 

In the months that ensued, he quit his writing and grew distant to her.

She moved away, just as well.

Years passed and Prakash married another woman, arranged by his maternal Uncle. The wife’s family was rooted in a male dominant school of thought. Her mother taught her what she was taught by her own. That a woman is nothing without her man, that she must please him and keep him happy, that a woman must make all the adjustments to remain in a marital union with her man.

Within two years of their marriage, they had one son. The temple priest decided, by what Prakash assumed was random assertion, that the child’s name must begin with the start of the alphabet. To merit his claims of holiness and satisfy the superstitions of the wife’s family, they named their child Akash (meaning ‘sky’) which also happened to be contained within Prakash’s own name.

The abuse began thereafter. The first time Prakash hit his wife and his son, he felt a bit of remorse. The second time was easier. Eventually, with every hit, the guilt faded as well.

He chose to sleep in a separate room from his wife. He could hear Akash sobbing on occasion, in their bedroom adjacent to his. Akash remained close to his mother but seldom spoke to his father.

The abuse stopped the day Prakash opened his morning newspaper and noticed a new entry in the young artist column.

My father

When I grow up, I will not beat my wife the way my father does

When I grow up, I will not beat my son the way my father does

My father asks for respect in return for his beating and each time I look up to the sky with tears in my eyes

In me, there is a boy, a boy who is not afraid to cry

–Akash, Age 11

cycle

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This entry was posted in Poetry, Short Stories, Violence and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Shadow Poet

  1. Reema says:

    This was a great read! Very well-written and captivating. How ever do you put the storyline together or even think of it? – let alone during lunch time!! I’m assuming you made up the poems as well? More please!

    • Thank you dear! The first poem I made on the spot. The other two I had in my artistic inventory. And a story can develop pretty quickly, once the creativity starts flowing (I work at a Press where I’m surrounded by amazing books and stories) 🙂

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