Poems by
Aanavi Malik

Cutting Mustard

a poem by Aanavi Malik

Holding hands is a menace
Whether you hook your fingers or wrap them
Whether the palms are cool or warm
Or wet with the sweat of anticipation
Unwillingly you make promises that
Against the grain you could keep
You think of the last burden-less night
Fixed eyes on the ceiling and freedom
Now you are shackled

Holding hands is envied by those
Who itch for handcuffs on their wrists
Naive to love and to be loved
Not emulous of better things to come
Someone or something better than
The friction on wrists.
No cold merciless regret on cold merciless nights
Makes them let go of the hands they cling to

Holding hands makes you vulnerable
It is an unsaid hope ray
Their hand bones and claw nails
Might dig into your shatterable skin
You did not know all that came with hand holding
You did it for the know-how and the how-to
Well, now you have it
Your wires are entangled and all you want
Is to let go and run wild

People at the station will see you hold hands
Your double knotted fingers like ribbons with light bulbs
Inviting snickers of pity and humour
You, the town fool and this your audience
Witness to your entanglement in things you cannot
Fancy, handle or control
Your intestines on display as you
Walk with thorns in your fists
Feeling death well up in your stomach

Holding hands is impossibly hard
Your tactile memory makes you look back
Towards the other dryness
You rubbed your palm against
Like tree bark or sand paper
It has reduced the skin of your being
You compare which is bad worse and worst
For some people this is
A tearful escapade into the flesh of another

Holding hands is only a collar
Wrapped around the pulse of your nape
So tight that you only just use your lungs
Breathing against slick hands
You cannot let a leash drag and
Choke your conscience to death
Your try to break free so many times
But it is a self brutalizing effort
To do much with just one free hand

Holding hands is and invitation for trouble
Even when you pull those lines apart
The highways in your own hands are traffic jammed
Heat altered, cage protected
You want to dis-remember and obliterate
But in the process of doing so you re-remember
And you don’t forget
Holding hands brings regret
But also dinner tales and diary pages

Holding hands may be like shopping for clothes
Looking for colours to suit your own
Swinging from one hand to the other you go
A finger Tarzan, a hand monkey
Hanging on from the branches of maybes and what ifs
Falling but not quite so
With the hope that when death arrives
You hold its hands dauntless, sun tanned
Like all those others you’ve held before