Poetry / Poets

Absence by Ambarin Afsar

My city stirs slowly, ponderously, each joint creaking under the weight of concrete and metal. Somewhere, you close your eyes.

Sleep takes you by the hand and hesitantly, you enter the realm of dreams. “I don’t like dreaming,” you whisper.

Here, there are jars of dreams to choose from. Which mist will swirl over you today?
You see one bottle buzz with fairy lights. You wrench free from Sleep’s grasp and run towards it.
Shake it, says the label. Shake the city into your dreams.

You watch the tiny glittering particles rise. But before this golden swarm settles, you find yourself hurtling towards the city.
This city is not very different from the grey world you left outside.
Hundreds buzz past you, like a swarm of locusts. But this time, they leave an island of you standing in their wake.

This city is just like your city. The same mindless droning, assembly line lives and packaged desires.
This city is just like yours. The warmest evening and the hottest day are just as cold as the pits of winter.

You look over the sea of heads and try to find one that gleamed a little differently, one that was filled with words.

In someone’s laughter, you look for the notes that tugged at your heartstrings.
In someone’s eyes, you look for that steadily flickering speck of love.
In someone else’s naked ears, you look for the chipped conch shells that helped you hear the ocean.
In someone else’s gait, you look for the pace that matched yours, unwaveringly.
In someone else’s arms, you look for the strength that bound you to your soul. You look for the chains that used to set you free.
In someone else’s hands, you look for the prayers that were written with skin and bone.
In someone else’s face, you catch a glimpse of the sight that kept you awake on countless nights and lulled you to sleep on countless others

And so, you stitch this fragmented presence together, making a patchwork of hope.

Somewhere, in the distance, something materialises.
You turn your patchwork rag doll this way and that. You take apart a few pieces and try a new jigsaw puzzle.
Somewhere, a faint outline grows stronger. Your hands fly over the doll—suddenly, it seems to be acquiring definitive features.
You complete the rag doll and you realise what it was that you were looking for.

It is a love that burns just as fiercely, despite the ravages of memory and circumstance.
It is a love that is throbbing with life, despite being torn asunder by absence.

You are overjoyed at being able to remember that you were looking for something,yet devastated by the knowledge of what this ‘something’ was.

Somewhere, a memory steps off the stage and walks towards your island within the storm.
You take the rag doll apart, seam by seam, despairing with the realisation that something is irrevocably lost.

How do you look for someone in a world that is millions of times your size?
How do you look for someone who never was, never is, and probably never will be?
How do you look for someone who exists and doesn’t, at the same time?
Something quickens towards you as despair strikes a fatal blow. The mangled doll falls to the ground.

The locusts, who had paid you no heed all along, begin to regard you with a certain kind of insatiable hunger.
The bow of longing that has been drawn taut across the length of your body, suddenly snaps. You surrender your quest of eons.
And just as you are about to be consumed by the swarm that assimilates till there is nothing left, someone slips their quiet hands in yours.

The dream parts its waters and suddenly, you’re standing in front of rows of jars again. This time, you know exactly which one to pick.


3 thoughts on “Absence by Ambarin Afsar

  1. Thank you Sean.

    Ambarin Afsar lives and works in a bustling metropolis, and tries to build her own city of dreams from all the raw chaos. She writes whenever the words refuse to leave her head through any other means.

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