Selected Poetry by Babitha Mariana Justin
Photo Source: Flickr
She tripped on her luggage,
by her sister's lungs drilled
I wrote down the process,
-in to boarding,
fastening the seat-belt that
click locks and
“A cup of noodles for
two hundred bucks.”
She shook her head.
My first flight was at 21, my pretty
friends with a pilot who indulged
her with packets
of red and yellow boiled sweets, my friend
offered me her loot
with a twinkle in her eye before shoving
into her knack-sack. I sucked on them
with a perforated tongue
Last year, I flew out with you, I remember
the dates, time, weather.
I held my sons close, feeling the safe shadows
of your steps.
We stood at the sea shaded by
and phthalo blues
your wandering eyes drank them all,
a golden grain, lapped by
a foamy wave.
Today, when she walked away from me,
I ran to the kiosk
asking a man in blazers to
take care of her
on her first flight.
I stood near the departure as the security man
scanned her curves.
She swept in like a queen, looked back to see
if I watched her leave.
I waved a teary arm the same way as I waved at you
I staggered with my
bloated luggage to see you zip-past, scissor-swift
with the strangers who
winged as windflowers, after shining
their moons on me.
Yesterday was my friend's
I didn't want to see her either dead or set on fire,
Once, she had fed me
rice and spiced potato
curry that tasted different from home.
She had handed me
down her daughter's
skirts, they clung snug
around my waist before
my love-handles burst
from their seams.
I blossomed in them.
The last time I saw her,
she was hobbling
inside her house,
her walking stick drummed
up into my darkness,
she warned my friend,
I was selfish and thankless, surely,
I should have paid back
for those skirts.
Perhaps, she thought
I stole her daughter's spring.
I didn't attend my
friend's husband's funeral
for the same reasons. I was thankless and in love
with a man who
swallowed up my warmth,
her husband too had walked away from
her, like I did, in the past.
I will wait for the pyres to die down
to step out of mine, walk towards
my friend with a bundle of blossoms
not made from the recycled,
I wore like a queen,
but, from fresh and bleached ones,
white and sparkly with gratitude.
At the therapist, he is hungry,
stalls are stocked with vadas, burgers,
biscuits. Cars are whales
fished out of the sea,
he laughs looking out of the window.
When he opens his mouth,
I see a universe:
frolic's meteor showers,
lances and pincers for words
wedged between his
tongue and cheek,
his hair bristles
writes him off
on a wafer-white
I know, he has
snakes for friends, stray dogs
as his kin, he dances with the storm,
he balls up clouds like butter
in his palms. He pockets
the prescription slip, folds
it into a paper boat for a rainy day*.
· Images of Krishna slaying the demons, and the mother imagines her child to be the young Krishna and experiences the divine in dyslexia
I used to grind chammanthi
for my grandmother, she hated our newbie-mixie– which had sharper
blades than her tongue, swifter turbos than her footsteps.
I had to mash Kashmiri
chillies charred to cinder,
with a few crystals of rock salt, to a paste; the catch was
to grind a dollop of
Tamil tamarind into a tongue-twister.
Shallots, picked, peeled to perfection like
the moons of her eyes. Grated coconut – waited for its turn
to be roasted, I slurped over
the story of an elephant who plunged his trunk into a hut begging for coconut halves.
The paste should not be smooth nor coarse, chammanthi ought
to achieve the fine balance, reaching there, my arm-sockets ached.
roughage of curry leaves,
was the garnisher’s gouache,
I scooped off chammanthi
from its the raven-granite universe. It had to resemble the
roundness of a planet
with curry leaf river-veins,
speckled with chilly-flake stars.
With burning palms, I balanced
age, time, geographies, tastes, myths and
in the not-so-simple act of chutney-grinding.
 Malayalam word for Chutney, usually made of desiccated coconut.
Babitha Marina Justin is an academic, a poet, and an artist. Her poems and short stories have appeared in Eclectica, Esthetic Apostle, Jaggery, Fulcrum, The Scriblerus, Trampset, Constellations, Indian Literature, Singing in the Dark (Penguin), etc. Her books are Of Fireflies, Guns and the Hills (Poetry, 2015), I Cook My Own Feast (Poetry, 2019), salt, pepper & silver linings: celebrating our grandmothers (an anthology on grandmothers, 2019), Of Canons and Trauma (Essays, 2017) and Humour: Texts and Contexts (ed. Essays, 2017).