Birdsong

Three days after I saw a passerine bird

I could not recognize
I sat frozen in the hot, hot floor
And watched the creases of my feet cave in
With three day old dust as proof
Of having spent time among the birds.

Today they asked me to spell green in the easiest way I know
So I built them an image:
‘Imagine nothing.’
Today they asked me my favourite story from scripture
So I began with
‘Imagine children.’
Today I typed passerine thrice and
All I know about the bird
Is dust.

How do you name birds
When all the words you know are borrowed?
How do you turn a sieve into
A container
If all you have taught it is to
Let go?
How do you name those living interludes
That break against you too fast for you
To say more than a gasp and sputter
Before the next wave hits you and
You become a
Brown passerine bird with yellow beak
Cheek against sand,
Collecting dust.

I lie down on the floor,
Wondering that if dust can fly, can settle, can walk in
And take over everything you know,
If dust has learnt living.
In the hot, hot room where cats often come
To leave dusty paw prints,
I have learnt them by their paws and not their face
And sometimes the paws I call Nefertiti
Leaves drops of blood from a previous hunt
I wonder if I will know the passerine bird
If I see its blood.

Written by Stuti Pachisia

Illustration by Sanna Jain

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