Shikha S. Lamba (Voices Within 2023)

Shikha S. Lamba is a jewelry designer and poet living in Hong Kong. She is also the co-editor of an online magazine, Coffee and Conversations. She has contributed poetry for various publications in Hong Kong, the US, the UK, Bangladesh and India, including The Madras Courier, IMPRINT Hong Kong Women in Publishing Anthology, Ambidextrous Bloodhound Press, Indian Periodical, Prachya Review, The Bamboo Hut Journal, DREICH PLANET # 1 INDIA Anthology and The Yearbook of Indian Poetry in English Anthology. Passionate about raising awareness about women’s health and mental health issues through her writing, her poems often touch on themes of feminism and social injustice.

 

 

A Time for Everything

 

The view is blurry, and my wretched lungs

cough up an opaque vision of this world.

I could try harder, see the sky translucent and fulgent,

and think of the air as impossibly sweet.

I could listen harder and hear the music playing

itself into each day, feel the harmony vibrating in

the palm of my hand and champion every note

hanging by its tender thread, resisting turbulence

as it faces this world.

 

But there is a time for everything,

and today, I stop myself, deliberately

before attempting to fall in love again.

 

 

See What Happens When Fear Robs the Spirit

After a line from “Resident Heron: After One More Loss” by Tara Bray

 

Oh calloused heart,

smudged abstraction

of joy,

steal back your wonder,

your curiosity.

Wrestle out this despair,

this panicky disposition

parcelled within.

The dry acres of your contours,

the bruised bark of your skin,

the hollowed out pit of your elation

desire a sprinkling of exhilaration.

Craft your origami of emotions,

your infinite assembly of dreams,

be a lustful companion to the unfamiliar.

Find your certainty in a mirror.

Your life grieves your absence.

 

 

Hopeful Gardeners

 

There are days I imagine my Dada, strolling through

the sugarcane farms he managed post partition.

He never spoke of Abbottabad or Mansera,

only of how he relished dipping jalebis in hot milk

for breakfast. Hamira was the unexplained new home,

we would hear in between stories of fresh cow’s milk and

malai on toast, and how we children of then “today’s day and age”,

only darkened our skins with overboiled chai.

 

There was so much we never thought to ask, undress the

history of our grandparents, spending our summer holidays

year after year with them in their Mussoorie hill-top house,

which they named after hope.

They built their kitchen gardens, planted roses and

dahlias, snapdragons in purple and white, pansy bedspreads,

stocked their storeroom with enough rice, varieties of dal and

sunflower oil, drank Indian tea like English people, and

sipped Black Label with the evening news.

 

My dada died at 99, not a wrinkle on his

“far too white for an Indian” face.

We said our goodbyes, while he lay, ventilator, air tubes and all,

a pale semblance of a man who foresaw a divided country.

She followed a few years later at 95, gently easing her breath,

her last spoken word, pani. I imagine them now, building new homes

in the afterlife, naming each one “Hope”. Storing steel canisters

of glassy sugar, mounds of Darjeeling tea leaves sealed air tight.

And roses, always roses planted where they can be seen,

looking over a hot cup of tea.

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