December 15, 2022

“Mother,” Poetry by Bharti Bansal

“Mother,” Poetry by Bharti Bansal

Sometimes I look at the regrets of my mother trailing along the corners of her eyes 

As she wonders about her place in the world too often 

There is no secret to motherhood, I suppose 

Just a constant feeling of doing it wrong 


My father consoles her, calls her beloved  

A sincere way of reminding her of their own vows 

Yet when she wakes up at night, feeling the clutches of past on her throat, she simply lets him sleep without saying a single word 

I believe it is when a relationship turns into partnership as time moves along the edges of their bodies, 

Sometimes becoming a game, as they team up together, shake hands, pat each other's back, constantly reminding themselves about the love that blossomed years ago 

This is how I see my mother, constantly juggling between motherhood and being a wife 

On most of the days, this is all she can offer  


Yesterday when I read about the case where God was being sued for damaging a man's house, he won it because God couldn't/wouldn't show up in courtroom 

I want to do that too, 

Charge him with the felony of breaking my mother's hope too soon 

Have that kind of justice which nobody speaks about 

But it is when I remind myself that faith has no witnesses, and the act of dreaming is still not covered in the law books or what punishment will suffice when they are chased off, like cats when entering the house 

My mother seldom prays and when she does, it is the symptom of her surfacing anxiety  

Every gurbaani I know is because some days my mother can't remember the difference between faith and repentance  

She has shed more tears for what she didn't do and no God has ever tried to tell her otherwise 

But then I remind myself this is how prayers work, 

To fold hands means begging in some cultures 


Last night I dreamt of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly 

I could see its little face with dove eyes and tentacles like my mother's embracing arms 

Everything reminds me of her 

But mostly this poking need to fly away 

I see her angry and I see her calm 

On the days when she doesn't make a noise, I see her being both 

And now when I am old enough to notice that mothers too wake up with sweat on their foreheads, racing heart or dizzy head 

It becomes difficult to see her as just a mother and not a grieving woman in her forties, who once dreamt of travelling or buying sarees, have jewels or sit in Ferris wheels 

I sometimes forget that mothers too carry their mothers' longing, or a young girl's little wish for freedom 


Sometimes she tells me about the time when I was born, her first child 

The mistakes she did, all the awkward ways she held me in her arms, 

The stories she told to put me to sleep 

Or the secrets she confessed when I couldn't comprehend confession from noise 

But time has grown over her body like vines 

She wobbles sometimes, cries like a little child 

Says words she doesn't mean,  

Gets sad over a poem I write 

Stops midway and asks me what claustrophobic means 

Sometimes I offer her my lap to sleep on 

And other days, frustration takes over her as she looks at me  

But I suppose this is how motherhood works 

You bring a child into this world 

And spend the rest of your life convincing yourself that you did the right thing 


Lessons on cooking 

Sometimes we grow up to be women first then daughters 

Our hands still young from the nostalgic childhood, 

And heart ripe enough to be broken, 

Our grandmothers constantly warn us of the homes waiting for us,  

Their kitchens empty, like forlorn lovers, waiting to be touched by the hands of a new bride 

Our rage buried under the layers of skin, 

The first lesson we learn is to be silent. 

Mothers talk to us in language of past 

Their wishes never excavated, they become the living fossils of rushed growth 

Perhaps this is why when my mother tells me how much turmeric is good enough to add colour to the food, 

She pauses for a while 

Her countenance, a snapshot of fine lines of wrinkled time, folds itself into the size of her red bindi 

I believe this is how we mimic our mothers 

Layer by layer, 

Unravelling our own skin, forming bridges between hearts of each other. 

There is always a tussle between all that a daughter could be and what she has to become eventually  

And our mothers know it so well 

They start conversing through sacrifices. 

My mother and me never talk about how we really feel 

But when we do find a chance, 

We rather reminisce how weather reminds us that rain once meant freedom and not this urgency to take the clothes off the clothesline and rush inside home 

My mother sometimes resent how I do not take seriously, this art of cooking food 

Says, one day, the house will fall upon my shoulders like lightning striking at a tall tree that  doesn't bend too much in storm 

And I laugh 

I say, "mother you aren't going anywhere" 

She neither agrees nor refutes  

I fear she must have imagined a thousand times how to run away from this home 

The thing about mothers is they never learn to say that they can choose themselves too without adding the "but's "  

Some days, I tell her all the useless facts about the world 

How the dust on the windshield of our old santro is nothing but dead stars' remnants 

Or if we look at our thumb, millions of neutrinos strike it at a given second 

I tell her about gravitational waves and the bend in our space 

And that the universe smells like gunpowder or burnt almond cookies 

To which she casually replies," perhaps it is the only way God learns to devour things he love;  by burning them around the edges a little too much; it gives them a nice crunch, a proof of how when things end, they leave behind a sound" 

She then reminds me how yesterday when I forgot to turn the gas off while boiling the milk, 

The smell of burnt milk resided in the hand towels and the utensils 

She laughs saying our home was universe too, we were closer to god than today,  

And then scolds me for not watching it,  

Tells me that the only way to cook good food is to let it simmer slowly, add salt only when the onion turns brown and gives away a shriek when water is added 

As she consoles me that it is by practice that I will learn to know the difference between burning and cooking,  

She whispers while gazing at the television behind that the only way we women have forgiven the world is by not setting the kitchens on fire. 



I have never been to a city alone 

Or travelled in a bus without worrying if I will be able to shout at the driver to stop the bus when my destination arrives 

I wasn't supposed to grow like this 

Wondering all the time about the ways I could leave this earth behind without causing too much damage 

Which seriously is a way to evade trigger warning in my poem  

The irony of living with this idea of dying young is that  

When you say a simple sentence like "mother I will comb my hair tomorrow " 

She mistakes it with "Maa you won't see me ever again" 

Which, I believe, is still scarier than the thought of death itself 

I have begun to accept that for people like me,  

Youth is a makeup palette kept in some drawer and forgetting it afterwards 

Or even if one remembers its exact location, they still suffer from the idea of choosing a colour to put on their face 

Shimmer or matte  

Black eyeshadow or green 

This is just another way of reminding oneself that sometimes it's not a therapist's advice that saves someone but the "Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillow Talk" 

A good reminder that revolution and lipstick do occur together  


I wasn't supposed to grow like this 

To believe that happiness is a by-product of success, stems from the homes of children who once dreamt big and failed 

I think as much as we ruin the place we grow up in, 

It ruins us the same. 


Today when I have grown like a wounded child, 

Or perhaps like a parrot with bruised wings 

Or an afraid cub 

I think, it is still feral 

This need for happiness 


There are days when I cry on seeing a hungry cat eat its food 

Almost entranced by how even an animal knows about navigating its way through the world which doesn't feed enough 

And then I look at myself, searching for "does antidepressants cause extreme hunger" 

Trying to find ways to stop eating every other hour 

But there is no other way to fill this void than to keep my mouth full to compensate for a needy heart 

It has taught me more about silence  

The ways it answers back when father asks what plans do I have for life 

Because truth be told, sometimes life doesn't come with a milestone 

And even though father denies to accept it, he knows that we are as lost as before 

Silence moulds the sharp edges of my words 

Yet my father hurts still the same 


When my sister calls me to ask," where did you keep your eyeshadow palette?" 

I say," it's here only, in the drawer next to me" 

But what she doesn't ask is if I have tried to create smoky eyes with it 

She always knows what questions to pass  

This is how we have learnt to converse  

And on the days when nothing works  

We choose Charmacy Milano Star Bomb shimmer and apply it over our hooded eyes 

She believes it's better to mimic light sometimes 

I think this is how we have learnt to survive  

By cramming the names of our favourite eyeshadows 


I think it's funny, 

This pressure to be a person always 

Sometimes I am merely an overfilled water mug 

Spilling too much  

And revelling in my own mess 

I believe this is the first lesson in learning makeup too 

You see, it takes a little highlighter to get a glass skin 

Perhaps this is how we tell the world that we too are brittle around the edges 

That our fragile hearts will do anything to be whole... 


Mother Poetry

Bharti is a 24 year old student from India. Her works have been published in magazines like Aaduna,, the sunflowers collective, two drops of ink, Livewire India, Feminism in India and is forthcoming in the anthology, The Yearbook of Indian Poetry. She lives in a small village surrounded by mountains and finds solace in poetry and stars. 

Mother Poetry
#bharti bansal#motherhood#poetry#prayer#regret

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