Blessed Are Those Who Can Read

We wrote a letter to God
a strip of paper from school book torn carefully
(God shouldn’t think we are shabby no?)
with pencil haltingly wrote
I never wrote missives independently
three of us
our heads crowded over the paper
wrote we love you
because God Is Love

we never knew we could ask for things
we never had anything to ask
we rolled the strip
as we had seen deft hands roll bidis
we forcefully put away that image
smoking is sin. only bad men smoke bidis.
and buried the roll under the rain tree
in the sprawling school garden beyond the chapel

such a big place in the heart of the city
all missionary money my uncle said
– disapprovingly as I read it now –
then I went shy when anything relating to me drew attention
I erased myself and wanted to talk only to God
wore clothes that I thought would make me disappear
wore pale greens and sat in the garden.

We carved on the tree trunk
with the razor I stole from my father’s shaving kit
sustaining cut marks that bled
and burned : a cross like the one we found in chapel
I visited the chapel every day, knelt on the cool floor
carried home souvenir bible, plastic cross
that set my grandmother sleepless.

I lay in my bed and looked out of the window
picturing God with flowing beard come down
wasn’t sure if he flew or dropped a rope ladder
like my heroes in Tamil films
my brother asked there are two of them is it?
Jesus and your God? Related?
Father son like Appa and me?

Don’t question anything, child. just have faith
said Sister Marie Punida. I focused.
God with flowing beard
(closed the door of my room so that no one interrupted)
flying down (I had made up my mind on that)
digging near the tree, eyes calm as a lake
narrowed into clearer pools as he read my letter
and left a message.

Next day during the break
we dug and found the paper gone, ha we knew that
dug deeper and the soft twig
we used for digging struck something hard
gentle prodding and then a rusted key
look Saint Peter’s key.
I blinked. read your bible first.
I had tears of frustration. I took long to read
my writings were loops and scrawls.

A line from the letter
if God had cared to leave I would have read
slowly tracing my fingers on the paper.
Leaving a message whose meaning
I had to read from a small book
with tiny letters made my world fall.
God was kinder to those who could read  
make meaning fast.

Writer’s Island 

2 thoughts on “Blessed Are Those Who Can Read

  1. Wow. I am absolutely blown away by this poem: your skill at storyteller and description, and how the tension and conflict shine through at different points in the poem. Strikingly beautiful and sad…I feel a child’s heart frustrated, curious, and searching.


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