Two poems – by Kuhu Joshi

by TBLM

The day of the fitting

I enter the basement

of the Spinal Injuries Hospital. It is white,

walls and a bed and a curtain. Mom is holding my hand.

There is a doctor, also in white. He does not look at me. He says namaste to Mom.

He dips his hand into a tub of white liquid, pouring more white powder into it.

She will have to take her clothes off, he says while mixing.

I am in blue bloomers and white baniyaan. Keep this on, Mom says inside my ears.

The doctor pulls open the curtain and points to a stool. I sit on it and he shuts out Mom.

Then suddenly, wet on my side-ribs, wet under my breasts, wet

under my armpits, wet on my abdomen. His hands are cold,

as they rub wet all over. He says, keep your arms out to the side and stay still.

White liquid turns solid around my torso. I do not breathe from fear of cracking.

Mom is peeking through a gap in the curtain.

Next step, I am lying face-down on the white bed. The hands are messing

wet on my back ribs. I smell cement and Mom’s perfume.

I smell the doctor’s sweat as he moves.

I am a mummy, front and back. He takes a saw and I am alive.

He cuts open the plaster. I stand so he can take it off me.

In his hands, the skeleton of my body. In his hands

the silence of my spine, white and hollow. Mom is still standing.

And so am I.

Arms out, naked.

*

In this one you win
(For Mom)

In this one you are
cutting squares out of blue fabric
that you matched with my school dress.
You are sewing up the edges.
The doctor said 22 hours:
one for bathing and one of my choosing.
He gave us 2 hours outside the cage.

In this one I tell you
I won’t go to school anymore.
“You can’t make me.” I shut the door.
I think a lot about the cold, wet plaster
and the hands of the doctor
moulding it around my waist.

In this one you are driving home the cage
sitting next to me in the car
and my tears in your rear-view mirror.

In this one you are showing me
how to wrap the blue fabric on the iron ring.
Soft cotton asking me to live.
“It looks just like a scarf!”
I think maybe it’s true. No one will know
I have rods up my chest and back.

In this one you are sitting in the MRI room
while I lie inside the machine.
The car key flies from your hand
and smacks the round giant.

***