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Small Town Road by Shikhandin

A child’s laughter hurtles through the dark

like a puppy with a stolen bone. I am quite alone.

The sulky stare of a street lamp, stubbornly hugging

the grassy edge of this narrow small-town road

slithers ahead of me; this black

tar road, this solitary lamp, this backdrop

of blacker-still night.

The squawk of an errant egret returning

to its nest long past curfew hour. White wings

rowing through sky - a blur of anxious

white, a flustered ghost in the moist black night.


No one can claim my space here, but who

do I really need? The cities are mixed-fruit jam jars.

Blended, you can be still so alone. That solitude is terrible.

You are squeezed in like that extra shred of underwear

into a box bursting at the seams. You are slung

neck to neck with people bearing grim,

no-trespassing signs for faces.


Now, my small-town road is different. It murmurs

its own stories as it unwinds. I am welcome

to listen if I want, nobody invites.

I am free to lend an ear. It is alright

to eavesdrop. I may talk

to myself, if I so choose and my road will listen.

My monologue will not be

an eccentric’s soliloquy. Perhaps

a gecko below a loose brick in a dark garden wall

will chuck-chuck out of sympathy, or a shrew

scuttling busily will squeak her disapproval. It is all right.


They don’t mind. Just as I don’t mind that

child’s laughter nuzzling

its way into my ear, gleefully seeking

a soft warm hole to bury its bone.


***

Originally published by Words-Myth 2008


Shikhandin is the pen name of an Indian writer. Books include “After Grief – Poems” (Red River, India), “Impetuous Women” (Penguin-Random House India), "Immoderate Men" (Speaking Tiger), and "Vibhuti Cat" (Duckbill-Penguin-Random House India).

Honours include, runner up George Floyd Short Story Contest 2020 (UK), Pushcart nominee by Aeolian Harp (USA) 2019, Pushcart nominee by Cha: An Asian Literary Journal (Hong Kong) 2011, Winner 2017 Children First Contest curated by Duckbill in association with Parag an initiative of Tata Trust, First Prize Brilliant Flash Fiction Contest 2019 (USA), Runner up Erbacce Poetry Prize (UK), Winner 35th Moon Prize (Writing in a Woman's Voice: USA), First Runner up The DNA-OoP Short Story Contest 2016 (India), Second Prize India Currents Katha Short Story Contest 2016 (USA), First Prize Anam Cara Short Fiction Competition 2012 (Ireland), Long list Bridport Poetry Prize 2006 (UK), Finalist Aesthetica Poetry Contest 2010 (UK). Shikhandin’s prose and poetry have been widely published in India and abroad in online and print journals and anthologies.

Twitter: @Shikhandintweet

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