No Dues

(For Naomi, who walked the last mile with me)

photo-3

It took some doing.
Room to room, some
Much frequented, some
I’d never seen. The Estate
Office, for instance, being
So close to the Ladies, you
Would think, on any one
Of the many days I
Slept, bathed, re-adjusted
Myself in the midst of
Classes, commutes, pangs
Of hunger, horror,
Exhaustion. You
Would think the Estate
Office would have fallen
In my way. But they
Were the most reluctant
To sign off on the steps – millions –
That my feet walked, treading
Their real estate. Of what use
But in this one room: ‘No Dues’.

The Library, where I sit
Forever in an attitude of
Years ago – they forgot the year.
They fixed it but I sit there still
Like a reader the years refuse
To budge: ‘No Dues’.
And for the many ways and
Many days in which they fed me
The walk from the Café
To the Mess merely led me
To affectionate cooking crews:
‘No Dues’.

But the corridors did not sign
And the rooms I passed ignored
The paper I clutched. Mine
Was the eye that took in
The tiles, the bricks, stored
With years, the voices, the
Faces I feared to look in,
That I would not let go
Which I would not let loose;
What would they sign? ‘No Dues’?

What manner of reckoning requires
Such an accounting of desires?
Would the Chapel where I still
Take off my shoes, produce a bill
With ‘No Dues’? The terraces,
Which elevated our poems and views,
Let me hop back in? ‘No Dues’?
What manner of debt persists
What coinage still resists
What piece of paper insists
That I fall for this elaborate ruse
And leave this place with no dues?

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Come, Teach Us Again (For Dr.Chandra) – by Rhea Lopez

(In response to her poem Good Be with lots of love from me, and i’m sure the graduating batch of 2014.)

You taught us to never stay locked up,
By society, by Gothic manor-owning spouse,
To let out the women in our attics,
Even if they burned down the house.

(You taught us never to rely on smooth-talking Englishmen,
Come, teach us again.)

“DO NOT CALL ME, unless you’re dying,”
Was the only time you pushed us away,
Other than when we had colds and you, a concert,
To sing at the very next day.

(You taught us to rely on ourselves, not on smooth-talking Englishmen,
Come, teach us again.)

I forgive you for rereading our childhoods,
Illusions of innocence were torn,
See, the tales have always remained,
Even if the fairies have gone.

(You taught us to rely on tales, not fairies,
On ourselves, not smooth-talking Englishmen,
Come, teach us again.)

In the attendance battle post a chicken pox plague,
For two weeks, I was fighting alone.
And then, you stepped in, and the war was won,
And I learnt that I’m not on my own.

(You taught us to rely on tales, not fairies,
On ourselves, not smooth-talking Englishmen,
And whenever we needed it- to rely on you to get us through,
Come, just once more, come teach us again.)