By Praniti Gulyani

Leslie Norris

Leslie Norris – 
he was a boy, or rather my classmate 
in room number 3B, in the colorful part of the school
that was covered in posters and glue and stickers
reserved exclusively for third grade 
he’d wear grey pants, a greyer shirt 
and white shoes, more black than white 
and his hair was snipped 
along the edges, like a bush trimmed 
by a gardener, with uncertain hands 

he’d have bruised palms – 
which he’d keep dabbing with leaves 
and refuse to allow the school nurse
to apply antiseptic, he’d say, he doesn’t want 
this sticky, sickly, city medicine 
his notebook pages were a deep, husky yellow 
his turmeric fingerprints overpowering the algebra 
engulfing the coefficient and variable 

and in literature, he’d write poetry 
his lines curving and curling like a wild creeper
that reaches out, and winds itself 
around a bit of sky 
strangulating it, so much so – 
that it squeezes out the blue 
in biology, he’d describe birds with purple feathers
and crimson beaks, and say that he’d once caught a snake 
who was sprinkled with real diamond and gold 

and on Christmas, when the school 
would take us to the church, and position us before 
the Giving Tree, and ask us to write 
on scraps of felt-tip paper 
one thing, we really, really wanted 
Leslie Norris would look at the paper 
spin it around, and marvel at the way 
the glitter rubbed off on his fingers 
and when he’d see, that all of us 
were thinking and writing, he’d secretly write 
that the only thing 
he really, really wanted 
was a father 

A Little Bit of Space

in your canvas- painting, of a landscape 
with a sun and quivering hills, you leave 
a little bit of space, beneath a tall, eucalyptus tree 
and then, you spend hours 
painting green, glassy leaves 
and branches that claim 
to hold the sun 

you move onto a hut, and a little lake 
and in the lake, you paint 
the softly dripping sun 
and in the hut, you say, you’ll draw a man 
a man standing tall, with his hunched, bent woman 
you say, there’s a stove – 
where the woman is cooking 
a lowly-placed dining table 
where the man is waiting 

you draw a window, and veil it 
with a layer of fog, and  then you decide 
whether the man will like, what the woman 
has cooked, and finally you decide 
to paint him angry 

and with the weighing balance of emotions 
that exists in every artist’s heart 
you measure the right amount of anger
the right amount of grief, the right amount of sorrow 
and a little extra pain 

and then, you focus on 
thickening the fog, you use white and grey 
and make it almost black 
and then, you widen the space 
beneath the eucalyptus tree 

and when I interrupt, and finally ask you why 
you say – ‘the fog must be thick, so that no one can see
what is happening inside, and the space 
beneath the eucalyptus tree must be widened 
so that the woman can come, and hide for a bit, just for a bit 
after what has to happen, has happened 
after all of it is done’ 

The Sun is a Song

the sun is but a song 

to be rolled and tucked 
between clenched teeth, like a betel leaf 
to be learnt, forgotten and learnt again 
to be sung hastily, and out of tune 
to be stopped, inhaled, and be sung again 
to be carried on lips, which bear footprints
of summer breeze, and spring flavor 
and the sudden prick of winter frost
to be weighed and counted 
on the scales of the soul 
which measure how much of heart 
is to be given to who 

to be preserved between notebook pages 
like a teenager’s love letter, sprinkled 
with bright, pink evening clouds 
to be placed on cheeks, or rather, arranged 
like a patterned assortment of first rain 

the sun is but a song 

All The Things I’ve Learnt From A Shooting Star

to emerge from bits of night 
that wrap themselves around breaths of cloud 
to glaze bedroom windows, and fill in light 
in the ambiguous shape of a lingering wish 
to touch outstretched fingers – slowly, cautiously 
and settle in the centre of palms 
lending only a speck of light – deliberately, comfortably 

to fold myself between pages, that hold 
unsteady, uncertain, unknown poetry 
and despite knowing, that poetry is uncertain 
to still cling onto every word 
to rise, and tower over those watching me 
to fall and drop like dew on velvety leaves 
and when I fall, to see if those who watched me when I rose 
are still watching 

to mount bits of yellowing breeze 
the residue of summer, sewn into the sky 
and linger outside a soldier’s barrack 
pressing my being against a widow
that bears footprints of teardrops, that are yet to be shed 
by the white, cloud-crusted eyelids 
of the sky 

to weave in and out – 
of a mother’s prayer, to punctuate 
a song, sung in a slow, scratchy voice 
to be talked about, and written on 
and maybe, if I am lucky, to be argued about 

to be looked at, to be wished on 
but, most importantly 
to be wished for 

Praniti Gulyani is a 17 year old poet from India.

One thought on “Leslie Norris and Other Poems

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