Rohan Chhetri

A bleak day, but for the pale sun bruising the air
to a colour of wine. Across the street, a yellow
dollhouse on a tenement balcony, & scrawled
across it in red, a little girl’s initials I will not reveal.
But what it all stands for: the same flaring sadness
I felt leaving her house on mornings like this.
I remember the bright days after, the way I leaned
my forehead against the fogged glass door of the train
each morning, undulating along the brief stretch
of the cantonment, where the forest thinned
into a few trees, burnt ground, & a rampart of concrete
and barbwire. I waited every morning to see them
grazing on the periphery: three brown antelopes
I couldn’t name by taxonomy. Outside, soldiers
patrolled the morning with their mute rifles
across welted shoulders. And on some mornings,
I would see one of the three stray & break into
a careless lope, so gently, I imagined the underbrush
rising beneath the wake of its cloud feet must feel
something close to knowing you were loved.
The way I still felt then, towards the end,
as I lifted her brown hand from across
my collarbone, slipped into my poor clothes
in the half-light of the living room, & tiptoed
out of the house into the deepening dawn, before
the morning’s gleaming thumb could snuff out
any small fires we might have divined by night.