Aditi Rao

SOMETIMES, YOU MUST TALK
AROUND THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

Of course, smalltalk is always the hardest – not everyone cares
that the pink in Buenos Aires houses used to be cow blood. Or
that human tongues consist of sixteen muscles. Or that head lice
can neither jump nor fly. Or even that you are colorblind

in the same dichromatic way that squirrels are. Sometimes,
it comes back to the elephant parked on the leather couch
your girlfriend broke up with you about. You cannot chase
an elephant away, but pretending can help until it leaves

(it might never leave). Remember, the elephant has big ears.
It is probably eavesdropping, and angry elephants
make dangerous guests (they also cause arguments –
remember the six blind men who couldn’t decide?)

Besides, in all the times you’ve been to the forest, have you ever heard
elephants talking about you? As they spray lake water, trunks like hoses
the blind man saw, do you hear your name at all? They do not
make you feel like the odd one out; can’t you return the favor?

Listen, your words will never be big enough – even after they grow up,
they will be squeaks at the giant’s feet. Find something else to talk about.

HOW TO SAY GOODBYE

1.

I have taken to looking at photos of dead strangers
on friends’ Facebook pages. One woman ran
a marathon when her son died.
                                         (exhaustion, antidote
                                         to numbness?)
Your photos do not make me grieve
                                       (What were you wearing
                                       that last time I waved goodbye
                                       in that red rearview mirror?)
I can cry for the marathoner’s son.

2.

Your mother is carrying your ashes
around the world in a ziplock bag.
                                        (Are ashes allowed in airline carry-ons?
                                        Must they be checked in? What happens
                                        if the bag is lost en route? Could she bear
                                        losing you again?)
Maybe I’ll ask her for a handful. Maybe
                                       (Can I ask for a handful of ashes?)
when grey dust lines my nail-beds,
when my palms crease with soot,
when I can feel you slipping
through my fingers, maybe I will know.

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Aditi Rao is a writer, educator, and activist based in New Delhi, India.