Praniti Gulyani

A Constellation of Bruises

today, my mother teaches me – 
to arrange my bruises along the landmass 
of my limbs, and to let them twinkle like stars 
that tenderly kiss, the flame of autumn 
she teaches me – 
to put a bruise on my earlobe 
and one between my fingers
just so that my bruises 
look like jewels 
she teaches me – 
to shove the uglier bruises 
under a bra-strap or a dress-hem
as I sort, select, shuffle between 
which bruises to show 
which bruises to hide 
today, my mother teaches me – 
to fold a wince 
into a smile, and the art 
of swallowing a sob, and when my throat 
gets all salty, afterward 
she says, the tanginess will soon abate 
and finally, as she whispers farewell 
into the folds of my wedding veil 
the wavering threads of her whimper
entangled with the silk 
she leaves me, a stargazer – 
to this constellation
of bruises 
The Anatomy of Pain

you begin by teaching me – 
about wafer-thin bones and agonized nerves 
that have turned so blue, it hurts 
to only look at them, and then you show me hearts
which have been frozen, stocked-up
caked with a sugary-silvery crust
of emotion, and brains encompassed 
in a bubble, a jelly-like blob 
of entangled, entwined, confused thought 
you continue by teaching me – 
about skulls, and you show me 
the splintered skull of a newborn 
patterned with bullet-holes 
picked from the greyness and dustiness 
which is, as they say 
‘the legacy of war’
thereafter, we pass through the spirals 
of patience, that branch into 
resilience and courage, coated with 
a cloak of dust, that falters 
on the quivering shoulders of these paths 
and covers the palms 
and bruises the knees 
of those, who can no longer sit atop 
cold, metal chairs and bend and bow 
their eyes dripping with tears
their lips dripping with prayer 
on white bedsheet
or, at times, tucked into their folds 
I find ailing pauses, picked from 
that uncertain valley between life 
and death, most gasping and some 
reaching out, plucking bits of breath 
molding it into thin strips, placing it 
between clenched teeth, and 
beneath shriveled tongues, while others 
chose to let life slide 
onto the carvings on their palm
and slowly, but surely
it skids away 
and in the whimpering hues – 
of the dewy, yellow light 
with white and grey fingertips 
tied together with 
this tumor-like tightrope 
I decipher 
                the anatomy 
of pain


Praniti Gulyani lives in India.