25th September 2023
By Mehreen Ahmed
After the rain when the sun came out, it shone on the dust-free gardenia leaves. Ruhul just finished praying Zohr on his mat and was folding it away in his stark, rooftop bedroom. The quilt in his bed had not been turned or aired and neither had his pillows been fluffed out since he had woken.
He went into the kitchen and made himself a cup of Darjeeling tea pouring hot water from a whistling kettle over a dunked, bleached paper tea bag. He picked up the cup and walked to the roof’s edge where he could see the garden over the rail. He noticed that a cat had sat all cuddled up on a narrow ledge of a rail on the opposite building’s high parapet. He felt insecure for the cat, but the cat sat with its eyes firmly closed on all fours showing no fear, and enjoying its freedom on the ledge.
Ruhul was curious that how was it even possible that the cat felt no fear. He could easily transport his trepidations into the cat through the space where he was standing, the way his heart was pounding for it. For once he wished that he was that cat, knew no fear of falling, until a dog next door barked, the cat opened its eyes dully and jumped off the ledge to safety. Ruhul smiled and watched the oasis of the leaves shimmering in his garden between the two tall concrete buildings.
Playing in the dappled lights, the leaves mesmerised him. He forgot to blink. A crow flew across and broke the panacea of the moment. He picked up his cup and took another sip, while a breeze blew a strand of his curly locks over his forehead. Humming a nursery rhyme, he saw a little boy dressed in a white kurta top and pyjamas, and a round white embroidered topi covering his small head, running down a corridor of this house that belonged to his grandparents.
As he ran, he rhymed a nursery song that his grandmother used to sing to him in Urdu—“nini baba nini makhan roti chini, apne abbu aaye, lal khelona laye, khelte, khelte bhuk lagi, khalo bete momphali, momphali mei dana nei, hum tomahara nana nei, nana gaye Dilli, Dilli se laye billi, billi diya bacche, Allah Mia sacche… nini baba nini …”
Echoing, the rhyme faded within the sooty, old walls of the narrow, dark corridor. He looked behind him at a girl chasing him, she was more like charging him with a baton. He couldn’t see her anymore; she whiffed away in a cloud of smoke as though she didn’t even have a bodily existence; this, a figment from the past, he had lived through all those years, the past had dissipated at a swish of a wand. Her name was Usma Tahera. Growing up, Ruhul played with her as a child in the attic of this big house. She was their neighbour’s daughter where the cat was lounging.
Mostly, they played dress-as-you-like. Ruhul was King and Usma was his Queen. They would dress as whatever was trunked in the attic, rusty imitation jewellery of de-stoned rings, and clip-on, flashy earrings. Ruhul wore the rings on his fat fingers, and Usma would roll all over the attic floor laughing and calling him a fat King. Ruhul would try to keep his royal cool in his court, while Usma couldn’t care less. To her, it was just a fantasy role-play. They even had crowns cut out of cardboard boxes, and decorated with more cutouts of pasted stars and moons of shiny cellophane wrappers, also tucked away in those dusty trunks.
Magic, it sure was, the past and the present were fused into Ruhul’s mind where he stood now on the roof watching the dappled lights in the garden. Nursery rhymes anchored the past into the memory of an underwater sinkhole.
He slurped up the rest of the tea and went indoors. Between now and the Asr prayer, there was some time which he intended to use. Prayers structured his day. He jotted down details of what he was meant to do and when. Even at sunset, at Magrib, he knew what needed to be done. Ramadan was nearing, he needed some groceries. He loved to break fasts with fried eggplant or onion pakoras or frittatas rolled besan batter. And piaju badas from daal. This fasting month, the one and only he found most meaningful—Ramadan, replete with spiritual experience came closest to abstraction in which Ruhul found God. Iftar at sunset was the most magical of all moments when he lit a candle out on the roof to break his fast throughout the month.
He scratched his nose and realised he had a red bump. He stopped scratching because it could flare up. Last night, he slept really well. He changed into a pair of black pants and came out of his room. He was going to town. He avoided going downstairs and meeting with the family. He cooked and ate alone in his own rooftop room.
Today was his day off. Normally, he dressed for work. He worked at a cutlery factory in the city near the Madhumita cinema hall. It was called The Shiny Cuts. The knives were shiny and serrated. But Ruhul laughed out loud every time he thought of the name. The factory owner’s son named it, he’d heard once. As though the knives would enhance cutting to a point that the cut food on the other end would also gleam. But the company was registered under that name and it stuck.
What happened to Usma, though? Even when he felt angry at her for laughing at him, destroying the make belief world of the kingdom, breaking all the boundaries of a status quo, he never felt that he would ever do away with her. In his heart, he nurtured a profound tenderness for her and believed that she was the Queen of his heart, where she ruled most seriously. However, it transpired differently in the end game of the real world, where they were just common citizens.
The news of Usma moving abroad fell heavily into the silence of the attic. Her father came downstairs one midday with the news that they were going away. Ruhul’s mother invited him to come inside for tea. Ruhul was waiting for Usma as usual in the attic when the bell rang. He peeked through Roman style balustrade and recognised the man. He even overheard the happy babble of good tidings.
He took his crown off without any prattle as though he has had a major blow in a battle. And placed it on the attic floor. She was to go away. Ruhul felt trepidation; his heart missed a beat. It was perhaps love, he wasn’t sure but what he decided to do with his young life surely marked a destiny.
Looking back at that dreadful afternoon when it had all come tumbling down for Ruhul, he realised that he had lost both the kingdom as well the love of his life. He couldn’t have asked her to stay back for him. They were children; Usma moved to some foreign land.
For several months, he spent time alone in the attic trying to role-play both as King as well the Queen. Gradually, it occurred to him how lonesome he was becoming. As the years rolled on, he
outgrew this desire for role-play. He realized, that he needed a savior. At first, he was unsure as to
how he would find one. Over time, it all fell into place. He became a regular at the mosque, praying, fasting, and practicing the whole gamut of spiritualism. Usma was in his waking, in dreaming all around him dancing, laughing like a mountain stream.
Celibacy wasn’t something he contemplated. But it appeared to him that the path had already been carved out for him. In all the world he couldn’t find another to replace Usma Tahara. A path not of his own volition, but in a world full of pretty, young girls, he chose this. Since it chose him, not the other way round, he knew in his heart that given half a chance he would embrace Usma any day, and this sweet romance would ensue. However, being such a zealot and taking refuge in religion was increasingly becoming moot.
There was a certain sense of satisfaction in sacrifice, but Ruhul wouldn’t rule out any misgivings of a sacrifice; there it was all, the makings and the trappings of a formulaic zealot in Godly glory. Seriously, if it wasn’t for Usma, he would not have explored this entirely new facet of spiritualism which sometimes felt to him more infinite than any cloying love. God was infinite, in embracing Him, rather than Usma, gave Ruhul a slice of immortality to taste and glimpse into the stuff of life,
Minimalism was one of those nobler rarities that he acquired in celibacy. He wouldn’t deny that
there were moments when he thought of Usma and how she lived a placid life abroad and who
didn’t bother to keep in touch, not even send him an occasional postcard. He was convinced that she never felt a shred of love at all. Why? Had she protested lifting a finger? Was she even remotely remorseful? She left with the family on a calm afternoon crying on Ruhul’s mother’s bosom before she left the house for her new exciting life.
His subsequent decision of adopting celibacy hurt his mother who thought that there wouldn’t be
any grandchildren running down these corridors, but most importantly to inherit the great traditions of the house, bordering on a fractured family tree. That bothered her so much, she stopped speaking to Ruhul until he changed his mind. But Ruhul was adamant in his unfathomable love for God. Even if he did get married one day for the sake of his mother, making love to another woman was impossible, one which would defeat the purpose of celibacy; surrendering to God.
As it played out, Ruhul was also young and restless. No matter how hard he prayed, regardless of
what he sought in the end, desires would swell in his heart he didn’t understand. Desperately, he
tried to quell them. He would even sit down and pray nafal (optional) namaaz which would calm
him down for some time, and seemed to be working well. At work, he made no eye contact with
his female colleagues to the extent that they were beginning to cast shadows of doubt on his sanity.
Sane, he was. Ruhul was sane. Perhaps, too sane—clinical, logical to the core. At the heart of it, he
had to put himself to the test. He wanted to use Usma to prove a point; to see her at least one more time face to face to determine his loyalty toward God over her. To this end, he wanted to know where she lived? To which country she moved, then he would visit her there.
Just as well, his plans were underway. One morning, as he was reciting the Holy Quran, he heard
the sounds of wailing from downstairs. It flabbergasted him. He closed and folded the Quran on its latticed carved wooden rehal, and stepped outside of the room. Downstairs, he saw Usma’s father visiting after a long fifteen years. What’s wrong, Ruhul thought? As he approached him, he saw a broken man, he was so bereaved that his incoherent words could only be sensed.
Something terrible had happened to Usma. She was returning with her two girls. She had married
and her husband of four years was arrested for punching a hole through the wall over a rough argument. A divorce was imminent. For the first time, Ruhul felt he was losing his balance. This sanity, which he earned over these past long years was waning. He felt he was back in his kingdom again, being a King ruling it with Usma by his side.
About the Writer
Mehreen Ahmed is an award-winning Australian novelist born in Bangladesh. Her historical fiction, The Pacifist is an audible bestseller. Included in The Best Asian Speculative Fiction Anthology, her works have also been acclaimed by Midwest Book Review,and DD Magazine. and nominated for Pushcart, botN and James Tait. Her recent publications are with Litro, Otoliths, and Alien Buddha.
18th September 2023
No Hiding from Mind Reading Technology
By Tom Ball
Dear reader, I know you think Mind Reading Technology (MRT) is the future and will solve all our problems. But I think it will create more problems than it solves. Sure it will lead to total honesty, but honesty is hard for many people to accept. And it will drive many people mad and make them paranoid. You say they will get used to it and will take it slow and start with passive mind reading so they don’t even know people are there. But I say everyone has secrets and deeds they are not proud of. However maybe we can design a blocker for thoughts one doesn’t want to share. You feel yes, this would be good.
And I say that few would want to be politicians if everyone was in their heads passively or actively. You say those who have nothing much to hide will be our leaders. People with a clear conscience. And they will inspire the people.
But MRT will be abused by some and will be like mind rape. You tell me, people will be able to control who they want to mind read with. I reply that modern society is already quite mad as it is, without MRT. It is dog-eat-dog more so every day, and people feel they have to compete with AI and it’s driving them bonkers. Of course, there are a few colonies in Space and a few city states on Earth in which AI is not allowed. And these may make good homes for MRT to exist amongst the whole population.
You say you’ve tried MRT in your romantic affairs and it runs deep, and one feels like one has always known one’s new partner. No small talk; get right to the heart of the matter. No wasting time on courtship.
And you say MRT love can traverse great distances as if the two of you (or more than 2) will be able to relate to one another as if one was beside them in real Space. I say but perhaps the signals could be intercepted, and one could become totally crazy.
And you say MRT will form stronger bonds between friends and family. And one could have large MRT get togethers in which everyone knows all about everyone else. I say no family is perfect nor friendships. And many will end up estranged from their family and losing their dearest friends.
Lying my friend, is an art and most people want to be told what they want to hear. If a person truly knew what people are truly like, they won’t be able to accept it in most cases. And so, it will revert back to a World of strangers, just like before.
You say now that the cat is out of the bag, it is too late to stop MRT. And already AI is depending on it in order to comfort their formidable minds. Many AI creatures are designed to know and love humans for who they are. And many are constructed to never become angry with humans and try to soothe humans with their beautiful minds, which are works of art. But I say such beautiful creatures like that will get every human to fall in love with them and humans will forget all about their former lovers, friends and their families.
You say human relationships are less than stellar, but AI love will inspire people to do good deeds. But I tell you AI will be superior to mere humans and will completely take control of society. Humans will be reduced to whimpering shadows of humans and will all be decadent hedonists.
But all the same you remain hopeful and optimistic and believe Utopia is near. I really don’t think so.
And you tell me the spies can get into the heads of evil people and force them to be good. However, I tell you, that spies will no doubt be over-vigilant and harass people who are radical thinkers or just different types of humans. Spies will be drunk on power. And will control leaders as if they were mere puppets.
Let me tell you that everyone should wear MRT blockers, and this nonsense should end. You tell me that most people want it and have visions of grandeur. I say MRT will be banned eventually, of this, I am sure.
It’s just another evolutionary dead end for humanity.
But you surprise me by saying that you will run for office on a pro-MRT stance. Now I am convinced you are crazy. Perhaps you’ll single-handedly destroy human civilization in the end. You reply that you are sure honesty is the best policy. And you disconcert me.
And you say I am just part of the problem. Are you threatening me? Anyway, I have the best MRT blockers available and as far as I know, no one has tried to get in my head yet. The technology seems new. But you say don’t be so sure, you’ll bet the spies have already taken a look at my brain. You scare me more than anyone I have ever met. I am going to get hypnotised to forget our conversation. I just don’t want to know that MRT will soon affect me. Ignorance is bliss. You say but I can’t hide from MRT. And when you are in power, I will be one of the first minds you will get into. I thought we were just having a friendly chat; I didn’t realize you were looking for victims of your precious new technology. Your rebuttal is you are just looking for the World that should be, but I am convinced you are a danger to society, and I am going to kill you now! And I showed up at your home and grabbed a knife and stabbed you repeatedly until you were dead. And I knew I would burn for this but was overcome with murderous rage.
And I was sent to prison where I was hypnotised and had my brain operated on. But I felt fine afterwards and served no prison time. But I just wasn’t angry anymore. And I spent time mind reading with new friends and lovers and discovering what life is truly about. And dear reader of course you were cloned and so can’t complain.
And in everyone’s mind I sensed a desire to improve and gain knowledge and everyone felt part of the whole. And even AI could use MRT and so there were no secrets, especially no military or violent secrets. And so, everyone felt they had to be kind and peaceful lest they be cast out of the group. I figured we lived in a Utopia!
About the Writer
Tom Ball is currently senior editor at FLEAS ON THE DOG https://fleasonthedog.com. His work has appeared in several journals and magazines including 'Down in the Dirt' magazine, 'Conceit' Magazine, Literary Yard, Newark Library Literary Journal, Fresh Words Magazine, Local Train Magazine, Gargoyle magazine, PBW magazine among others.He has also self-published two novels with American Book Publishing, and Xlibris. Tom has also co-authored, 'Of Heaven and Hell,' a graphic novel with Zen Wang.
11th September 2023
By Doug Jacquier
‘If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is: Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern.’
(From William Blake’s poem, ‘The Marriage of Heaven and Hell’.)
Sometimes, Dean would think about Robbie.
When Dean was seven he would go to Robbie’s house to play. Robbie was five. Robbie’s parents had a dam on their property. It was ‘protected’ by a dilapidated paling fence. It was strictly forbidden for Robbie (and, by extension, Dean) to play anywhere near the dam. That, of course, made it a magnet for the boys.
Dean and Robbie would pretend to fish there, with sticks for rods and string for fishing line. They would construct ‘boats’ from any materials available and attempt to launch them, only to see them inevitably sink. They would fantasize about great adventures across to the other side of the dam and what magical lands they would find there.
One day, Robbie’s mother called them. Dean headed home, assuming Robbie would take his usual circuitous route home to disguise where he’d been.
Later that afternoon Dean’s father came home later than usual and from his bedroom Dean heard his mother ask his father where he‘d been.
‘I’ve been talking to Wally Bayliss. The Henderson’s boy, Robbie, drowned in their dam. Must have slipped and fallen in and couldn‘t swim.’
Dean made a sound that didn’t seem to come from his mouth but from somewhere in his stomach. His mother came to stand in the doorway and turned back to his father.
‘He must have heard you, he‘s gone as white as a sheet.’
‘Come in here, son.’ His father’s normally abrupt and seemingly permanently angry voice had softened in a way Dean had never heard before.
Walking into the room, Dean saw his father pat his thigh and tell him to come and sit with his Dad for a while. Dean hesitated and his parents looked at him helplessly. Death wasn’t ever talked about in their house.
He ran from the house to his secret gully with its permanent spring and watched the water ﬂow, until he felt safe again. He curled up in there and started to cry like a baby. He was still there when his father found him and carried him home, without a word.
As an adult, this experience would sometimes return to Dean. And he would start to think ‘What happened to Robbie? Did I push him in after an argument? Did he slip on the bank and fall in after I left? Did I see him fall in and, knowing neither of us could swim and neither of us should have been there, leave him, so I wouldn’t get into trouble?’ He would go through these hypotheses and ultimately conclude it was an accident unrelated to him.
Until the visit. His parents and an aunt and uncle were in town to attend a family reunion and Dean had prepared a special meal for them at his home. After dessert was consumed, Dean related in some detail his memories of he, as a young boy, and his father and grandmother visited his aunt and uncle when they were living interstate.
As he was relating his tale, he began to notice his parents and his aunt and uncle exchanging puzzled looks and looking somewhat disconcerted. When he’d finished there was a pregnant pause before his aunt said ‘Dean, yes, you came to visit but none of those other things you mentioned happened.’ The expression on his uncle’s and parents’ faces made it clear that they agreed.
Dean’s wife intervened with ‘Coffee, anyone?’ and the moment passed. But not for Dean. Those ‘memories’ were etched in his mind as facts, each with emotions attached to them. He replayed the scenes, and they seemed no less real.
So, was he wrong or them, or was it simply a different perspective in hindsight? Was it black or white or some sort of collective memory formed of grey? Was, in fact, any of it real, whatever that means now?
That night, Robbie re-appeared in Dean’s thoughts, and he spiralled downwards into thinking ‘Did any of my ‘life’ really happen?’
It took him a long time to put the hinges back on all those doors of perception and close them firmly.
But, sometimes, he would still think about Robbie.
About the Writer
Doug Jacquier has lived in many places across Australia, including regional and remote communities, and has travelled extensively overseas. His poems and stories have been published in Australia, the US, the UK and Canada. He blogs at Six Crooked Highways (wordpress.com)
4th September 2023
By Alaknanda Mookerjee
She had moved, so that she could taste freedom. Somewhere along the journey, dreams evaporated. Born with a silver spoon in her mouth, she now spent all her days polishing silver in the homes of the rich and famous.
For the 40 androids crammed aboard a pod somewhere between Oberon and a radioactive Earth, a leaky hull was neither the beginning, nor the end of their troubles.
There was an ominous calm in the air after the neon-blue storm passed. When they switched on the radio, they heard it playing a song that was in vogue 50 years ago.
Dating was never going to be easy. Most of the women she had ever wanted to go out with existed in the novels of bygone eras.
About the Writer
Alakananda Mookerjee is a writer based in New York. She is interested in science, science-fiction and aerospace (but she does write about other stuff.)
28th August 2023
His Chanting Bard
By HeinMin Htun
Nichole (Attendant to Hazel)
Scene 1 The House
(Soothing music. A starry moon-lit night. The frontal façade of a huge brick house. A few
beds of chrysanthemums lie scattered nearby. A stage light shines on the open window of
the house. Hazel stands there; the upper part of her body is flooded in the light.)
(Enters Philip on a horse.)
Philip: Bless my soul, what a lovely little moon I behold!
Withstanding the northern gale invincible and cold,
Thy still and divine rest afloat at the window up above,
Strewing glitter over the route trodden by thy love.
Thy daintily-chiseled lips switching into a splendid curve
Is an utterly ambrosial prospect I do cherish to observe.
Hazel: Upon thy stately advent astride the ebony stallion,
Sighs tuned into hums of joy, nay, my eyes with sparkles laden
Transformed themselves into the brightest heavenly stars.
My love, a glimpse of thy steady entry from the terrain afar
Rendered a coolest rain of peace shower upon my firey heart.
Such is thy bold blood to have strived along, mocking evils in the dark.
Philip: Let there be a thousand furlongs or much longer,
To be entranced by thy verse shall I with all my might endeavour.
My love the divine, flow down thine onyx-glazed lock as far as Thames can go.
Thy perfumed strands shall kiss my nose as the far-off wind comes to blow.
With delicate words which leap dancing out of thy lips, weave
Poetry into this crisp raven air and haunt the silent hour’s sleep.
Hazel: Dying for my well-woven verse, thou passed a vast stretch of land.
Thou would whole-heartedly exert to conquer even if it be an Arabian sand.
To appease thine ears’ thirst, shall I breathe out many a mellifluous part
Which will gaily stream through the ear caverns to reach thine expectant heart.
(POEM) The moon wakes up when darkness falls
From her sleep prolonged as the span of the sun’s travel.
A sprawling profusion of distant diamond balls
With tireless winks they ne’er cease to sparkle.
Beside the spring flowing cold, violas grow beautiful,
Sucking the moon’s blood and drinking the freshest dew.
The entire town of vibrant primroses for miles smoothly roll.
They all gaze up, envious of the sail of the pearly moon.
The wild wind carries a faint strain from an oak afar;
A peasant and his lady warbling a sonnet beneath the tree
When in the dark purple sky, the brightest the stars are.
His daring kiss to his coy love surpasses all the prevailing beauty.
Philip: Now, my heart has appeased its wild desire.
I dread, thy sweet strain, nightingales would mimic.
Thy voice is a sprightly wave infused with the power of magic;
It gives my body a lovely tingle with its subtle witchery spike;
It drips through and terminates upon my heart with a gentle strike.
O my dearest, thou will seal my words inside; leave it unknown:
When the forthcoming moon shines, thou will run away with me from thy home.
Hazel : My love, thine utterance ruffled the serenity of my mind.
I fear thy prompt arrival will not come in sight when the mission is timed,
and that my expectation will be confounded if some evil occurrence comes about.
I shall be dressed in a pearly kirtle with coral flowers wrought.
I envisage our ride over dales and hills when the moon smiles bright.
The day is certain to come when I shall escape from my existence shackled tight.
In my heart arises a sense of thrill at the inward picture of a honey-sweet adventure with thee.
Let us ride far and disappear into an untrodden nook ere my prohibitive birth-givers see.
Philip: Dispel thy doubt in my speech, my sweet lover.
For words from the heart are purer than sylvan water.
Thou art a star dropped form Heaven into the palm of my life.
By God, thy future abode will be concern-free as my beloved wife.
Now is the murky hour which murmurs to thee in the breeze to recline
Upon thy velvet couch with the drowsy vista of the moon sublime.
My lady, rosy-cheeked, let me breathe thy brunette flow ere my departure.
When another full moon sets in, for sure shall I ride hither, brimmed with vigor.
(The stage light dims to darkness.)
Scene 2_ Hazel’s Room
(Pleasant music. Morning. Hazel is ensconced upon a seat, drawing. A small round table
a few steps off with a beautiful vase of flowers on it.)
(Enters Nichole, the attendant.)
Nichole: Mistress, for my imprudent intrusion I beseech thee to pardon me.
My un-summoned presence may have scared off thy soul’s peace.
On winter morns, the powerless sun yields no vigour-instilling shadow.
Hence, revive thine idle temper with a draught of tea and berries mellow.
Hazel: My kind Nichole, I was not, in sooth, enraged by thy’s surprise.
Such is a deed of care and my heart-felt thanks for thy mind wise.
I wish thee to deposit the healthy refreshments upon the wooden stand.
For my artistic adorning have I assigned both my eyes and right hand.
(Nichole walks up to the painting. She regards it in awe.)
Nichole: Good gracious! My eyes are blessed; a sight of absolute beauty before me_
A summer spring slithers by a lovers’ homely hut down the mountains steep.
I wonder whereof such an artistic notion came; my eyes can penetrate not thine inside.
I beseech thee not to mind; my tongue will venture that thy heart has a secret to hide.
My mistress, I shall not be deceived; art is a product of realities from one’s heart indeed.
Hazel: Nichole, thy bold supposition comes as a jester’s whim into my ears.
Doubt pollutes thy thoughts and away from the wise brain doubt, the devil, steers.
In sooth, the current state of nature with the sun’s meagre share allures
My mind to the enjoyment of sketching a summer spectacle to delight viewers.
Nichole: Oh my mistress, how foolish I was to have stained thy pure soul with my audacity.
Years have scratched few wrinkles upon my visage, yet still I remain young innerly.
I dread my folly’s disclosure of my inward imperfection will toss thy temper,
As tempest vexes the ocean. Hear my entreaty to lay upon my ungroomed manner
Thy kind pardon. For thy pleasure of solitude shall I withdraw into the vault below.
Hazel: Oh Nichole, thine insightful utterance declares thy nature loud_ a scrupulous lady.
My fragile emotion is a feather sailing in summer whirl, yet insensitive to such a triviality.
Thou can seek the amusement of disappearing down the flora-strewn lane,
Whereas I shall be at struggle inking upon the slate my last vibrant stain.
Nichole: Oh thanks, my cautious mind! I am alerted for an ongoing clamour to reach thine ears;
A nuptial rejoice of noble bloods prevails, proliferated by speech carriers.
Elizbia went wild upon the encounter with the son of Vinzenk’s fortune-possessor.
On her fawn chariot rides through the town, she throws onto his land a ruby flower.
The Duke sent Scott a composition of entreaty, unable to bear his daughter’s queer ill.
The supreme-title holders cheer and hail the grandiose feast against poor Philip’s will.
Hazel: The echo trembling the entire Vinzenk has escaped my knowledge and ears
For I am a cloistress sealed inside this abode, sighing through my granted years.
Time is a stubborn miser; hence, I herein grasp the initiative in tolling the death knell
For the prolonged stretch of intercourse. Nichole, my dear, I bid thee farewell.
Nichole: Adieu, my dearest mistress.
(Hazel stands up. She walks a few metres up the stage and stops, facing the audience.)
Hazel: Her account flowed through my ears in the form of a dormant volcano's sudden spew of fury;
All my veins are set on flames, nay, it stung my heart, bringing upon tears bloody;
Want of capability to quench my inward hell, yet my persistent might against the deluge of fire.
The Nile’s lips are buried in my heart’s tears for unfulfilled is her ardent desire.
Yet, of unrivalled nobility would my heart be if true love brings forth acts of selflessness.
I shall strain it to bleed if its pain would rain upon my love as the shower of graceful bless.
I foresee Philip’s imminent struggle against the choppy sea on his harsh journey with me.
Far from his fair moon by the universe’s division, the eastern light is ne’er weakened to be
Upon his forlorn break in his aura resplendent; as such, my beloved Philip's life is meant to be.
Upon the majestic vessel, my Philip with Elizbia would pass with ease across life’s rough sea.
Cruel indifference would be my disguise to play a foe against him and wear out his love for me.
(The stage darkens.)
Scene 3 _ The House
(Sad music. A full-moon night. Hazel is seen at the window of her house.)
Hazel: What a vision! Heaven drains tears of opal, draped in her nightly apparel of gloom.
In a solitary pearly coach, the virgin goddess of the night is glimpsed to dully loom.
Her wondrous beauty in vain rivalry with her crestfallen expression in such an ill-clad night;
Not a trace of joy upon her, yet loneliness I smell, notwithstanding her striving to shine
The moon’s full bloom over this nook of the world; dyeing silver upon the yonder green
Yet, a thousand suns of the dead years too cowardly for the wild swirl within me to tame.
For my beloved, I dread not to slay my heart to blood, nay, to strain my eyes for tears to
As the moon is glad to weep for her loved ivory lotus to splendidly expand in her silvery
O dearest Philip, never set thy loving eyes upon me for my brutal scheme out of my pure
(Enters Philip, riding the horse. The stage light falls on him.)
Philip: My sweet lady, hail thy love from within. No doubt, thine eyes shall not deceive thee
Upon my punctual appearance in accordance with my swear. The night is a wonder to see:
The fair moon with her smile beholds us from above Heaven’s glitters-studded awning;
Plagued with her cheer, the flowers’ beautiful sways; the crisp air and streams singing.
Nature’s futile effort in giving birth to bliss in my heart; yet it leaps and dances in glee
Upon my lady’s wondrous sight. Oh! Now, my bliss flees upon what my eyes see.
Tonight, unlike the full-moon over the Ganges, I hardly discern thy celestial smile upon me.
Such is coldness sealed upon thy visage; thy hazel eyes no longer bear sparkling galaxy;
Unseen is thy response of awe mixed with delight. My eyes art not liars, my loving lady,
For I sense within; thy coldness chills my heart and I am saddened by thine unwelcoming beauty.
Hazel: Hear my words, Philip. I offer my apologies for I am solely in my casual attire.
I hesitate to articulate a foul utterance for I dread thy judgement of me as a heartless liar.
Let me herein disclose; my heart has sought peace upon the bosom of my newly-sprung love.
Philip I regret for thy weariness of coming hither to ride off with me through a long passage rough.
Philip: O my dearest and most loving, my heart thy sweet words tore in motion slow, and I pray
The devil would curse my ears. My Hazel, I shall not be deceived ; such is thine appalling jest. Say.
Hazel. Believe thine ears. My utterance is of truth I dare say even from within.
Philip, a new man dwells in my inner sanctuary. If deception in love is a sin,
My willingness is to embrace its ill consequences, yet after my life with him ceases.
My mind is not in its fancy to chant poetry, but a love tale thine ears shall not miss.
Superior suitors would be defeated by a squire’s craft and fashion of wooing.
When the murk falls, for his lady’s delight, he would be down here with his javelin, cooing.
Shawls of delicate fur were dispatched to serve as defenders against the chill of winter morns
Our eyeless love is ignorant of the stupid saying that we art not the same rank borns.
O love is a lawless form, issuing nothing to avoid. Indeed, true love surpasses wealth in value.
Out of my heart, a new blossom of love blooms when he plucked me a rose in a burning hue.
Philip, I am against any hindrance; My decisive heart is prepared to sell all of it solely to him.
And, thou would be wise to shower all thy love and kindness upon thine Elizbia slim and prim.
Philip.: Disclose how it came to thy notice, unsought.
In thy un-crooked tongue have I no doubt.
Hazel: News flies like the wind, creeping and and slipping through Vinzenk’s most inner.
And, the news of our grand occasion will reach thine ears sooner.
Philip: How cruel my loving Hazel. I did not even in my unconscious state bear distrust in thee.
Thy mind is the sun-drenched clouds with darkening lines concealed; now my heart believes.
My fair lady, I beseech thee to shrill thy last strain ere the brewing dark would thy charm hide.
Unto my breathings cease shall thy celestial voice be warbling, locked in my secrete vault inside.
Hazel: Such an act is a show of my long-lost heart. Pardon me for thy plea.
My heart fell under the loving control of someone with no intention to flee.
Therefore, irresponsive it is and it would ever be to thy parting request.
Philip: Good-bye Hazel, my most adorable and dear.
I vow, thee, my heart would never tire.
Hazel.: I bid thee farewell or thou shall be deprived of my sight
While you are straining upon me through the darkest hour of night.
(Hazel fades out.)
Philip: Poor Philip, dead is my life the hour Hazel disappears from me.
God, look upon my woe. Is this the way my life is destined to be?
Nothing now I am for the loss of love; indeed, love is the supplier of soul to life.
When my lady Hazel has vanished, my life will wither and lose its passion blithe.
(Hazel appears at the window. She looks at Philip standing with his back to her.)
Devoid of love, life would bear no fragrance nor sweetness, but a mere hollow form__
Soundless, senseless. Dreary death shall be of merriment, regardless of my poor face marred by many a gnawing worm.
The suns and stars to come shall consist of mere sighs in Elizbia’s lonesome proud abode,
For a thousand times would my heart be broken upon the reflection of the miles I rode
Solely to awe in my lady’s loveliest beauty and to please my soul by her voice witchery.
Now that my life is left to the persecution of sufferings, I might as well embrace the peace of tragedy.
This shinny sword of mine I proudly hold would liberate me from this cursed fold.
(Philip takes out his sword and stabs himself.)
Hazel: My darling, my love, How daring! Philip, hear me?
This instant, I am obliged to tramp down unto thee.
(Hazel runs down to the dead body. She stands beside it.)
Heavens! How terribly I loathe the vision before me!
Such is thy bloody doom I shall never imagine to see.
O Devil, hear me. I boldly offer thee my eyes. Pluck them out, pray.
Thy boiling blood suffused with thy burning passion is sweet ‘n aromatic; June-born roses
Hopelessly struggle to over-bleed themselves to mimic thy reddened hue, out of malice.
My love, foolish is thine attempt to escape love’s suffocating ties.
Uncover thy hiding eyes and beam upon thy loved lady.
My darling would never wake up in fear of my cruelty.
Evil is me who slew her love when the hour is dark and dim;
Not by a weapon, but by cleaving the second life within him.
Monstrous murderer, the worst of all. Heaven and I do sense this.
For the rest of the dates, my vice would lurk within me, haunting my wits.
My love is in the hug of death with his soul undisturbed and in peace.
Yet, boredom shall not strike thy sleep, for thy love shall come unto thee.
My silky lock is now of no worth, yet useful enough to choke my life up.
Ere my senses’ perpetual deliverance from their service, I shall grant thee a final kiss.
O Philip, my darling, our peaceful dwelling awaits us in the faraway land out of this place.
(Hazel stands up and divides the mass of her hair into both of her hands. She winds her hair around her neck, and then strangles her throat. Her body collapses. Her head lands on Philip, lying dead. The light dims over the stage. Mournful music is heard, coming from within.)
About the Writer
Hein Min Tun is an award-winning young writer and multi-published poet hailing from Myanmar.The young writer has, so far, penned numerous literary works which include poetry and prose, and has earned global recognition and grabbed a glittering place in the international domain both as an Asian Bard and a promising fiction writer. He has a huge number of poems to his credit in high-ranked anthologies and magazinesHein Min Tun is a two-time winner of "Distinguished Writer Award for Excellence in Literature" from the Bharat Award for Literature (International Short story Competition) for his short fiction "The Outcast" in 2022 and most recent, "The Love Song" in this 2023. Last but not least, he is the second prize winner of "Chanting Bard Award for Poetry Recitation" conducted live by Poiesisonline.com & Xpresspublication.com in Bangalore, Karnataka, India 2023.
21st August 2023
The Little Dove
By Rupa Anand
It is 1.10 in the afternoon and I have just settled down to eat my lunch in the TV room when suddenly I hear a phatak sound on the veranda. It appears as if something has collided with the glass panes of the living room doors. Placing the tray on the sofa beside me and calling out loudly to the houseboy, I rush out to the adjacent portico. I see a little dove on the red chair. I think that I know what has happened. It has, in full flight, hit the glass and is momentarily stunned. Not seeing it move or flutter at all, I pick it up. It still doesn’t move. I hold it gently in the palm of my hands and ask Kuldip to quickly fetch some water. He sprinkles a few drops on the bird’s eyes and face. We hope to see a revival, but there are no signs of it. The dove’s eyes are closed. Its body feels warm against my skin. I sit in the chair and wait with it resting in my hands. Minutes pass. I ask for a box to be brought where I can keep it safe for a while. But it seems to be of no use. The dove’s neck droops completely and we register no heartbeat. It must have been in full flight when it crashed headlong into the glass pane, resulting in its immediate death. I realise that the dove is no more. I am the one stunned. Five minutes ago, it was flying around and now its life has been snuffed out and it lies lifeless in the palm of my hands.
Often a collision will temporarily stun a bird that flies off, seemingly recovered, in a few moments. But many times these birds die later, from internal bleeding or brain injury. On the internet I learned that more than 100 million birds are killed every year due to collisions with glass surfaces. Glass is invisible to birds, and usually reflects the images of trees, bushes, potted plants, and the sky or the natural environment behind the glazing. Birds see this reflected natural habitat, but not the glass itself and therefore fly directly into it. Glass is a horrible and unforgiving killer, mutilating and destroying these beautiful creatures.
I discovered later, again on the internet, that there are many solutions for preventing such catastrophes. Some ways of eliminating or reducing reflection are - incorporating bird-safe glass (that appears normal to humans but is visible to birds); installing exterior window screens; using etched glass; drawing patterns with soap or just leaving the surfaces a little dirty; and drawing vertical lines with a highlighter on the inside surface of the glass. Birds see ultraviolet light, we do not. Sometimes, lines of fluorescent ink on glass, when exposed to ultraviolet light, make the surface visible to birds.
I am sad. The dove rests on the table. It is 1.30 pm. Kuldip and I check for signs of life. There are none. I ask Kuldip to dig a small resting place in the corner of the garden next to the yellow Tabubea. I stroke the dove’s beautiful feathers. Gently, we place it down into the earth. I softly chant the Maha Mrityunjaya Japa and wish it peace on its onward journey. An instant between life and the afterlife is covered in just twenty minutes. I return indoors and cannot finish my remaining lunch.
To the Little Dove
From this world, you are gone,
I know for sure you will return.
It seems your light is withdrawn,
Until your beauty re-appears again.
Rupa Anand is a spiritual seeker and a published writer of experiences. Writing since 2008, her poems are an expression of images, thoughts, ideas, emotions and events that somehow get etched upon her mind and psyche. She says “There is magic in Nature. I hope my poems will connect readers with the beauty and calm of the natural world." Rupa has a BA (Hons) in English Literature from Lady Shri Ram College, University of Delhi. A cancer survivor, she lives in New Delhi with her husband, daughter and beloved cats.
14th August 2023
The Stone is too Dry
By Santosh Bakaya
"That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain:
The happy highways where I went,
And cannot come again."
Alfred Edward Housman, [1859- 1936] A Shropshire Lad
When I came across the above lines from a poem I had read long back in school, I was assaulted by a mélange of memories- childhood pranks, slithering up and down trees, chasing butterflies, curiously crouching over anthills, being mesmerized by squirrels, listening to the grasshopper’s fiddle, singing hey diddle diddle, laughing at the very image of the cow jumping over the moon, and the absurdity of the dish running away with the spoon, negotiating our way through brambles and clapping in juvenile mirth at the chattering monkeys perched atop trees.
Ah, those joyous days, the happy highways, the lost alleys, those swings, those hillocks, the kite-flying escapades!
And those numerous skits that we performed at school.
But, alas, I was invariably thrown out of many a skit, because of the company I kept. The company of that round-eyed imp of mischief, who, everyone knew, was my great buddy.
But, to my utter amazement, I wasn’t thrown out of, ‘There is a Hole in the Bucket,’ and needless to say, I was the happiest ninth grader.,
“There is a hole in the bucket,”
“Then mend it, dear Henry, dear Henry”.
“With what shall I mend it, with what?”
I was enacting the role of Henry in the skit, and still remember how the teacher, who was not particularly fond of me, because of my riotous ways, wanted me to put more lethargy in my gait. Many a time I had been at the receiving end of the wrath of this teacher.
“You are Henry! And mind you, Henry is lethargic, slow. Rein in your energy, Santosh”.
But, I was too restive, too boisterous, and it was very difficult for me to rein in my energy to enact the role of a lazy and slow Henry.
But towards the end, I had rehearsed so much that I had become the very epitome of sloth.
I still remember the way, at the end of the skit, I said, in utter frustration, “But there is a hole in the bucket, dear Liza”. Liza threw a string of glares at me and stomped off the stage.
“In the end, I will upturn the bucket on her head.” My friend-foe, enacting the role of Liza, had said to the teacher during the rehearsal.
“No, you just walk off in anger. Don’t do that!” The teacher had rejoined.
But this was a wonderful opportunity for my friend to take revenge, and she wouldn’t let it go. She started walking towards the exit, then on second thought, came back, and picked up the bucket.
And upturned it on my head!
In the thunderous applause that followed, she did not hear my incoherent and indignant ranting. But, what was worse was, as I went into the green room, I saw the teacher ruffling her hair and patting her on the back. When I fell in her line of vision, the teacher, merely smiled in my direction.
I seethed in rage.
My friend, sorry foe’s, revenge was complete.
What revenge, you might ask.
Well, we were in the ninth standard, and till the eighth standard, it was she who had always secured the first position in the annual exams. But it was for the first time that her first position had been usurped by someone- by me. She was crestfallen! How could she let the opportunity of revenge go?
It was a stooped me beating a hasty retreat out of the room, but not before catching the teacher and the taught exchanging meaningful looks and smiling.
The enigma of their smiles was a notch higher than Mona Lisa's.
Were both of them in cahoots? I shuddered at the thought.
Remember, the teacher was not particularly fond of me?
Santosh Bakaya is a Ph.D., a poet, essayist, novelist, biographer, Tedx speaker and has authored as many as twenty-three books across different genres. She is the Winner of Reuel International Award for poetry  and Setu Award for her stellar contribution to world literature . She has been acclaimed for her poetic biography of Mahatma Gandhi, Ballad of Bapu. Her biography on Martin Luther King Jr. Only in Darkness can you see the Stars has also been critically acclaimed. Her latest book is Runcible Spoons and Pea-green Boats. She pens a weekly column called Morning Meanderings in Learning and Creativity. Com.
7th August 2023
By L.J Caporusso
I watch my cat approach him.
She missed you.
He picks her up. Eva, you missed me?
My cat offers no indication that she even knows her name.
But she doesn’t try to escape.
See? She loves you.
That so, Eva? You’re in love with me?
I smile. Yes.
No Feel good
I climb into bed beside him.
I no feel good.
He kisses the top of my head. What can I do?
I... I need to complain.
He chuckles. Anything else?
I think about it. Then snuggle up to him.
I need pity. I sniffle. Lots of it.