Questionable queries by quixotical queens who judge quietly and quiz aggressively, quickly coming to their conclusions and quivering with joy when their harsh quips are met with quaking laughter.
Will they ever quit
knowing that their antiquated ideals
are causing disquietude—
quaint and quirky
they are most definitely not
just cliquish quacks
in need of an internal inquiry
of their mental inventory
All awesome American, African, Antarctic and Asian authors are adept alliteration artists and are also average autobiographers. Although African authors are all about antelope antler allierations and art. American authors are about angry alligator alliterations. Antarctic authors are all about army ants. All Asian authors agree avocet alliterations are an admirable ambition. Astronauts also author assorted anthologies about alliterations and astrophysics. Acclaimed Australian archaeologist, Andrew Ayers, authors awesome articles about alliteration and anthropology.
Solid sentry, standing
so Samuel’s citizens sew seeds, socialize,
strong, sole, sacrosanct.
Samson’s strength source -
so simple, so secret -
Still, strength saps.
Strong, settled, safe…
slinks so Samson sees.
slinks so sultry
so Samson sees,
Supine, Samson suckles sin,
citizens’ sole strength,
So Samson seeks:
strain scream sigh
snips sacred strands;
sable stream, sliced.
Samson snarls, cinched;
Samson screams, “slut! serpent!”
seared, sorry, small.
Sunken, Samson supplicates.
Scorning sentries see,
Dear Dapper Dandy de Dariot Damien,
Determining dangerous death-dates dares distracted damsels to destructively destroy delicate, dainty dandelions in desolate December deserts. Do dark detours decide difficult dialogue or do desperate dictators displace disguised dilemma? Damn, decent defense deliciously delivers deep doubts, dozen by dozen. Drink this drastic dream! Defeat this designed democracy of denial! Dwarf this dwindling dweller! Does documentation document doers or do dysfunctional do-gooders dynamically deteriorate damaged documents? Demure details defy deaths to diametrically, directly disappoint dichotomous distinctions. Don’t dolly, dear - that distressed dinner distracts. Domestic dominance deludes dramatic, duplicitous duals. Damned doltish divinity!! Death doesn’t deliriously draw - the dead decidedly defeat dirty death. Durable damsels of dryness destructively destroy dandelions, but decisively dote on deliberating daffodils.
Duke Demetrius Don Davidson Dabrowski
Where Do Words Go?
A few months ago, barely weeks into lockdown, I was having chai with my grandparents in the morning while they regaled me with anecdotes of their childhood. As they took turns describing what life was like in the villages and towns of India on the heels of attaining independence, they peppered their tales with rustic colloquial terms, terms I had never heard before. One was about furniture - a cross between a chaarpai and stool. Another was a technique to separate and chop strands of vermicelli noodles. They had their own tweaks on the words too, spoken differently in their families. They did their best to explain it but I couldn’t visualize it. My mother, the generational bridge between us, wasn’t home. The conversation changed its course like a river charting its own flow and it deposited the silt of those words behind.
The cousins of my grandparents have since either passed on or have no contact with them. The time they talked of has gone. The things they described aren’t here. The words they spoke were so rare that I may not hear them again. Ever.
Where do words go when people stop speaking them?
The words I’ve grown up speaking at home come from three languages – English, Hindi, and Punjabi. Or Punjabi, Hindi, English. Or Hindi, English, Punjabi. The order is beside the point. At times, a thought started in one language streams into another mid-sentence. There is no consensus on replying in the same language. Conversations at home have been a trilingual affair – a yarn of three threads wound so tightly that you’d have to snip one to separate the three.
I find videos on YouTube that build on the richness of a brain fluent in more than one language. I secretly pride myself on the claimed richness the creases and folds my grey matter possesses although I have nothing to show for it except words. But words can fail and pride can stumble.
The other day I couldn’t recall the Hindi word for kidney. I tried to pass it off as a momentary lapse. It was slipping my mind, as the phrase goes. But minutes turned to hours. I started thinking of other organs in Hindi. Repeating them over and over. As though remembering others was enough to excuse this failure. As though I could trick my brain into conjuring what it hadn’t deemed important enough to remember. Like oil that lubricates the rusty chains that hinder the cycle’s motion, I wanted to get my mental gears greased enough to churn up the word. It had indeed slipped my mind. But after slipping, it might as well have fallen off a cliff. Like the Memory Dump in the movie ‘Inside Out’ – the chasm where memories and words and phrases and sentences pass into oblivion.
गुर्दा. That’s kidney in Hindi. I had to call upon Google for help. My pride was shattered in all three languages.
Where do words go when people start forgetting them?
I wish it were a one-off incident that a word in Hindi eluded me. When you stop exercising your muscles, they begin to atrophy. Use it or lose it, as the phrase goes. But it’s not as if I know everything there is to know in English. I slip, slide, and fumble my way through it too. At times, I think of a word like ridiculous and I think and think and think until the spelling stops making sense. My brain has no time for whatever cerebral duel I wish to engage it in.
When my slipping grip begins to concern me, I turn to a book I purchased a few years ago from the Delhi Book Fair. It’s a collection of short stories by Premchand. प्रतिनिधि कहानियाँ. Representative Stories. I turn to them to prove to myself, Look, I can do it. It’s like turning to Shakespeare to validate your English. But I confess to not having read beyond a few pages. The first story is one I had read in my textbook in Class X and I like re-reading it because it reminds me of my class. The book sits on my bookshelf, embarrassingly, the lone Hindi book in a sea of authors from over the world, mocking me. You said you could do it, but did you?
I think to myself, I’m just as comfortable articulating in Hindi but on occasions when an app or website switches to Hindi due to some error, I reach for the English button as a reflex. I’ll indulge myself now and then but that’s what it tends to be. An indulgence. A moment given away. Let’s see what this post sounds like in Hindi. Oh, that was fun but it’s enough for today. Hindi pervades my music, movies, conversations, and in moments of frustration, curses. But it hides during my reading, playing second fiddle. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride, as the phrase goes.
Where do words go when people start avoiding them?
When I was in Europe last year, me and my friends spoke a lot in Hindi. More so than I recall doing in the last few months, if not years. It was fun. It was a tether to home. It was conspiratorial. It raised eyebrows. It turned heads. It broke the ice. It froze it further. It was the most rebellious a bunch of law-abiding exchange students could afford to be. Those who believe that language always binds, haven’t been in a land where no one else speaks it.
On a tram in Lille, France, I spotted a woman reading a French translation of Harry Potter. She was at ease with her book, unbothered about challenging the purity of the author’s words in the original language, unperturbed about what may be lost in translation. Why didn’t I ever do it? I grew up watching (some of) the Harry Potter movies in Hindi but even then, among myself and my friends, there was an implicit understanding that this experience was a placeholder until we got access to it in English – ‘the way it is supposed to be’.
Dur-e-Aziz Amna, the author of the award-winning essay, Your Tongue Is Still Yours, writes, “I have the privilege of knowing English and choosing to intermittently reject it, like an on-again off-again lover on speed dial.” Why can’t I?
A lyric in an Annie Lennox song goes, “Language is leaving me”. I feel that now.
My guilt over my Mother Tongue is a wave that drowns and lifts me alternately. Like Holden Caulfield, I must be the Catcher in the Rye and make sure no word falls over the cliff. I have nothing to show for my guilt except words. I have nothing to show of my resolution to erase that guilt but words. They have traced their way from the recesses of my mind onto this prose. What do I hope to achieve with them? It’ll suffice that they are read by you. If not…
Where do words go when people stop reading them?
Hello, it’s Earth
Hey everyone. I thought I'd take a moment to talk to you all. We don't get together nearly often enough and I was thinking it's about time we sit down and have a nice family discussion. No, no, come back. Don't try to get out of this. Especially you, Americans. We really need to talk.
Alright, now that we're settled, I need to bring up a few things. First of all, I'm happy to see that you're all enjoying the gifts I've given you, and most of you are doing some great things with them. You've built some nice homes for yourselves and you're coming up with some really cool tools. I thought the airplane was especially clever. Some of you are really branching out and a small number of you are even starting to leave me. I knew the day would come—every mother does. I'm really proud of you, though. You've come a long way. Now, most of you are really good at cooperating and trading with each other, but please remember to share. I gave you enough to go around, but I still see that some of you are keeping more than you need all to yourselves. I taught you better than that.
Second, I've been seeing a lot of fighting going on lately. This is unacceptable. It's never okay for you to hurt any of your brothers or sisters. I honestly can't believe what I'm seeing. What made you think that that's okay? You all have always disagreed a lot, and that's totally fine—that's what families do. It's normal to disagree because we are all wonderfully different, but it's not okay to expect everyone to see things the way you do. You know, it's possible to get along—and even be friends—with someone who doesn't believe in the same things you do. You can be entirely different people and follow completely opposite ideologies, and still find ways to be amicable.
Remember, we are all one family and we need each other. We need each other's differences, especially. That's what makes our family so strong. Without our differences, we perish. So, what I want you to do is think of one of your brothers or sisters with whom you don't get along, maybe one who lives a very different lifestyle than you, and I want you to think of one nice thing you can say to them or about them. Shake hands, say sorry, and for heaven's sake stop fighting.
And just remember what Father always says. Sometimes when things get heated, all you need to do is just give things a little Time.
Also, stop smoking. It's bad for you and I'm dying over here.
The Perfect Murder
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These castle walls
with no give
These castle walls
These castle walls
have no doors
But you stand
digging your keys
into your palms,
and beating against
for a lock
Darling, they will not.
“The Coronavirus! There’s 2 confirmed cases in the province!!!!!”
I rub the sleep from my eyes as my mother runs around my room in a panicked state.
“Where are the clothe you wore yesterday?” she demands.
“We must SANITIZE them right now, so where are they?”
“Um, I think they’re over there by the desk.....”
“Good. Now, where did you go last night, and who were you with?”
“Christ Mum, why are you panicking? This is the firest two cases......where was it even?”
“St. Charleston, but that hardly matters, who were you with AND WHERE WERE YOU???”
St. Charleston is 4 hours away by car. Christ, she’s losing her mind.
I won‘t be the one to tell her that though.
“I was at the library on 6th Ave with Candice and Franky. We went to the DQ on 4th Street after, and we got milkshakes.”
“Mhhm, and what kind of shake did you get?”
“I beg your pardon?”
Mum has whipped her phone out of her pocket and is frantically dialing. She glares at me. Her eyes are bloodshot.
“JEROME! What kind of shake did you get??? This is an emergency, could you take this seriously please? We have to make sure that the ice cream and toppings didn’t come from CHINA!”
Someone must have picked up on the other line of whomever she dialed, and she begins frantically talking to the person on the other end.
“What kind?” she mouths at me.
“Yes, he says he had a Cherry milkshake. I need to know where these ingredients were sourced from RIGHT NOW.”
Groaning, I get out of bed and walk towards my mother. I place my hand on her shoulder. She screams in horror and drops the phone. Completely forgetting about me and the phone call, she scurries out of the room.
“Hello?” C comes form the phone on the floor.
“Yeah, dont worry about anything she said. She’s going a little insane.”
I click end on the call as she comes hurtling back in the room, mask on her face, gloves on her hands, and a large plastic bag.
“What the hell?”
“Put your clothes in here, and dont touch me again. You, young sir, are under quarantine.”
“Fat chance of that. Calm down Mum, I’m not infected!”
“YOU CAN’T PROVE THAT!!!!!!!”
Dropping the bag, she begins throwing miscellaneous objects at me. Hand sanitizer, gloves, masks, Kleenex, bleach, 2 Costco sized packs of water, a bucket, garbage bags, duct tape, a baby monitor, and several cases of toilet paper.
“Christ Mum, where did you get this stuff?”
“I had to go out last night before the stores ran out of supplies. The apocalypse is coming! We must have enough supplies to last us for 6 months.”
I glance at the pile. “What am I supposed to eat?”
“You are on on 48 hour fast. If this water wont get that disease out of you, the starvation will.”
“That’s NOT how this works!!!”
“It is now. I will be back in 2 hours. The new shipment of canned goods should be hitting shelves in 20 minutes, and I must be the first one there. While I’m gone, please toss all of your belongings out the window, expect fro things that are non porous. Those things get bleached and sanitized. You should have enough toilet paper to make it through the fast. Also, please use the garbage bag and duct tape to seal off your door and window. We will use the baby monitor to communicate for the next 2 days. Godspeed son.”
A tear wells in her eye. “I love you son.”
She slams the door closed, and through the thin drywall I can hear the sound of duck tape being slapped on the frame of the door to seal me in.
Jesus, she’s lost her mind.
PSA I know the coronavirus is serious, but writing stupid shit is how I cope with stress.
Stay safe fellow Prose users, stay safe, hoard toilet paper, and wash your hands.
And Then I Knew
My mother began sleeping with Mr. Maxwell when I was 15 years old. Even now, I still only think of him as Mr. Maxwell, someone who slept over at our house a couple of times a week when, I could only assume, his wife thought he was away on business. I liked his wife. She’s wasn’t a typical rich person, not like her husband. Or at least I didn’t think she was. I didn’t know many rich people.
The first time I met Mr. and Mrs. Maxwell, I was cleaning their toilet. My mom was their housekeeper, and I helped out one day when she wasn’t feeling well. One Friday morning a week later, Mr. Maxwell walked out of my mother’s bedroom, and I felt my stomach lurch.
I couldn’t understand my mother. She had gotten herself into a dead end situation. Mr. Maxwell was never going to leave his wife for her. I knew that, especially after things continued on the same way for a full year. I also knew that she didn’t love him. She was never enthusiastic about him; there was never a glow. Even at 15, I knew a little of what love looked like, and what it didn't.
But the real kicker? Mr. Maxwell had a daughter who went to my school. She was a year behind me. I don’t think she had any idea what her father was doing; she was the type of girl who had more than enough friends and soon-to-be-more-than-friends to keep her occupied.
When I turned 16, the school held its first father vs. daughter basketball game as a fundraiser. I wasn’t a great player, but I did enjoy being on the basketball team, and I really wanted to play in the game. But my father wasn’t even a memory for me, as he left before I entered the world. I had an Uncle Tommy, but he lived out of state and was in and out of jail. Mr. Maxwell would be participating with his daughter.
My partner for the game ended up being Mr. Thomas, one of our school counselors. My coach set up the whole thing as a surprise. He had his own daughter, but I know he didn’t want me to feel left out. The whole thing was humiliating.
The night before the game, my mother stood at the sink doing dishes. She had taken a bath earlier, she had on nicer-than-usual clothes, and her hair was fixed. I knew Mr. Maxwell would be paying a visit tonight. My frustration gripped me stronger than usual.
“Why are you so stupid?” I asked. “This relationship makes you look like a complete idiot, even if I’m the only other one who knows about it. You’re just thinking about yourself when I’m the one who needs someone who can be a father.”
“I’m sorry about the basketball game,” she said softly. I don’t know how she knew about it. That was clearly all she had to say to me on the issue, and we didn’t speak about the relationship again.
On my 18th birthday, I stepped off the bus to find a new car with a bow attached to the hood parked in the driveway. When I walked into the house, my mother was waiting with a cake, balloons, and an envelope. “Mom. . .” I began.
“Wait. Open this first.” Inside the envelope was a receipt that showed my first full year at Westover College, the college I wanted to attend but knew we couldn’t afford, was paid for. “Each year of schooling will be covered.”
“How is of no concern. You have what you need to live your life very differently that I have lived mine.”
And then I knew. She had waited to call in her favor for giving herself away, or maybe she had truly managed to make him fall in love with her. Either way, she had gotten what she wanted.
I stepped forward to embrace my mother, who still remains the smartest woman I have ever known.