Bottled laughter

Sunil Rajagopal | Updated on July 11, 2021

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A poet finds comfort in memories, like water on a thirsty day

People think me odd because

I like to sit in corners

where no one can speak

and laugh to myself;

But what do people know?

If they cared to look,

they might see that I have shelves

full of jars in my head,

every glass jar filled to the brim

shaking soft and shimmering

with the lustre of someone's laughter.

My touch must be soft for

the glass is brittle

and their contents rare,

what is inside is the very best of people

I've met on my way and kept safe inside;

It must not spill.

I must choose wisely

for there are all kinds here

on the glittering shelves,

I check every jar

tasting till I find

one that is made just for this day;

A sip is all it takes

to make the day grow better

and bury all the ugly parts.

There is one from a granny

like a gentle rumble

that smells like cotton starched

and makes the jar wobble

like her soft belly did;

One from my mother

for when mischief calls

bubbling with joy;

and one from my father

soft and sibilant,

specially kept for the worst of jokes.

Do you see this jar filled

with golden warmth?

That's my wife when her

tummy is full;

Then there are these with a rosy tint

they come with a hug

from my siblings

when we meet.

There is a rack full of jars

with green and gold and yellow swirls,

full of sparks flying here and there;

some are from kids

and the rest from dogs,

running with the wind

on the open grass.

This one is blue like the ink in my pen

and it smells of night,

it is from those that dare

to laugh in the face

of fear and grief.

There are those with the scent of earth

muddy brown and ruddy faced,

made from the simple heart

of innocent souls.

Do you smell summer

and feel the yellow glow

of men and women

who can't help but laugh

at the smallest things?

These are the shelves

that I like best

for here is where

I keep my friends;

This jar here has the scent of a feast

and it never is full

like the boy who just ate it all;

This one sounds like a thunderclap

and a jingle of bells;

There is one from a girl I know

like a macaw's wing flying free

croaking, cackling

and spilling from the sides;

this one's light

is soft and muted and difficult to pour

like her when she stands

with both feet together.

Another has a purple sheen,

the colour of dreams

and luxury stays;

and there are those

plain as snow,

a single tune for every song;

some are murky

for they are made from

plastic and cement;

some so dim

for they hide their mouths;

I like those that

burn with magic

and come at just the right time;

Some are red and hot

with sweat and blood

from contests won;

some are black and speckled white

from those whose eyes

are tightly shut

and all that is bright are their teeth;

some are like gurgles

and some like chortles,

some are like whispers

and some just shake

without a sound;

Then there is mine

all on its own and nearly out,

I've been told it’s a rare thing

a sudden flash peeking

through a curly beard,

like morning in a forest world;

I have not seen it

and can't say for sure.

I wish I could show

you all of them,

But today is not a day

for hearty laughs, when all of these

are just not enough;

today I need that one jar

filled with pure light

from all of those that

keep me in their hearts;

full of gentle smiles

that only eyes can give;

like water on a thirsty day,

like a hand on my shoulder.

Sunil Rajagopal is an amateur birder and writer based in Guwahati

Published on July 11, 2021

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