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Somersaulting the Seaweed by Mehreen Ahmed


Seaweed tonic balms the skin; the precious ingredients are locked in. Pores close as soon as the body is taken out of a warm bath and exposed to cold. Air. Water. Earth. Fire is locked into the skin of the universe's porous pores, hot first, cool next. The stuff of life, Air. Water. Earth. Fire is eternally floating, and cooking seaweed broth in a hotpot. The broth consists of rare spices such as crying, laughing, dancing, dreaming, creating, inventing, wavering, dying, recycling, and awakening in an exhilarating range of riveting gauges. Propagating, loving, trilling, and killing in a fruitful and fruitless chase. Tucked away into the universe’s skin, elements bring flirtatious seaweed and flitting mead.


I Fly

The air in the closed room smells like a two-day-old wash in a laundry machine. My mother tells me to open the windows to let some fresh air in. I don’t budge much, except perhaps, change my sitting position. My phone rings in my hand. It’s Sammy the cobbler’s son. I ignore it, but the calls persist. I switch my phone off. Mother looks at me with a frown. I ignore that too. I am sick of Mother’s pressuring gaze, do this, do that. I fly, I dive, into a braided seaweed mat.


God’s Land

Space is void. Also, where I live, breathe, stand, and eat crap. I hold hands in someone else’s shared space. When a third person comes along, enters into my space, and tries to push me out of it, they violate it. They are in my space sending me to someone else’s space which then I violate. Violating each other’s space like a falling domino. Space belongs to all; it belongs to no one.  Space is coveted, negotiable, and teeming with life, squeezing into each other’s territory, creatures become territorial, aggressive, and mercenary. Yet, space is fluid, but an ocean full of sweet seaweed; of pixies, of fairies frolicking on a bed of relics.


Optical Illusion

Jars of lemon pickle stand abreast on a store’s shelf. One summer midmorning, my dad and I, with his friend Sadat, take off down a blind alley belting by my grandfather’s rose garden. We exit the house and walk around the bend where the alley ends. In the midmorning sun, the pickles in the oil pale, to look syrupy white to our naked eyes, roshogollahs, specifically. We buy one each. Mouths watering, we shove 'em up straight wholes onto the tongues; sugared they are not; red seaweeds on the beach, are an illusory stinging jellyfish.


Fallen through the Cracks

Who is there to root for Misha? Not a speculative question when Misha thinks about it. He does not live in his birthplace but has lived many years in someone else’s birthplace. He sees how the mates he hangs out with, lift each others spirits. How they go to great lengths to sing praises of each other for success. This happens both here and there. Misha also roots for both nations’ men and women. His self drops, when no one roots for him. Invisible to the eye, seaweed slides down the seaside like a gothic moonbeam glide.


The Cheat

The man has issues, thinks Payela, the neighbour girl. It isn’t what he wants from her, love. But how he wants it in secrecy, so his wife wouldn’t know about it. A wife who deprives him of love, in his wedded life. He thinks he is in love with the neighbour girl. That this love is divine. A need that only she can meet—his ultimate salvation. He begs for it. He cries for it. Deprived as he is, the neighbour girl doesn’t trust him. She refuses. Seaweed crawls, completely in her thrall, he sings no more trall.


Blunt Blade

Blunt cut on green papaya difficult as it is, Sarwat takes it up as a challenge to test endurance. With all her physical strength, she digs the knife deep through the papaya’s tough, green veneer, until the knife comes out on the other end; until papaya slices and halves. Now the peeling begins. The knife is quite blunt; she cleans the milky, slippery sap. Seaweed Lamina dances to a beach rap; Sarwat sluices her face with water from the tap. The blade slides down the skin in bitesize; sweat beads push through her forehead. She dabs them off with a kitchen rag and persists until all of the greens are blown. To put it bluntly, the cuts are blunt, but her mettle is clearly shown.


Mother’s Room

I still call it that, Mother’s Bedroom. As I lie on a lazy afternoon in that room, her bed, I hear Mother’s recital of a long poem. Written by Tagore, Mother is laughing and chatting about him, and his profound philosophy on life and death. Death is not an end, but a gateway to eternity where all grim reality ends. Death is done as more deaths occur “die, die” until death itself is dead; seaweed slithers, I close my eyes and open them in this curtained dark room, where Mother is meant to be. I see a white wall right next to me. I see a pink bob face appear through the wall; this painted young girl then disappears into one of the four corners of the room. I lay here. Wide open eyes, in Mother’s Room on this lazy afternoon where her hot breath is entombed.


Journey’s End

Immersion in hot seaweed juices, and cold sluices in the aftermath, work like magic on young skin. Only when the skin is not yet broken by the elements Air. Water. Earth. Fire is collectively active to keep the skin green, up until it is akin to a grandmother’s octogenarian. Life events continuously change: shifting sands and moonbeam tricks. All in good time, when history repeats, reality becomes fantasy. Today’s reality, is yesteryear’s fantasy, a throwback into the past, like a dream. The present poses a threat to time, another cyclical fantasy. Air. Water. Earth. Fire harvests seaweed again to bring slimy sheen to silken new skin. 

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