Growing up on the other side of Childhood

                                 mummy, you once said that all things have their place in this world: 

                bicycle wheels spinning aimlessly in the afternoon sun, 

         &  raindrops,

                        giving up the sky just to get soaked in somebody’s old shirt,

even the house flies hatching all over the kitchen in december, not 

                   knowing that their first winter will also be their 


Anushka Nagarmath


  mummy, you once said that all things have their place in the world:

                          even my hands,  

pricking themselves over the fuzzy blades of the summer grass, 

                          thumbnails freshly broken from being crammed between 

my teeth all morning, still not 

                  knowing how to touch anything without hurting it,

                                                                                    even my own body

mummy, as a baby, it only 

                                        took me three months to uncurl my fingers &

                       grasp                             the shiny hoops 

                            dangling down the side of your face —

                 the universe began inside your hollowed earlobes

                                   &  i stretched it between my thumb & pinky   

            until it came to an end 

                                                 right below your chin

i remember you, pulling

                               my hands apart & putting them back

       together the right away,

                                              around the long neck of a pencil,

                & the button nose of the periwinkles,

until i could make enough room

                                   to hold the compass of your palm,

the long needle of your index finger

                             always pointing home

 mummy, these days, i stare at the wingspan of my fingers

               & wonder how much force it takes to catch

                                                                          a beetle, without crushing its soft skull                                

at school, the boys tussle in the corridors, knocking elbows against jaws,

        sticking out legs, tumbling to the ground 

                       but here, there are no apologies, only laughter —

how does it feel to grasp someone else’s knuckles 

                                               as easily as grasping the soap suds in the bathwater?

              these days, i hold my wrists under the tap until the skin

        prunes & wrinkles,

                                  until i can imagine them brushing

through the hair of the girl who sits in front of me 

                                                     without doing any harm   


mummy, do you think seashells deserve to be scooped into the softness 

                   of a toddler’s palms,

                            even with all their sharp corners?

i spent all of yesterday licking my hands clean 

                              of the stickiness 

        of the lollipops i stole 

                                        from the kitchen drawers,

sucking on the crookedness

                               of my thumbs, so they could turn warm &

mellow, like an apology 

             mummy, i am trying to only reach for what is allowed

                                  i am trying to open my fists fully, like

                          flowers, so easily


                 & hold them out for praise           

but my fingers, like spiders, 

                so easily spooked

                                                    scurry back into my pockets,


mummy, will my hands still be my hands when

                                                                 i undo the knots of her braid? will you still

rub vaseline on them when it gets really cold? 

                              i know the truth: there is no coming back from touch 

but we try   

at lunch, the girls sit in a circle and draw shapes on each other’s backs, 

             here: a star. here: a cloud. here: a butterfly

 here: a house with four windows that we will live in some day. 

               once, someone asked me to step in through the door. once, someone made me tea

                              & the teachers laughed when they saw us sipping at empty cups

            & told us to make the most of this while we still believed in it 

but what if i will always find myself in the outline of that house 

                           framed by someone else’s fingers? 

mummy, i am scared of all the things i might never outgrow 

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