Between the Lines

Carole Satyamurti

Words were dust-sheets, blinds.

People dying randomly, "for want of breath"

shadowed my bed-times.

babies happened; adults

buried questions under bushes.


Nouns would have been too robust

for body-parts; they were

curt, homeless prepositions- "inside"

"down here", "behind", "below". No word

for what went on in darkness, overheard.


Underground, straining for language

that would let me out, I pressed to the radio,

read forbidden books. And once

visited Mr Cole. His seventeen

budgerigars praised God continually.


He loved all words, he said, though he used

few to force a kiss. All that summer

I longed to ask my mother, starved myself,

prayed, imagined skirts were getting tight,

Hoped jumping down ten stairs would put it right.


My parents fought in other rooms,

their tight-lipped murmuring muffled

by flock wallpaper.

What was wrong, what they had to say

couldn't be shared with me.


He crossed the threshold in a wordless

slam of doors. "Gone to live near work"

my mother said, before she tracked down

my diary, broke the lock, made me cut out

pages that guessed what silence was about.