Frankly, Amy

I read about it first on the news feed of Yahoo! It was a short piece; I do not remember much—I must have been sad, but I remember I was in awe of the touch of death. So close at hand (too far), so near, so hungry, and I felt the need to cry. That year was the year of knowing death for me. And it all started with Amy.

“All I can ever be to you/Is a darkness that we know/And this regret I got accustomed to…” she begins and lets the tears flow without restraint. I would perk up with those first few words and then wait for the refrain. She was good company for that lonely summer. Things were changing so quickly, and I had lost my bearing. But I had her. When she would indulge me with that groan of a sound in Rehab, “I just…ooh…I just need a friend”, I felt understood. That was one of the very few places where I felt understood.

I was already hurting, and suicidal ideation was creeping up on me like vines on a derelict wall. I remember the black dots of my vision when I would feel faint. I remember when I started starving myself. I remember the purple wall behind and the frame of the bed where I gave up on saving myself every day and every night. I don’t remember much of her death or my immediate response to it, but I remember that it was just the beginning.

Losing Amy was like losing the last vestiges of my innocence. More death followed that year. Someone I had once called a friend (who had moved on to another city for her education), a relative taken by cancer. So grew my fascination with what the end would mean. When life seemed to be slipping out of me one drop at a time, I felt a kinship with death. I followed its voice in my dreams — its whispers provided a relief from the pain, its silence was always punctuated with another hurt. I ached for it, I thought I needed it to fulfil what I could not in life.

Through it all, I still clung to Amy. I found others in later years—those voices with the Siren call, with the touch of a crystal cleanness, with the darkness of suffocation and breaking away from it.

“And life is like a pipe/And I’m a tiny penny/Rolling up the walls inside…” I repeated and repeated after my first heartbreak, and all the times I felt deceived by myself. She was there, as I delved into the exuberance of a tomorrow and the hopelessness of today, during my metro journeys to college. “As far as my heart, I’d rather be restless/Second I stop, the sleep catches up and I’m breathless…” remained in my head through the emptiness, as I found myself trapped in the pattern of my breaking.

But she was also there when I found myself in the company of friends. “Since I’ve come home/Well, my body’s been a mess/And I miss your ginger hair/And the way you like to dress”: I would forget my discomfort with my voice and sing out loud with Chi Chi, finding the joy of Amy in what has often been a lonely journey.

Whenever I find it creeping on me—the death that still vies for my attention, that is always going to be there—I think of Amy, and I think of the life that is here in this moment now. Not always. I falter, I get lured away by the pleasure of a funereal fantasy. But my love for her has remained the same. So much has remained the same, and yet so much has changed as well.

When I hear her voice, I do not regret all of it. I do not regret any of my falls and hurts. I remember them fondly, I am learning to live with them.

If there is a ‘beyond’, I hope it is restful and kind. Thank you, Amy!


© Anmol HA

Something for the 10 years of passing of Amy Winehouse

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Catch me, Holden!

Holden Caulfield was a friend. A rather uneasy one, who I thought was unnecessarily contradictory and morose, but that was what brought me close to him. We couldn’t have been more different. He was a white teenager in the late 1940s from a rich New York family, gallivanting around the city in search of himself. I, on the other hand, was this brown queer shadow in another part of the world some 50 years in the future, too afraid of my own-ness, who was staying in the confines of a room, reading a book after another, and giving up on the travails of daily living. He would have called me phony, I thought at the time, and still, I befriended him, and kept him close. My copy of The Catcher in the Rye was dirty and stained and somewhat smelly, from all the times and places I read it.

A few years later, I carried the same copy to a book group meeting and read a couple of pages, hoping that the enthusiastic book-worshippers would tell me why I felt so attached with it and with him. Basking in the mute yellow sun of a late winter afternoon on centuries-old stone steps of the Bada Gumbad (Big Dome tomb) at the Lodi Gardens, they all listened to my pesky little voice, still uncomfortable in its cadence and strength. Some said that I was perhaps like Holden.

The only thing common between us was our sense alienation and perhaps our conflict with individual needs and the trauma of our histories. But that did not make me like him or so I thought, not when it came to identifying traits of personality. I dropped it.

Holden fell through the cracks, or maybe I did. I forgot my copy of the book and all the pages that had become fragile beneath the restless touch of my thick fingers.

As I picked it up again and entered the somewhat muted and old-film-like-light of Holden’s story years later, I laughed. On an empty bed of an empty room, swathed in shades of blue and brown, I laughed like I never did before while reading it. I found it hilarious: his wry comments on everyone he found phony and all the things he did not feel like doing or talking about despite keeping on with it for paragraphs after paragraphs. As I moved from one chapter to another, I found that I never actually related with him. I only related with the circumstance of our shared disillusionment, that rises like a bleak sun through the peak of teenage, zigzagging down the winding ways of a still developing mind.

As I caressed these espresso pages and fingered the scrawl of those ant-words, I missed Holden. And I missed myself, or a part of self that I do not see in the mirror anymore. I finished the book on my 25th birthday.

I do not think that revisiting Holden was a mistake. That is a kind thing I did for myself, and understand the uncertain and inane myths that I built and believed for a very long time. They are not untrue because they are myths. They are not negative, or self-serving in a sanctimonious way. They are a sliver of history with a range of subjectivities, allusions, inspirations, and needs.

I accept them today. Now that my face is a bit more serious, a little less gaunt, my eyes deeper-set, and the hairline receding from prominent stress lines, I acknowledge it all. Holden is a long-lost friend, and I will let him stay for a little more before sending him on his way towards an ever-changing past.

It’s been a while since I last posted here. Many things have changed and yet many have stayed the same. If you are new here, you can check out my short-lived #Trash personal essay series or the archive of poems.
If you like my work, I would appreciate if you share it with others in your circle. You can also Buy Me A Coffee.

devirginating desire


a grey sky is like a page resting in
a solution of redundancy and restraint,

i have filed my complaints, nailed them
on the doors of my assailants, their bite
marks still fresh on my wood-picked skin,
their claws bright-white where they once
etched a mark of this impunity
that they call desire.

no one ever told me that i wielded an agency
over the brownness of my skin, or utility
of my innards, or roundness of my ass,
or the thought of my throat,
well riddled in the ecstasy of wants,

so i began to write my loss of agency without
knowing what it ever meant, so i reclused myself
to a departed space of pain when i never
knew that it is but to be salvaged.

my tiredness is my reprieve, in my restless
lies and stigmatized submission,

of a hundred torn-pieces of this tapestry.
the white falls slowly. the red fills
the myth of my own charity.

erased — i write when there is nothing
to be known, reversed to the birth
of a sky, with a broken scaffolding.

picture me when i have yielded to
this vile wantonness of freedom,
and the stubbornness of my disease.


© Anmol Arora 2018

For my upcoming prompt at dVerse Poetics (The Art of Confession in Poetry) later this evening, wherein I am invoking the likes of Lowell, Plath, Sexton, and Das to understand the nature of confessional poetry. Also linking it up with the Tuesday Platform at WTR.
Image source (Charles Francois Mouthon, Academic Study, 1892)