The afternoon light cuts through the Mayflower tree—clothed in reddish-brown—and gleefully rockets towards two children poking an ant-hill with twigs.
The girl is clothed in a peach frock, and the boy sports Capri shorts—oversized—so that when he stands up, it covers his ankles. He pulls it up out of a force of habit.
They nudge the mound, expecting something to happen. What?
Beside the girl, there is a tiny skipping rope, an empty bubble soap bottle, and a dirty sponge soaked in soap. An assortment of toys set lay half-buried in the sand—mislaid.
For now, the ant-hill has caught their attention.
He remains seated on the garden chair, watching them huddled.
Their incessant prodding bothers him. He has been reading the same paragraph—the war on a country, U.S-bombs, and blackened skies. He looks to the sky.
Inevitably, the nosy kids will have their hands bitten. Can’t they go indoors and color? Or draw? Or do their homework? Or watch those silly cartoons?
With a belly spilling out, receding hairline, yellowing teeth from too much caffeine, and a few coworkers for friends, he reaches his unceremonious forties.
The house stands in solitude—everything around it slowly darkens.
He has always wondered about it—the darkening of the skies. One minute there is plenty of light, and the next minute, the sky has already turned dark blue.
For an instant, the kids are but black shapes—no outlines—huddled so close that he cannot distinguish them.
He strains to read the words. Why should he be bothering about wars? Or nuclear weapons? Or the famine in Ethiopia? Or cease-fires in Kashmir? Or thousand of villages that will have to make do with kerosene lanterns? Or the cricket matches that will boil down to numbers? Or awards? Or the floods in a faraway land? Or the marooned kids that the city markets to fend for the family? Or the stampede at a Friday sale?
Why are they so quiet? An army of ants would have crawled out of the hole by now. Or worse, a snake.
The kids are no longer there. Why aren’t the lights on?
He swats a mosquito. To avenge, a scourge of mosquitoes arrive—buzzing, unleashing their wrath on him.
Trotting across the small garden, careful not to step on toys and the knick-knacks, he calls out for them. He can hear the flutter of the newspaper behind him. The empty cup is also behind on the teapoy.
Stepping on a puddle of water, he recoils in disgust. The kids must’ve left the hosepipe on. The cuffs of the trousers are wet.
Frowning, with a face coiled in anger, he draws closer to the house. He can hear faint laughter, the clank of utensils, and the television from the adjacent house. Behind him, the sky deepens into indigo blue. Stray birds hover before leaping off elsewhere.
Through the little square window, he can see the children wiggle out of grimy clothes. Their mother tidies their unkempt hair.
They hop around like frisky pups.
He tosses his slippers and enters the house. He flicks the lights on.
In the front porch, a swarm of insects lingers around the bulb—aching for light, preparing for their deaths.
With a sense of detachment that one feels with growing years, he walks towards the kitchen.
He knows that when he enters the room, the children will quieten. Their mother will lower her head and tidy an assortment of objects around her—this deliberate act practiced over the years.
He lingers outside the door for a moment, mindful not to intrude, but an abrupt cough escapes him, and they grow silent.
I got the idea for this poem while listening to a piece by Ezio Bosso—an Italian composer, pianist, and double bass player, and conductor. The song brings with it a feeling of loss, anguish, and an explicable urge to want to run away.