Sarah Aineh

Without deviation from the norm, progress is impossible

The Paralysis

A  nightmare forest

Under pouring rain,

My body is awake and asleep.

The throbbing, the pounding

Of this frightened heart

preventing repose,

Upsetting the balance

of the otherwise disciplined,

Spinning bed and raging head,

The universe set to explode,

And still I’m still.

In the midst of this consumption,

the looming presence of

The Fear;

My muted screams unheard

Help me, please wake me,

Comfort me even with nightmares,

Save me from the in-between.

Already the rain and rotation subsides,

Now I’m blanketed in evanescent calm.


(Note: This poem is about sleep paralysis, which I’ve experienced a number of times. What happens is I’m in this almost-awake-but-not-quite state, and my bed starts to spin with this loud whirring sound. I try to move but I can’t, and when it happens, it’s always accompanied by this feeling of terror. I scream but no sound comes out. Sometimes, but not always, there will be a presence in the room, beside my bed. I can never make out what or who it is, I’m just aware that it’s there, and I’m scared of it, even though it doesn’t move or speak. Most of the time, I know exactly what’s happening, and that it’s all in my head and none of it is real. But it’s still always terrifying as shit when it happens.


What was Yesterday


What was yesterday
But a distant daydream
Wooded shelters in rain
And shows of love near water

What if this lie was truer
than your most honest day

But again time beckons us
She grants no more favours
She wakes the sleeper and tells
that Grey skies will never be Blue

And the sun will still rise
and it will still set
As though the world never
did turn upside down

This time tomorrow
You will be far from me
and there just left to wonder
What was yesterday


black-moustache-clipart“You see that man over there selling pani-puri? He’s been sitting there for hours and he hasn’t had a single customer.”

Seven year old Rohini sat next to her dog, Bittu on the steps of the verandah as she watched the man across the road sitting idly on the pavement next to his pani-puri stand.  She ran a brush over Bittu’s long coat, and said to him “Maybe his pani-puris aren’t so tasty.”

Bittu yawned and rested his head on Rohini’s lap. He didn’t care much for pani-puris.

A little later, Rohini was getting ready to go cycling to the  park. She opened the gate, pushing the cycle along by its handles. Bittu followed excitedly. The pani-puri vendor hadn’t moved an inch. His stall held a wooden box, three pots covered with lids, and a large bowl stacked with puris which he had covered with a transparent plastic sheet. She felt sorry for him, and reached into her pocket for the ten rupees she had been saving to buy ice-cream for herself and Bittu later.

“Five rupees worth, please” she said to the man. He stood up, and she saw that his shirt had a number of holes in it, and that his shoes looked as though they would fall apart any moment.

The man smiled without saying a word, and began to prepare the first pani-puri. He crushed a puri with his left thumb and almost at the same time, put the filling of potatoes, sprouts and onions that he had prepared beforehand. He then added a spoonful of tamarind chutney in the puri, immersing it in a small bowl filled with flavoured spicy water and handed it to Rohini. As soon as he did this, he started preparing a second one with equal speed.

Rohini took the puri and broke a bit of it to taste it.

“No, no” said the man, looking at her and shaking his head. “Not like that. You eat it whole. Go on.”

Rohini did as he said. It was the most delicious pani-puri she had ever tasted.

The man prepared four more pani-puris, which Rohini devoured. She handed him the ten rupees; he smiled and opened the lid of the wooden box on his stand, placed the ten rupee note in the box, and took out a shiny five rupee coin, which he handed to Rohini.

“Thank you” said Rohini.

“You’re welcome. Have a nice day” replied the man. He sat down again on the pavement, wiping his forehead with a red rag that he had hung on the side of his stall.

Rohini said “Let’s go, Bittu” and as she turned around, she saw a strange, dark man across the street, standing next to their gate. She stared at him because he had the longest and blackest moustache that she had ever seen. It looked almost as though the moustache didn’t really belong on his face.

A second later, she heard a loud bang, and the man fell to the ground. She turned around and saw the pani-puri vendor aiming a revolver in the direction where the man had stood.  He deposited the weapon somewhere in his dhoti and ran across the street towards where the man lay on the ground.

Just as he bent down to examine the man, a white van stopped in front of the gate, blocking Rohini’s view of the two men, and a few seconds later, the van sped away. The fallen man was no longer on the ground.

The pani-puri vendor walked to where Rohini stood, frozen, Bittu by her side. He knelt down and said to her “Rohini, what were you about to do this evening as you came out the gate?”

“I was going for a walk with Bittu till the park.” She didn’t ask him how he knew her name.

“And what did you do?”

“I bought five rupees worth of pani-puris from you.”

“And what else?”


The pani-puri vendor smiled at her kindly. He had big brown eyes that reminded her a bit of her own father, who was presently at his office, and would come home at 6pm as always, asking Rohini’s mother for a nice, hot cup of tea.

“And then I went to the park” she said. “Come on, Bittu.”

She walked along with Bittu and looked back only once to see the pani-puri vendor pack up his things. She wondered where he hid the revolver now, and then realized that must have been what the wooden box was really for.

Rohini had a feeling she would never see the pani-puri vendor ever again.



They are angry

All parts of this reluctant whole

Nutcracker put to use to find

I am not poetry

No valiance, resilience

Instead the hazy scenes

Of electric chairs and tethers

Looking glass with no lies to comfort

Never was I beauty

I would no more heed the voice

If not stifled by such silence

One more dip in the icy lake

My poor blue feet..

Drops of Dew


Drops of dew upon the green

Cottage by the deserted street

Dim, the light in the quiet room

Not a soul but me and you.

Purple is the evening sky

Old but gold, that lullaby

Close the windows, hear the rain

Listen as the music fades.

Now the last light takes its leave

Blinded, so to better feel

Nature helps to heal the wounds

A single soul, she makes of two.

Drops of dew on my bluebells

Bells in hair adorn me well

Morning birds are flying through

Set as free as me and you.


Don’t negotiate,

or try to simplify,

or ponder upon

alternate endings.

Don’t rationalize;

Don’t testify

and plead your case

only to engender disorder.

Don’t hover,

or take your gift as a given;

Don’t assume

the overwhelming yen

won’t dissolve over time;

Don’t go any closer;

Don’t be an actor,

or attempt to realize

elaborate illusions-

the Dangerous Mirage.

Don’t take a step further;

Don’t decide

to be indecisive,

to falter,

burst at seams;

Don’t endeavour

to tread simultaneous

both forks of the road;

Don’t be fearful,

or hesitate to accept

reality as reality;

Don’t be fearful.

Come Fly With Me


The alarm on the bedside table rang and Ezra switched it off, having already been awake for the past few minutes or so. He yawned and stretched, feeling completely well-rested, even though it was 5:30 in the morning, and half the town were still probably asleep in their beds.

He turned on his side and wrapped his arm around May, taking in the smell of her hair, and then kissing her on the back of her head. She stirred, and murmured ‘Good morning sunshine.’ Ezra smiled. He would never ever get tired of hearing the sound of her sleepy, husky voice the very first thing in the morning.

They got dressed, he in his usual t-shirt, Bermuda shorts and sneakers, and she in a comfortable salmon-coloured hoodie and short shorts, and they set out on their bicycles at 6am.

As they cycled together on the promenade, it seemed as though they were the only two people on the planet. They would talk to each other at times, and sometimes they would just enjoy riding together in silence. They came to the pier, which was deserted at this time of the morning, parked their cycles, and walked hand in hand all the way to the edge, where they sat down with their legs dangling.

May opened the mini-basket she had packed before leaving the house, and took out a sandwich which she handed to Ezra.

“Tuna for you, and a PB & J for me” she said, smiling. She poured coffee from a flask into two polka-dotted paper cups. “Here you go, sweetie.”

They ate their breakfast, watching the sun rise on the horizon, and a few gulls flying freely across the water. They chatted and laughed as though they were a couple on their first date. It seemed as though they would never run out of stories to tell each other.

Since it was a Saturday, they had the rest of the day to spend together. She helped him wash his car, and he helped her do some gardening. They drove to the market to buy the things they needed, and when they came back home, cooked lunch together.

In the afternoon, they took a walk through the woods and came to a stop at the waterfall. They took off their clothes and dove from the highest rock into the glistening blue lake. The water was always the perfect temperature, and one could swim for ages and ages in this serene, isolated setting.

By the time they got back to their house, it was already evening and the sun was setting. They ordered Chinese food for dinner, and had a hot shower while they waited for the food to arrive.

They set their dinner out on the table on their front porch, and after they were done eating, they played Sinatra on Ezra’s late grandfather’s gramophone, which still worked like it was brand new. ‘Come fly with me, let’s take off in the blue’ the song played, and they slow-danced on the porch by the light of the full moon.

As they danced, with May’s head resting on his shoulder, Ezra thought that this had been a perfect day, spent with the perfect woman. He thought of the past, which had always been riddled with so much chaos and anger and muddled thoughts. And now, he was here, in the most beautiful place in the world with May, the one person he never thought he could ever deserve. This was the peace he had dreamed about all his life, the peace that had been so elusive once upon a time..

“Ezra. Wake up, Ezra.”

He recognized the voice at once. It only took him two seconds to register that he was in Room 31 again, and that the voice belonged to Nurse Celine.

He opened his eyes, and the first thing he saw was the bleak, beige ceiling of his room. Nurse Celine had entered, chewing gum noisily and making notes on her clipboard.

“I wasn’t asleep” he said to the nurse.

“These are your morning pills. Make sure you have the red one before you eat anything else, the rest you can have after breakfast. You’re both scheduled for an appointment with Dr. Chan so make sure you’re at his clinic on the fourth floor after breakfast. Understood?”

She did not look at him as she spoke to him.

“Yes” Ezra replied, getting up and taking the pills from Nurse Celine. His back hurt, but he did not say so to the nurse. He put the big red pill in his mouth and swallowed it without washing it down with water.

“Nurse. Will there be any visitors coming later?” he asked.

Nurse Celine shook her head without looking up from her clipboard. Ezra saw that she rolled her eyes when he asked this question.

She left, and Ezra looked to the other side of the room, where Mitch lay on his bed, his mouth agape, as it usually was.

“Do you know if they got rid of those roaches?” Mitch asked him. “Those roaches were all over the place. I ain’t getting out of bed until they kill every last one of those things.”

“Yes. They’ve killed them. They’re all gone now, it’s safe” replied Ezra.

Mitch looked at Ezra incredulously. He broke into a huge grin.

“That’s great news!” he said, getting out of bed. “Let’s go for breakfast then, shall we? We won’t get any if we’re late.”

“Go ahead, Mitch. I’ll be right with you” said Ezra.

After Mitch left the room, Ezra made his bed and looked out the window through the iron bars, not at the immediate view beneath, but at the great expanse of the sky above. He looked at the birds flying in the distance and closed his eyes. A vision was already forming in his head, and as the picture became more and more vivid, Ezra began to smile.

“I’ve got the best date planned for us tonight, May” he said to himself. He then put on his jacket and slippers and left his room, whistling a happy tune.



That object of infinite value

Found as though discarded

The modesty of its hue

Betrays the gold beneath

I am as that which floats,

The freely drifting dandelion

Those that see, they fly.

Nearly crushed ‘neath our feet,

The solitary fragment of autumn survives

Though its breath has ceased

Signs and seals never to be forgotten

The passing years dare not alter her

And the spell remains unbroken.

The Face on the Moon

Full_moonThe teacher was a wise man,
but he was called to climb the ladder;
Bade goodbye to the ground
to grace celestial space,
Look heaven-ward this night
Still, he sleeps serene.

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