Poetry

‘Chandelier Waltz’ and other poems by Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad

By: Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad

Chandelier Waltz

The chandelier was spared
in the renovation spree
Marty who sold us the place
ripped up wall and plank
to clean lines, spartan space
but for reasons known only to him
left this fixture untouched.

a neighbour tells me stories –
the chandelier belonged to Betty
who had owned the home first
she hung it in the early sixties –
a gift from her Spanish husband
a painter with an eye for the eccentric.

all summer we toy with the idea
of taking the chandelier down
it sticks out, a dated relic
even in our bohemian aesthetic
more suited
to a room in Transylvania
than a unit on Pacific Highway.

then it happens one afternoon
a strange and sudden magic –
sunlight streaming through open slats
the chandelier smoulders, a disco ball
marquise beads of Catalan glass
catching the slant of the sun.

irised flecks dot the room
the heart of a supernova
I imagine Betty in her younger days
grooving beneath the chandelier
in the arms of her Spanish love.

walking in, my husband gasps
radial rings of opal fire
he puts out a hand and pulls me
into an impromptu dance
eyes and lips diamond-tinged
we laugh and twirl in the starburst
clear now to our waltzing hearts
why Marty let the chandelier be.

###

Becoming Amelia

I remember looking at my friend blankly –
she used to be Amodini Bhattacharya
her lyrical first name in Sanskrit
meaning “the joyous one”
now reborn as an “Amy Batty”
she fits in joyously
without the eye rolls
and the double takes
the painful inconveniencing
of others’ mouths.

I think of Amy as I sit
in front of the surly woman at Medicare
who, invincible behind a placard
that sternly warns
Be Polite To Staff At All Times
studies the three parts
of my very Indian name
and proceeds to bluntly ask
Look, can I just call you Amelia?
I smile and say I would prefer
to be called by my own name
at which she grimaces and asks
if the “long V thing” can be dropped
while registering my name
on Medicare
I politely say no
I don’t want to ditch it
and I look her in the eye and request
that she not call it a “thing” –
it happens to be my middle name
she looks up, taken aback
not sure if my response
violated what the placard demands
blows raspberries
gets up to sort the papers
and says under her breath:
I’ll be back.

which makes me think instantly
of Arnold Schwarzenegger
big bicep- flexing Terminator Arnie
with a tongue twister surname
so alien in my culture
that no man for miles around was called that
yet I remember at just six
breaking it down
splitting it into four clear syllables
Schwar- Ze- Ne -Gger
getting it spot on
all it took
was five seconds of effort.

###

Trick Questions

It’s T-minus three days
to the time of the month
and I’m feeling
particularly body dysmorphic
when I ask you in passing
while buttering the toast
who you think is
the most beautiful woman in the world.

poor you
so utterly unaware
you are about to enter
the miserable minefield
of my psychological projections
in all sincerity
you say, without a moment’s delay
(with that soft tear that gently clouds
just your left eye
in moments like these
when you are deeply moved)
that you think that
the most ravishing woman that exists
is undoubtedly me

you lean over gently to kiss
but I’m fuming
and you are flabbergasted
by my tears
the explosive turn of it all.

I cry to a girlfriend over lunch
over the dishonesty of you
calling me the most beautiful
blatant untruth
veiled mockery at best!
and my girlfriend’s face becomes
a line-mouthed emoji –
she doesn’t understand
why your answer failed to
make me wildly jubilant
being the right response, dammit!
what did I want to hear anyway?
she would have gladly taken that
over her fiancé’s “Kim Kardashian of course!”
when she had once
asked him the same
that insensitive, ‘honest’ bastard.

having had the whole day to mull
I come home and you are aloof
and I’m in a hurry
to make amends
(plus, I am feeling
sufficiently beautiful
and incredibly lucky)
and I want to bring up
my morning meltdown
so I broach it gingerly over dinner
apologies profuse
saying I’m flattered
at what you said, oh, I truly am
though I didn’t appreciate it then.

you quickly interrupt to say
that you have a confession
a revised answer –
that you had not been
Absolutely Truthful
so:
while the most beautiful woman for you
will always be me
maybe Liv Tyler
was technically
The Most Beautiful
if I know what you mean.

No
I don’t know what you mean
but we eat dinner quietly
and I try to smile
while impaling the peas
and chewing unnaturally
on the asparagus.

Categories: Poetry

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