Poetry / February 2011 (Issue 13)


by Shelton Pinheiro

In the parlour beneath the flickering fluorescent light
a woman writes zeroes, perfectly round, lizard egg-like
they line up obediently in her ledger, to be locked
into red and green boxes where they’ll stay imprisoned
unlike the man who’ll come home tomorrow,
that’s the thing she likes about zeroes that stay put
within boxes and don’t bother her like people, for instance
the manager who is now pressing the steel bell
even as she says good afternoon and how are you sir
and of course sir and can I take a day off tomorrow sir,
pulling down her dupatta just a bit to fend off a stray glance,
as she mutters may I be excused
and enters, almost priest-like into the holy of holies
pen poised over the empty column awaiting zeroes
like a tabernacle yearning for sacrificial lambs, she imagines
with a smile, which reminds her, as she fills in the zeroes,
about her daughter who should be back from school
by now and that she will have to
leave some zeroes unfinished
which she always found was the hardest part
for deep inside, she knows she must
leave one quiet evening,
some zeroes unfinished and her pen laid
diagonally across her ledger, as if she had gone out
for a drink of water from the earthen jar beside
the canteen at the end of the long, dark corridor.

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