Poetry Rivals 2016

Taking poetry from the page to the stage!

We're Nothing Alike

You and I – we're nothing alike. Not just because of the ocean between us,
but you in your loud, tie-dye kaftans, twig ankles on show,
and I in muted, grey dresses, leggings all the way to the floor.
You, with your hair crammed into rainbow wraps; my waves flying.
The unhurried bounce in your step, your flip flops beating a rhythm
on your soles; I shuffling discreet on pavements.
Your liquid mocha skin, piercing black eyes and mine sunken,
unquestioning – we're nothing alike.
Your sandpaper palms, mine newborn. Your deep, throaty laugh,
mine held back. Your gestures stretched, mine tamed.
Your fondness for slipping mangoes through your teeth
on yawning afternoons; mine for spending – we're nothing alike.
Your detours on the way home from school for fried cassava
at roadside stalls; mine for Ben and Jerry's Cookie Dough.
Your easy patience, my fierce lack. Your solitary walks across lowland
plains, come sun, Saharan wind or shower; my rush-hour drives.
You praying for rain to ripen the grain sometimes,
you thanking the clouds for abstaining sometimes; I cursing the sky
for spitting each time – we're nothing alike.
Your shared dreams: I'll study further, Father will stop worrying
about Isaac, Isaac will stop baiting older boys; my dreams
mine: I'll be known, I'll be known.
You, lying outside, making quilts out of stars; I, jerking curtains shut
at the first sign of dark. You, hungry for stories at your grandmother's side,
I kissing mine on the cheek, then retreating upstairs –
we're nothing alike.
And I'll tell myself this, so when head heavies one day,
when your throat grows glass shards in its walls,
when fire tiptoes within you, I'll still sleep at night.
And I'll tell myself this, so when your muscles feel they've been pulped
by a fist, when the ground draws you near,
when your sight starts to mist, I'll still sleep at night.
We're nothing alike, and I'll tell myself this,
so when you're laid on a bed,
when pus bubbles up on your arms and your legs,
when blood inks from your ears, I'll still sleep at night.
And I'll tell myself this, so when your insides collapse
like a jenga tower, when each breath is a mountain climb,
when your brother begins to cry, I'll still sleep at night.
We're nothing alike, and I'll tell myself this,
so when the ebb and flow of your chest starts to slow,
when you're suddenly still, when your mother beats her breast,
when your father's screams shake the earth,
when you're carried out in a black body bag,
I'll still sleep at night.
You and I, we're nothing alike,
we're nothing alike, we're nothing alike.

Shruti Chauhan