Day 747 of 2020
I have been staring at the Nat Geo spreads like it’s the face of God.
The snowy mountains, vast and magnificent, with their dotted humans; or the bear amidst a torrential river, unbothered by the danger surrounding it, a fish in its mouth; the swirling clouds white cream on the glowing, haloed blue.
I yearn to travel these lands and behold them with these broken eyes.
& to taste the crispness of dawn, the warm glow of stars, the many many stars, that even the moon has to jostle for space—
& to lay low, be one with the rocks and the snow, and watch the bear observe the river—the foaming mouth of that serpentine goddess, mere noise, as it eyes the fish that swims in its calmer currents underneath—
& to wade underwater, in the flowy blues and streaking lights of the seas, amidst clown fishes, starfishes, jellyfishes, the many many shoals of strange fishes, deep in the silence—
I’ve been living Sleeping Beauty’s sleep.
Will anyone kiss me awake?
Sleeping Beauty’s Dad
Day ???? of ????
When Sleeping Beauty went to sleep, her father smashed the clocks and drank the sands nestled in the hourglass.
Yes, the fairy godmother’s counter was to put everyone to sleep.
But the king was an insomniac.
Do you know how lonely insomnia is? It’s not enough that the night is stretched endless, every sound alive, every shadow awake; there’s also time hammering against the skull, worming its way deep inside… the tick tick tick incessant, like drops pounding on a face one droplet at a time, long and prolonged, which is also a form of torture in some places, or maybe all places…
The shadows shivering across ceilings… somewhere a conversation buzzes…in some other place the TV screams…or is it the computer or the phone?… the blues and the whites and the murky colors of the grainy rainbow lighting up the face(s), aurora borealis for the unsleeping awake, or the unwilling awake…
Like Sleeping Beauty’s dad.
Trembling on the edge of sleep, dreams and visions combusting into each other like planets and distant stars, all sparkle, no sound, because dreams are soundless; or all memory of sound is rubbed clean as soon as the eyes flutter awake.
To atone for his body’s inability to be devoured by sleep, do you think he scrubbed the floors, dusted the windows, swept the streets? Did he wash his daughter’s hair, tenderly, with his tears? Did he gaze at the gates, in longing and in desperation, waiting for the lips of the man that would end their slumber?
Or was it his one true fate to battle the dark, all light swept under the rug, living in an upside down, where time is as farfetched as light in outer space?
All things bright and beautiful
One rapturous morning. The blue awash with the freshly woken sun shimmering across tufts of cotton while the air sparkled, like
A delicate butterfly, which fluttered by like
The seeds of a dandelion, if dandelions were hued green and yellow, but I wouldn’t really know because it was already in a bird’s mouth as another avian watched,
And even from a distance I could feel the butterfly’s bulbous body crush, turn brittle, turn paste, turn mush in the jaws of the winged beast, its thorny beak powdered with the glittering down—
Beauty was lured by beauty like
The butterfly to the sharp of the beak like
Beauty to the glint of the spindle in the seclusion of the dark, forgotten tower—
Nothing is more delicious than the siren song of self-annihilation. To walk the dim, damp stairs, as voices in the head seductively sing, die die die…
And standing atop, vertigo whipping a storm in feet, while the hard ground yearns for the soft of the body, waiting to have a life in its maws like
The hooked beak thirsting for the tender flutterby, like
The spindle seducing Beauty away from the windows, to its shimmering, diamond head, like
Magpies to all things silver, like
Beauty to the sharp shine of the twinkling spindle…
A touch, a drop of blood…a cold finger in a hot mouth…the rush of warm iron, coating the tongue like caramel…where does desire end and hunger begin?
A dark dime of blood on her butterfly like finger, the pulse fluttering, like
The insect in the darkness of a beak, resisting the call of death, like
Beauty to Sleep—
Such is the lure of beauty: enticing…and pulsating, like
the sleep of a kingdom, trapped in a dream.
Day 759: studying medusae to kill time before it kills me
1. Stygiomedusa / giant phantom jellyfish: In the stygian dark, what are memories but phantoms? Long snaking arms like the velvet form of a woman dragged deeper and deeper into her abyss resisting the pull of gravity and the yearning for breath, fingers free from the sun’s warm hold. Here the clocks draw tendrils of red that drown by the time they surface. Here, deep in the midnight, a phantom is as rare as a mind untouched by teeth like thoughts in a head that is more wound than mouth.
Here silence is a tongue.
2. Turritopsis dohrnii / immortal jellyfish: Retreat deep into the self, and retrieve the seed from which one blooms; now no more jellyfish, but polyp; now no more person, but twines of genetics and ancestral dreams. All the teething thoughts retrace and retreat and the mind is dreamless is dark is nothing—
And live in a washing machine world, where one is erased clean of a name, where the swirling, dizzying dark isn’t infernal, but home—
While wrapping the hands of the clock around its throat and watching it choke, one infinitesimal second at a time. Time killed by the sting of time.
3. Chironex fleckeri / Australian box jellyfish: Sting. Kill. Raze. Medusa with her monster head, charging after the sea that cut her with its broken edge, spewing blood in a temple that has no place for bodies that wound, or desires that unwound, and so sting. Rage and sting. Howl and sting. Curse and sting. Singe. Lure with beauty, with arms that seduce, only to leave a body taut like a noose, hanging like a pendulum, serving Time, begging to be released from Sleep’s prison.
Even Love’s bite cannot resuscitate.
Not today, but most days
When I see my mother’s naked stomach, bloated with the bodies of the children she raised, I shudder in disgust.
When I see her body rattle in pain, a skeleton ready to strip itself of its flesh, I see a future apparition.
Because a mother is a door.
I passed through her, and she from her mother and she from her mother—mirrors, the lot of us, infinite reflections of swollen blood.
I am of her. But I am afraid of being her. The slack skin, like the beach over the jagged sea; and the breasts that droop, then wilt, then return to skin, like flowers in a notebook.
But it’s not the body. It’s all the ways in which she betrays herself.
Once she seemed like a mountain. Mother of rivers and prayers.
But as the rain of time thickened, the mountain cracked and splintered: the tears of self pity, the weakness of flesh, the wounds without names that broke her tongue—
No more mountain but a mouth that wailed and hungered…
And conversations became curses were swallowed by ellipses…
A mother is a door.
Hence, it was Beauty’s mother who cursed her her Sleep, for what is Sleep but a door? A daughter preserved like a memory.
Where are we in dreams and in the silky darkness, but Here, never passing, never leaving, like the waves heaved out of the sea, only to return to the salt?
Mothers and their daughters and their mothers and their daughters…
My mother who taught me to sting… in whose daughter’s shadow she now shrivels into a child…a reversal.
My mother who raised phantoms of blood and called them a rehearsal for womanhood. Daughters. Ever hers.
Everything is born from violence.
Gravity exerting massive pressure on atoms to form the seed of a star. A womb exerting bone-breaking pressure to shape a scar.
Hence sometimes, a star collapses, to become blackholes, monstrous vacuums.
Like the mothers who curse their daughters, a body cannibalized, out of her twisted love.
And hence, in stories, women sleep, for like stars, they too die out, swallowed by their bodies, with not even a name left behind to mark a life.
And hence, in stories, the antithesis of the Monster Mother is the Godmother, who like certain stars, doesn’t devour or disappear, but casts into the universe the seedlings of life itself.
She turns a curse around, cures it into a blessing.
All that pressure snuffs a star. All that pressure fogs a life.
Who doesn’t feel a splinter in their head, an itch of madness that one must spend their entire life resisting?
A black hole exists at the center of our being. A sole blinking eye. Loneliness.
Sometimes, it’s expelled by the form of a child. Sometimes it takes the shape of a child.
It is the Mother who curses Beauty her sleep.
The ache of loneliness, a gnawing reminder of her own aliveness. Without the pulse of ache, who was she?
How long can one call themselves numb before they are declared dead?
But the Godmother turns it around, ends Beauty’s sentence.
A comma is shaped like a fetus.
Beauty in her sleep, like a child in her mother’s womb.
Beauty freed…? A prisoner serving Time’s sentence.
But what is sleep but the dissolution of the self?
Beauty, the child of Time and Death.
When you live Sleeping Beauty’s sleep, time ceases to be.
The months bleed into each other, creating a whirl of seconds that fade and recede like waves, an endless drone that fills the ears with noise that becomes a new silence, and silence, a nuisance.
Like Beauty, we are trapped in a vulnerable body. And when within blinks, with the touch of a spindle, or the touch of hand, Death storms the bounds of a self, stories make Time desirable, friendly even. Less a sentence, and more a series of commas, each second softly punctuated.
Unlike other heroes, Sleeping Beauty journeys nowhere. All she does is sleep, along with an unguarded kingdom.
And what is sleep but a vulnerability? To live inside and with oneself. Where waking is a mind burst, a sudden rush of thought piercing the void. A violence.
Yet to sleep, the body unguarded, and without the light of the eye, is an act of buoyant optimism. The hope of a return to light. To life itself.
And a nowhere woman?
Where else but in legends, in a Time not ours, but also ours?
Hence, the waking of Beauty is relevant to her legend, and the details, irreverent.
Ending 1: The Mother frees her child by kissing her head.
Ending 2: The Father’s tears flood her nose, and choking, she wakes, like a newborn.
Ending 3: The Godmother is a dream, like the rest of her story.
When Beauty wakes, again and again, she tells what is inside of her. And what is inside changes with each waking and telling, a story that goes on, ad infinitum, like a time loop, like the one you and I find ourselves in: a now( )here, a true (be)longing, as stories return home.
Saloni Kshirsagar is a digital illustrator from Hyderabad, India. Residing in the genre of fantasy, she has been published or has work forthcoming in HAD, The Winnow, and Opia Lit, among others. She is @shizun14 on Twitter and @theartissal on Instagram.
Shivani Kshirsagar is a writer from India. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Hobart, HAD, WAS, Winnow, and Misery Tourism, among others. Find her on Twitter @nakkorebaba and on Instagram @girlwiththemane.