A Prisoner’s Struggle

Srinjayi Chowdhury

Kolkata, India

I stare at the ceiling fan,
Lying on my bed during the dark hours,
Sleep continues to elude me,
Nevertheless, I let my eyelids fall shut,
Draping an arm across my eyes,
To keep them from flying open.
Phosphenes dance across my vision,
My heart thumps louder and, faster,
Nails dig into my palms as I
Tighten the fists my fingers,
Had already curled into;
I know if I open my palms,
And lift them to the light,
I’ll see crescent-shaped marks,
Etched into my skin.
I begin drawing short, shallow breaths,
Feeling suffocated,
My jaws clench tightly,
The sound of the whirling fan,
Like a long-drawn-out roar in my ears,
My back pickles, but I lie stone-like,
Squeezing my eyes shut,
My soul screams,

Straining against the shackles,
Imprisoning it within my body,
I hold my breath in a final effort,
Warring with my soul, my posture rigid.
Beads of perspiration gather at my brow,
I bite down on the insides of my cheeks,
Knowing if I let go tonight,
If I let go now,
My soul will escape,
Forever,
And I’ll be an empty shell,
For the rest of my days;
I know that if I exhale,
And oh-so slowly open my eyes,
With hope— frightful in its desperation,
Only to take in,
The purlieus of my bed,
The small, dark cage,
With pale, cream-coloured walls,
That glow with red light from the digital clock,
Then it will be beyond my ability,
To bear the immitigable pain silently,
Pain, that comes after having one’s hopes crushed—
Once and for all, despite being prepared.

And so, I fill my burning lungs with air,
Breathing out slowly,
Trying so hard to force
My rebellious soul to submission;
Only the marks on my palms,
The tear sparkling at the corner of my eye,
And my damp forehead are,
Proof of the battle that raged,
Within me,
Seconds ago.

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