Sunday 15 August 2021

Elvin Lukose, Poetry 2021 Shortlist


There was once a balloon man

who stood by the school gate

along with the cobbler and the icicle vendor

under the gulmohar tree

with his belly of helium

-the balloons perched on the stand

red orange green blue yellow.

a little man-made fountain of colors

a man-made rainbow for show

He stood there everyday

every season

even in the rain

and the scalding summer.

It was interesting to watch

how colors were exchanged

from his wrinkled hands

to the bony ones of the young.

colors converting to smiles

a little circuit of serotonin sparks

-a metamorphosis of a kind

No one knew about him

or his family

or his children

how much he earned

why he did what he did

The legend goes that

once a rich man even handed him

a wad of cash to buffer his miseries

out of appreciation

Enraged he tried to hit the man

with his crooked crutch

and no one dared again

to bribe him off his love for colors

Years went by

-monsoons came and receded

-winters left its misty afterglow

He stood there


handing balloons

for a dime or two

sometimes for nothing at all

One day he stopped coming

the children waited

the parents waited

days rolled by

months moved on

even the branches of the gulmohar

began to stoop

over the ghostly space that remained

under its leafy roof

There were

no more colors

no more signs of the old chap

and the helium tank

the other vendors also left that street

one by one

like coins disappearing into the slot machine

Life went on

his colored balloons remained a memory

its disappearance - a mystery

-the human presence

that made so much difference

even in its absence

Its strange

how a display of colors

-a bunch of balloons

could change the landscape

to the point

that everyone who walks that street today

no longer smiles

or says a word of gratitude

everyone rushing in and out of each other

not taking a moment to notice

that the gulmohar stopped bleeding red

that the children no longer stopped

for a minute of laughter and happiness

that once a few floating colors in their hands bought

A cloud still hovers over that space


every month

even after the monsoons have resigned

like a stage set all ready

in anticipation

for those blobs of color

for that little rainbow to show up


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