vacations

We had a family house in the city of Pune
and it smelled of vacations and childhood summers.
we used to tip-toe a weekend or two there
far away from the grey skies, the trees were greener and the air was saltier.
It was the time before selfies and skype
so we used to play with pebbles and our laughter
used to elate like the helium balloons we used to leave behind on the ceiling.
Time used to laze around,
all the homework assignments forgotten
and a certain carrom board was our battleship after scraping our skinny elbows
while climbing the trees picking all the mulberries.

I, three years chubby in my carefree knickers,
learns climbing like I learn alphabets back at home.
My cousin, three and a half, braids all of my hair and we beam
like  movie stars as the braids unravel curls that look like telephone cords
and in the evening, we stuff our mouths
with strawberries as we memorise all the songs
from the only cassette, we have brought along.

I, eight years skinny in my bell-bottom pants,
learns to chase grasshoppers on a pedalling bike.
My brother, nine, complains that his sisters never play cricket
as we run from the backyard to the front of the house
with dolls in our hands blaming unknown accusations as someone falls
on the wet ground. Mothers peel mangoes happily
as we consider climbing the fence to pet the dogs on the other side.

I, twelve years shy, in my overalls,
writes another poem on a rough sheet of paper,
My cousin, twelve and a half, teasingly ties it with a thread
on the highest branch of the mulberry tree in the front lawn while
I threaten her to drench her frock with a water pipe in my hand
which does not terrify her at all. Brother learns to ride a scooter
from the trusted elder teenager who lives next door.

We had a family house in the city of Pune
which was home to many first-time’s and cheerful injuries.
There, we were not just children on vacations
but proud owners of walkmans, marbles and pebbles.
We played games that never made it to mobile phone apps
and we danced on songs that we would never understand
and plucked berries and poems from the trees
as we danced barefoot in the showers of the waterpipe.

Love lessons with Rumi

Dear Rumi,

You have been here before. Many moons ago, conspiring against the venomous bitterness of the world by splashing love all over it.
And yet, you are still here, peeking through the crisp pages of the tiny furnaces of the inked books that lonely hearts like to sit around.
You are still here, tugging at the corners of the cream coloured pillowcases as we rest our bobby-pinned heads pondering over life.
You are still here, hiding behind dusty bookshelves, inspiring all the souls who have ever touched love.

Rumi, you were the sunlit blessing to those who thought the dawn will never arrive. You still are the first light at daybreak when our lonely waits around at empty city squares for a hummingbird to remind us that love still matters, and love still happens. You are the Hummingbird.

As for me, you are that person who once distorted reality and lead me to that alternate universe where I drenched myself with self-love and the ecstasy that one could only feel after swallowing the milky way,
Or a poem whichever is more believable.
And the houses had hidden encryptions in the words that I somehow managed to decode. The air tasted delicious in that alternate universe as I kept reading the words and had my own little escapade.

1.  “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

Lightning flashed. All the walls inside of me crumbled, brick by brick, I didn’t mind.
The soft rain produced music so melancholic that I lost parts of myself with it on the street. Rumi told me that love is there wherever you are looking for only that one was choosing not to look. I, who learnt love like learning to speak out of a stutter, found my way out of it.

2.  “In your light I learn how to love. In your beauty, how to make poems. You dance inside my chest where no-one sees you, but sometimes I do, and that sight becomes this art.”
If I remember clearly then I was walking, but if I remember only half-vividly through blurred visions of dewy binoculars, then I was dancing. I was dancing in the loop of eternity there in the middle of the road, shying away from the clocks wearing roman numerals and the street-lamps guarding me against the dizziness and keeping me awake. My heart felt so full and the complete sense of ‘Sufiana love’ engulfed me.

3. “Explanation by the tongue makes most things clear, but love unexplained is clearer.”

As I danced my way through the streets, I entered the fog which was the clear embodiment of love. The crickets watched me closely as I made out with the presence of what I still remember tasted a lot like iron bullets soaked in cinnamon. I felt brave.

4.  “A thousand half-loves must be forsaken to take one whole heart home.”

There was something about that architecture in that place I was in which made me let go of all the heartburns. I found the pieces that I lost lying on the sidewalk, unarmed yet unharmed. I picked them and fixed them; put them on as I unjinxed them. It was okay. I felt okay.

5. “Love is the bridge between you and everything.”

Love came to me when I was asleep and love has escaped when I was wide awake. But maybe love has always been nothing but energy which can neither be created nor be destroyed and can only be transferred from one being to another. Maybe love never was lost. Rumi, you taught me how love is the path that one needs to walk while resisting the strong urges to pluck all the daisies on the sides of it. That path leads you home.

I lost myself in that universe of poetry. Came back into my own reality, ecstatic, elated and breathing so delicately, I could melt on my knees.
Dearest Rumi, you taught, you preached and you inspired.
So I have my own little poem inside of me that is called ‘Thank you’ that I want to share with you.
You were there many moons ago and you are still here in this moon that I recognise.
You asked us, lovers, to meet you in the field beyond the ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing.
And in that alternate reality, finally found the field that had always been inside of us all.

So, thank you.
Your yet another student in the matters of love,
S.

College Diaries.

We were like freshly mowed grass’ hoppers,
heart-throbbers, public school’s essay toppers,
we gently swished through the front gates,
like the scholars of our dictionary,
like the bubble pop poppers,
you see, we popped every bubble that we came across
and we held every love we received,
at times, we dropped the love from our sacred hands
but never spilt the bubble soap water at least.

We once drenched our summer in a rain shower
and ran through the corridors pretending to be swallowed
in a narrow lane city,
winters were cosy and were soaked with evening dew
of laughter that echoed through the wooden desks
and peeped through the pockets,
firecrackers were not allowed on the campus,
but fireflies were so we became the perfect dragons of our imagination,
That’s how we had fun, that’s how we were our own becoming.

I once picked daisies that were already fallen
and pinned them in the curls of this girl that I know,
for the friendships we had, bloomed in its time
and we wished to be nowhere else but there,
in the campfire of each other’s warm embrace
that we let our cold hearts to sit around to,
we were rose water and puddles and paper boats
all together we were there, at the right moment,
at the right time too.

College days were mostly hot,
for the warmth in hugs and selfie-kissed kisses
made a perfect metaphor for rare happiness.
The street lamps tossed us winks on the way home
the sun was never vexed with us when we presented traces of our childhood
and baked stories of first romances to each other
on the peak of the semester.
The grounds were big enough to hold us together
and the railway tracks that kissed the outskirts of its back
always intermingled with our tip-toed slow dancing.

I met a bunch of people who smiled wider than the sky
and roared louder than the thunder.
Some made the beginning and remained to adorn the end,
Some evoked surreal emotions, one even became my best friend.
Some fought, some lied, some drifted away, some cried,
some were poems, some charcoal sketches, some tapped their love on guitar strings,
a few kept quiet, some hugged the pain away as they unjinxed
all my searches of partners in crime.
some of them could capture stories in a single frame
of what we were- scraped knees and soda pop laughter,
And they all let me watch
and learn passion and love and the value of what matters.
We ran so fast we flew when the clouds outshone the skies with lightning,
they made me live more or should I rephrase,
they made me love more,
they made me write more.

For the gorgeous journey of college and the people who made everything better, XoXo

college13584747_1017565034959525_1156330212541663563_o

First date conversation

 

Cranberry sweetness, lime smiles and a shot of vodka,
cheesy glances and a bubbling laughter,
slipping down inside jokes and handing out disclaimer cards.

You know what terrifies me?
Love.
And by love I mean the kind of human interaction that comes with a complimentary exchange of the saliva and endless words but where no one really talks.
The kind of love that makes priority lists and sends eggplant emojis in the text messages.
the kind of love that starts with a table cloth and ends with my bedsheets, where my plans don’t matter and your plans are already under the rug, where one is scared of other’s feminist opinions.
Where there is no bridge to meet at the end of the fortnight and midnight kisses leaves footmarks that need covering.

Don’t pretend to not see it, my issues with commitment.
it’s there but I like to get high sometimes.
And by high I mean the kind of intoxication where I don’t remember what century I belong to. Where I feel the love when I get some, where I see your smoke rings and confuse it with the most magical proposal ever.
Where I dance all night on a song that I’ve never even heard before, where my feet looks beautiful and the air tastes delicious when we run so fast we could fly and by flying I mean we make out in streets as empty as our chests and the street lamps are the only ones that could see us, barefoot, unashamed, unwavering.

likes, dislikes, favourites and pet peeves?
Stories.
A single answer to everything but I like to remember everything.
And by remembering I mean the kind of sticky notes that I leave on my nightstand when I wake all night up writing them.
Pornography, ugh!
Fake kind of love where no one spells anything correctly.
And by no spells I mean there are no magical enchantments, no hazy kind of merriment and no one talks between kisses. I do not like it when the clouds do not create halos around the love that is not even in the air.
Dragonflies.
Dragons may be fiction but these fulfil my need for documentation.
And by documentation I mean I’ve seen the magic happening and the world’s got to see.
Side hugs.
What the hell is a side hug and why do they even exist?
Because by side hugs I mean the kind of broken souls that do not know what warmth tastes like.

Do not bring me flowers, I say, never bring me flowers.
They say you love me but they remind me of what is wrong in this world.
And by wrong, I mean the kind of life where daisies are buried with a lover’s expectations.
where the architecture reminds us of colonialism and tragedy is showcased in the museums.
I am a sucker for art, I’ll tell you but I’ll cry anyway.
And by crying I mean I’ll take long walks in the rains and give a piece of the cold that I’d eventually catch.

You know what does not terrify me?
Love.
And by love, I mean the happy childhood days where we scraped our knees tumbling down on each other’s metaphors.
Where we talk till the end of the night and till the wake of the morning and call it making love, where you need three albums to describe your relationship status and where no one needs to build a home together, where love is enough, for what is enough if love isn’t.
The kind of love that starts with a glance and ends when the world ends with it, the love that’s unpredictable, that’s abominable, which creates a havoc, a riot in the society, that ruins you in the best way possible. The kind of love that can never be explained in a poem
Ever.

Capture

Photography by Vansh Sabharwal

Photo clicked by- Vansh Sabharwal
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The sighing of the stardust

I didn’t want to think about her
yet here I am, in the embrace of what could have been.
we were shooting stars and the stardust all together
We were always in each other yet never together,
we were the continuum of the universe and
we never came close in the fear of crumbling apart.

Bet that dingy old room still smells the same,
with windows tainted with more than one colour
and the old chestnut tree whispering sweet-nothings
while brushing its lullaby against the balcony.
I once kissed her when the winds were in our favour,
or was it nothing but a dream?

Bet the sweet Gin remembers
even if it was a dream
I swear I could trace her tip-toeing
when I was stuck in the roundabout
looking for the bridge, our bridge.
I wonder if she looks for it too.

Bet it was trouble for her too
to stand there surrounded by lilies,
or were they lilacs? Anyway,
It ached me so hard when I stood there
surrounded by lilies/lilacs
and not dance with her ghosts,
and not kiss away her demons,
It was the perfect mood, but not the time for us.

Bet Gin never woke up from our dream
because how could she when neither have I,
from the yearning, from the itch to write down her name
on every wall of every dingy room out there.
From the burning ache to figure out her coyness
and to scribble out our aesthetic poem on her every breath,
her every molecule, I wished to turn her inside out to touch
But I didn’t, almost.

I didn’t want to think about her,
But here I am, speaking in old lyrics
of the dingy room hauntings, whispering chestnut tree,
the lilies and the lilacs
and the bridge I never got to find
and the love I never got to make
and the woman who was mine but never mine to take
I wish we were not stardust  but humans
who could love without a noose around the collarbones
and wildfire on the lips,
ready to burn them away.

painting

Artwork by Nipun Bhalla

Artwork (a digital painting) by Nipun Bhalla.
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Memories- A Photo story

1. One of the most enduring memories of my childhood were of the streets.
A typical mohalla, where my stories were being spun and weaved through time, defying all the odds. I can still remember the narrow lanes, a sad woman living at the end of the street, happy housewives and their oil-stained aprons and we, the children folding paper boats and aeroplanes, laughing around.

Things changed with time, we moved from the home, that town and those streets.
So when I reached the 24th year of my life, I decided to look back to those streets I left behind with my younger sister, who was 18 years beautiful and did not get to grow up with the perfect abuses curled under her tongue, who never stuck a pencil into the spool of a cassette when things got tangled and chaotic. So I took her to board a train with me.
“let me tell you a story.”- I said to her,
“Let’s board a train to that story.”- I added.
1

As we boarded the train of nostalgia and were prepared to breathe in the dust and pollution my body was soaked in when I came into this world crying and kicking, all the faded pictures outshone with clarity.
We walked from street to street, through the same narrow lanes, the old stories that were somehow etched at the back of my mind stood still in their real-life embodiment and new stories were hand-picked by my sister to keep safely in our backpack.

2. We reached a house which used to be a dispensary. Well, not anymore.
2

The place once used to be full of all kinds of people, old and young, short and tall, rich as well as the poor. Long queues of men and women waiting for their turn to get their medicines and tablets, powdered in small paper envelopes and absolutely free of any cost.
It was at a comfortable distance from home for me to run and get my cough syrups. There used to be a man at the counter that I never saw anywhere else but that dispensary, maybe he didn’t live in that area after all. The place that used to be so busy, especially on Sunday afternoons was sitting there quiet, locked and lonely. There was a little girl sitting on its stairs, I wondered if she would know what happened to the place but she stood up to walk away before I could ask.

3. We followed the little girl’s footsteps and my sister finally spoke to her.
3

My little sister has always been sweet and friendly with children. She asked the little girl her name and if she could tell us a way that would lead us to some good tea.
a minute later we were walking with the 9 years old Kavita who was glad to take us to the tea corner just a few minutes away. Kavita was chatty and had a smile to remember. She went to a government elementary school and expressed her wish to become a ma’am at a school when she’d grow up. Playing with marbles was her major hobby and she boasted about beating up an older boy at school the other day because he said mean things to her.
She laughed as I asked the meaning behind her name.
“A Poem.”- she said as she pointed towards the tea corner at the end of the road.

4. The tea stall was a familiar face to me, but the lad brewing the tea wasn’t. That’s when I saw him, an old friend in his wrinkled skin.
4
He was sitting there, at the stall he used to work as a middle-aged man, oblivious of all those who were passing by, smoking his cheap cigarettes, watching his son brewing tea for the customers.
We sat on the plastic stools. My sister ordered tea and biscuits and I gave this old man a long look before he shot me a glance. “I used to come to your stall as a kid.” I told him with an uneasy smile as he shook his head.
Kundan Kumar started this stall when he was 17 and was known for his strong masala-chai. He once was married to a very short woman who had long hair and skin as dark as the tea her husband was famous for in their neighbourhood. She brought a boy into this world before bidding goodbye to it. Kundan never went to school and neither did his boy. He remained god-fearing most of his life and never smoked or drank on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
5.The day melted into an evening which was finally gulped down by the night.
5

As we talked, walked and gathered stories from the lazy streets and the busy roads, the sun dissolved into oblivion and we sat near an old tobacco shop with a street lamp hanging outside of it.
In its pale yellow light, I looked at the dimpled face of my sister who gave me a tired smile. In her smile I could see how much she wished to be me, to be the one who grew up with these souvenirs safely kept in my heart, to be the one who ran through the narrow lanes with paper boats and marbles, to be the boy who once took the 30 foot cord of the telephone in the living room and walked towards the kitchen just to check how much the wire would stretch, to be the one who used to be proud owner of a walkman.
I smiled back.
And in my smile, she could see so clearly, how much I wished to be that boy as well.

Beautiful photography by Iris photography club, Delhi University
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She was magic

The dragonflies around the campfire,  the branches drenched with starlight,
the moon drizzling down the moonlight and me,
we all noticed when she blushed in the light of the night.
I dreamed of her just an afternoon before, she did not say a word
but she was magic.

She, like the wildflowers she picks on her way home,
she, like the river that she spent the summers of 99 in,
she, like soap bubbles, she like rosewater,
She has always been my happiest season.

And by season  I mean a storm,
and by storm I mean her lips always tasted like storms,
her hands, the lightning
and her whispers, the thunder.
I swear there were rainbows on my pillow after spending a night in the shade of her tornado.

She talked to the moon on the 1st of December
and she invited the stars over for dinner on the 3rd.
she picked all the pebbles on the beach and she cried when she saw the ocean,
I always tried to match my skirts with her shirts in the hope that she would notice,
She smiled crimson when we danced on The Beatles in the living room,
for no reason at all.

She, like the shotgun that she smells like in her moon-goddess phase,
She, like the pocket-knife she keeps in her purse,
she, like the metal music, she like the dark shade of lipstick,
She has always been my favourite warrior.

And by warrior, I mean a dragon,
and by dragon I mean she has a soul like that of a dragon,
her soul, the fiery breaths
and her spirit, the red flowery flame.
I swear there is more fire in her than a forest drizzling with gasoline.

The summer curled in her rain-soaked pyjamas,
the waterbeds bubbling up with elated midnight wishes, the stars shimmering and winking on the dinner table and me,
we all noticed when she blushed when I told her that I loved her.
I dreamed of her for a lifetime, she did not say a word,
but she was magic.

capture

Artwork by Naved Warsi.

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 Thanks xx

 

Inside

There is a fire inside my dragon dungeons
and water sprinklers hushing it down.
I sleep on the edge of the bed at nights and the rest of the bed remains uncreased,
maybe I imagine myself to be a lone wolf too much but that does not make me any less lonely.
I try not to wake the darkness up while flipping my pillow to the colder side.

There are certain names stained in my songs
and scarlet forget-me-nots adorning them.
I repeat them under the silent breaths over and over and over again when I listen to the music
or the noise of traffic or the sound of the coffee maker when my brother sneaks into the kitchen
to prepare his midnight beverage, a common ritual of his.

There is a boy who smells like rain-soaked grass
and his fingers are soft like gentle wind whispering through my hair.
I try to find all of his laughter in my older poems to see if it was meant to be but I always end up
looking at the North star and wonder if someone from another dimension is writing our story.
I sometimes leave anonymous notes on leaves blowing away with the wind in the hope that they might seek his window out and knock on it.

There is a sea-shell sitting innocently in my drawer
size of my fingernail with the hues of the whole evening sky on it.
I sometimes put it to my ears and listen to ocean waves through it and it whispers back sweet nothings
and at times there’s music as well and one could lose themselves in an infinite dance in the music of the ocean waves.
I dreamt of him when I was near the ocean and I dream of the ocean when I am with him.

There is a poem inside my mind waiting to be born
and words that I gulped down along with the sunlight.
I swear there are more scriptures in a human heart than there are on paper and there is more ink running through my human veins than there is in those worldly pens.
I sometimes scribble my heart on a paper, I sometimes pour myself on the page.

naved

Artwork by Naved Warsi 

( https://www.instagram.com/warsi_naved/ )
Follow him on Instagram for more art and love. 

 

 

Child abuse- Stop the deafening silence!

He came with tweezers and it still hurts at the wrong places.
There were candy wrappers lying unnoticed, there were mouths that were dry, there were hair at the foot of the bed, there were hair burning inside my palms, there was scratched cement in the insides of the nails, there were confusion and shame that made me question my existence, that made my heart break like pencil nibs, there wasn’t enough graphite to draw the darkness.
They must have thought that I would not remember but how can I ever forget?
He came with tweezers but my heart wasn’t so tiny to be plucked by one.
So he pinched and plucked parts of it, took bites and spat them out half chewed and I, at the back of the desk in my classroom, never covered the holes in my uniform stockings.

The clouds were so close to my eyes, they made my thoughts blurry. I might never figure out how no one saw them but me. The claws were made of sweet chocolates and how it never tasted any good to me again, Seven is not the best age to be thinking about dying.
‘Child Sexual Abuse’
Now say it again, this time you need to spit out the shame along with it.
“Child Sexual Abuse”
Now say it again, while spewing out the miasma of guilt along with it.
“Child Sexual Abuse”
Now say it again for the ones in the back.

Not pleasant, was it? To finally disgorge out the words, full of hatred to its brim but not loud enough to let your child hear it. Trust me, my dear, responsible, adult friend, it’s easier to say it out loud for the children to hear than to see them twenty years later purging out the questions in the eulogy of their last letter wondering what might have happened if the parents taught them the lessons of Good-touch-bad-touch basics, drenched with the prayers behind their names.
So go and save the soul before it gets too late because there are predators standing at your doorsteps or lurking in your family photos, with the tweezers.

Educate them:
Teach them the basic rules. How no one should be touching them in any way they feel odd or uncomfortable. How their bodies are fully theirs and no one else is supposed to be making their innocence at the finger-points. Teach them the correct anatomy. Give them the correct language of a  full and honest disclosure.

I was nine when my eight-year-old friend told me that the tall boys slid their hands down her skirt when she was trying to go home from school, so we must leave from a different gate from that day on. She said they hurt her ‘tummy’.
We would have told someone only if we knew that it was abuse, only if we knew that no one was allowed to touch the body parts we did not know the names of, only if we knew what exactly to tell and why.

Educate yourself:
Realise that a child telling you that they are being abused is far from reality in the majority of the cases. Never assume that the child will yell NO and come running towards you when someone tries to silence them. The abuser, most of the times, is an adult who will be an important figure the child was supposed to be looking up to. Predators spend a great deal of time grooming your child into accepting the abuse, even blaming it all on them. You need not only to create a friendly environment for the child to speak up freely but also to look for signs of abuse and even the signs of predatory behaviours in the person spending time with the children.

My aggressive tantrums and my aberrantly quiet behaviour were labelled as ‘weird’ and ‘childish’ when I was clouded by darkness. The shame and guilt shaped my personality and I found myself in depression after all these years. Only if someone looked for the signs, I might have been a stronger person today.

Know that it’s important:
It’s important to educate yourself and your child about these things because it shapes their future, their personality as well as their health. Any kind of childhood trauma not only stays at the back of the mind of a human being, but it haunts them forever. It leads to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, slim health, mental illness and lesser years of life expectancy.

My own health has always been in question. The bent shoulders, bony fingers, unsteady hands, anxiety sitting at the back of my spine and the chewed insides of my mouth tells my story anyway. The stress hormones punctured my body so many times, like the tweezers that were used when I stood four feet high from the ground. My will may be strong but the body grew up to be so weak that art and poetry might be the only thing I could create by now.

Yes, It does matter.
Because they come with tweezers and it hurts at the wrong places. 923591493_1382370827-1024x460

Ocean met the ocean

It was my first time at the beach and I already had been crying,
I sat on the sand like an astronaut gliding through space, like a misfit toy finally finding its museum to
let sit in the distance and see which child would reach his hand first, almost galloping through his way from the “Do Not Touch” signs in the corridor.

I sat on the sand and looked at the vast blue nothingness mixing so gracefully with the sky as if hugging their love out for me to see, sun bestowing its honey-coated blessings dripping on my shoulders and the water in front of me. I stretched my legs out and waited for the water to come to the shore, gratification comes easy when you welcome it with a smile.

It was my first time at the beach and the ocean had a surprise for me,
I sat on the sand, legs stretched wide, waiting with jitters in my toes, I can explain the tingling sensation but it calls for another poem.
The water came, touched me so gently that I forgot what century I was in, the salt left letters between my toe-nails, unfathomable, It instantly became a story worth telling.

It was my first time at the beach and my feet were already drenched, my clothes were damp and I did not know what era I was in. The water kept touching me as it kissed the shore again and again.
Ocean met the ocean.
One dimension met another and its salt mingled with mine.  You gotta mix it well so it doesn’t scratch the throat from the inside and it was my first time at the beach and the first time the ocean touched me and this is how it felt when you kissed me for the very first time.

Ocean met the ocean.

Maybe the secret to Shakespeare’s love sonnets was that he fell in love with the water as well
and his soul sipped it for long when it was thirsty, have you ever felt loved by the air when it fills your lungs and leaves in an instant?

I have already fallen in love with you for so many times that your salt is intermixed with mine and the forget-me-nots are planted on every molecule of my body but my blood is made up of ink and the creamy sheets of paper are waiting for me to spill all of myself on them as if to tell a legend and you slither in so quietly in every poem like the water coming back to touch the shore again and again.

It was my first time at the beach and so was my first time in love.
My feet were drenched in ocean salt and my heart was stained with first-base romances.
I did not know what century I was in,
but you were there and so was the water
and I already had been crying
because my heart could not contain the story.

Ocean met the oceanocean
so we went swimming.