Trash-talk. Heart on one’s sleeves.
Girls. Tattoos and scraped knees/

Random talk of beautiful,
myth,              foolish, heady           girls/

more girls. Brittle desires unfurl.
Always chasing alien smells

Daisy, Oudh, Tulip – are flowers,
though one thinks otherwise,

through our own sock-stinks.
We don’t know how to

keep one until we thirty-four.
But still we keep score!

Our mothers are great at
making us believe make-believe.

We are heroes, and princes, though of
what, one never knows. Locker-room hi-5s,

jokes about broken bones, facial hairs,
and body-shaming, though no one cries,

or knows what is body-shaming.
Mother calls, father

calls, sister calls, over and over,
until one picks, though this lasts

only a few minutes. Later, more trash-talk.
Smelly socks. Low waist jeans. House

and Hip-hop. Talk of poetry, computer-chips, Jazz,
books, porno, how to douse the smell of whiskey

before coming home – yes! For so long,
we are moulds of someone

else’s dreams. Until one comes
into one’s own. Smells of semen, sweat,

Protein shakes, Brut, cornflakes, the rubbery inside
of a punctured basketball.  

Speak less, show less, meaning play
tough-ball. Stay away from mush, never

be the mush, the emo.
Fist-bumps and fist-fights.

Brittle. Emotions. More trash talk.
We grow, slowly, without knowing.

Photo by Samuel Regan-Asante on Unsplash

Ankush Banerjee

Ankush Banerjee, a Delhi-based poet, researcher and mental health professional, is the author of An Essence of Eternity (Sahitya Akademi, 2016). His work appears or is forthcoming in Eclectica, Indian Literature, Cha, and in the Yearbook of Indian Poetry 2020, and Best Asian Poetry 2021. He lives in New Delhi with his wife and two cats, Simba and Boey.