Poetry & Fiction



When they locked me in a dilemma, 

I called upon some words, 

I wove them deftly into ropes 

And ropes into ladders.

Another, harsher word was called for,

Something with a hint of bite.

I used it to hit at closed walls,

To let in a little light.

I peered out over the edge,

I stared down from the top.

I swung a leg over the ledge,

I needed to let myself drop.

Down I went on that ladder,

Conjured from ideas, dreams and ephemeral what-not.

And as I moved to the freedom I chose,

I realised that it all begins with a thought. 




Every time
Someone throws you away,
And you fall hard on the rocks
That scald you with their heat,
That you do not cease to exist.
You change form
 - Liquid to steam -
That rises and soars
Higher than before.
You will be free
When you want to be.


Let the light in

Let the light in. Let it in through the windows, through the doors, through the cracks in the tiled roof. Let it in through the canopy of dark leaves. Let it shine off the sea, the lake, the gushing river, the little pond, the silvery fish that dart around the bottom of the well hidden away at the far end of the farm. Let it shine back at you from the stars reflected in the tiny puddle, from the moon in the half-full bucket forgotten in the backyard. Let it shine through the black cat’s eyes. Let it shine off the glossy coat of the neighbour’s labrador. Let it spill out of the pages of your favourite book. Let it come pouring out of the gramophone and car stereo and guitar strings and jukebox. Let it waft up from the black and white photos in old family albums and spice boxes and cups of tea shared with old friends in cozy nooks. Let it shine through clasped fingers and walks in the rain and warm hugs and sweet kisses. Let it shine through a newborn’s first lungful, through milk teeth and gurgles and shaky first steps. Let it shine through pigtails flying in the wind, and long-socked legs flailing about in the swings. Let it shine through flowers on windowsills, through butterflies on drunken paths to happiness, through the wrinkly twinkly smile on her face when he plants a good morning kiss on that same cheek every single day after fifty years together. Let it shine through chance encounters, through busy train stations, through familiar roads, through changing days, through rocky paths, through uphill climbs, through downward spirals. Let it shine through the bends in the road, through the broken glasses and chipped mugs and wrinkled clothes and torn sneakers that you’ll never wear but never throw away. Let it shine through hopes and dreams and opportunities. Let it shine through missed boats, flat tyres, closed doors, battle scars and cloud bursts. Let it shine through undone shoelaces, departed flights, empty bank accounts and bee stings. Let it shine through tears - of joy, sorrow, pain, shock, anger. Let it shine through goodbyes and hellos and losses and rather nots and departures from the plan. Let it shine through fused bulbs and shattered illusions and grey skies. Let it shine bright in your eyes, your heart, your soul, your all-conquering spirit. Let it shine through the darkness. And let it shine through the realisation that the darkness has only been put there so that you can find the light itself.


The Little Girl Who Stole Christmas

Jules Miller rubbed her temples as she stared at her computer screen. The spreadsheet she’d been working on had given her a headache. It was 3am on Christmas Eve. There was no tree in her apartment this year - she was spending Christmas with her parents - but there were still presents to be wrapped before she left for home the following morning. And that blasted spreadsheet left to finish. 

She could hear the baker across the street opening up his shop. There’d be the smell of freshly baked brioches, scones, and hot cross buns with cinnamon that would waft all the way down Oxford Street in a few hours’ time. It was this wonderful smell that Jules was thinking of as she drifted off to sleep at her desk. That night she dreamt she was a child again....

When Jules was twelve she’d been far from the ‘grey office suit and black pumps’ sporting accountant that she had turned into. She’d been, instead, a little redhead who wasn’t unfamiliar with the inside of the principal’s office. If she hadn't thrown water balloons off the parapet and into the corridor during break time, then she'd managed to glue her classmate to her seat in art class. If she hadn't managed to worry the class tortoise into his shell for two whole days by setting off firecrackers near the terrarium, then she'd managed to get into the janitor’s room and ring the bell that signaled the school-day’s end a half hour early. The worst trouble she’d ever been in was when she stole Christmas.

Every December the children in her school were allowed to pick someone they wanted to give a present to. It wasn’t much more than a chocolate Santa Claus that was sold at the school cafeteria. You paid for one at the counter and wrote out a message on the card they handed you, and before school broke for winter, they'd come around to all the classes and hand out the chocolate Santas with the notes tied to them. 

One day, on one of her prowls, Jules caught a glimpse of Mrs Steinbecker locking up a cupboard in the Staff Room. She'd never seen that cupboard open before. And in the three seconds it took for the door to shut and the key to be turned in the lock she'd spied the contents. Stacked high were hundreds of little boxes with chocolate Santas in them.

What would it be like, she wondered, if she got all the chocolate Santas in the cupboard? It would be funny, of course. So one evening, satisfied that all the teachers were still in the auditorium finishing the decorations for the Christmas play, she snuck into the Staff Room, pulled the keys from Mrs Steinbecker’s drawer and set about opening the cupboard. Then she busied herself with swapping notes on the chocolate boxes. Off came “For Cynthia, Happy Christmas!” from one chocolate Santa and on went “Dear Jules, you're the best!”. Off came “Dear Sam, Santa gives you a chocolate likeness of himself ’cause you're so sweet!” and on went another note exactly like the first one. She managed to swap 72 of the 100 notes she’d brought with her before deciding that she couldn’t risk being caught, and rushing home in time for Fantasy Island on the television. 

On the day the Santas were delivered to the children, only seven of the twenty-eight children in her class were fortunate enough to receive their treats. Then, Principal Richards followed by his assistant the mousy Miss Staples, heaved the sack of chocolates onto the teacher’s desk. He pulled out a box and very deliberately read the note taped to it. 

“Dear Jules, you’re the best!”, he announced to the class. “A sentiment that no fewer than 72 of your schoolmates seem to share,” he said turning to her. “You certainly seem to be popular, young lady.”

Her parents were called in that day. And when they left, they had to promise that their daughter would be on her very best behaviour henceforth. She was sent to her room at home, allowed no television, and a single weekly visit from her friend Alan by way of social interaction. There’d be no Christmas presents that year, she thought to herself. 

One morning during the holidays, after she discovered that she’d read all her comics twice already, she got restless. There were some art supplies she still had left. And she set about a project. She took a large white bag and painted it with Christmas trees and brown bears, both of which she was particularly fond of. Then she attached long braids made of colourful yarn to the handles, and hung the bag out the window. Taped to it was a note. “If you could please put something beautiful in my bag, I'd be very happy.” 

The bag fluttered in the wind for a week. It gathered snow. It collected falling leaves. And even a little green caterpillar. Jules placed the caterpillar on the fern in her room. A week later several of the fern’s leaves were gone, but there was a little cocoon on the plant. One morning she woke up to the sight of a yellow butterfly breaking out of the cocoon. Jules stayed very quiet in her bed watching as it struggled and eventually flew out the window. At that instant she knew that something magical was about to happen. And it did. 

That morning there was a package in the bag. She pulled it up into her room and tore away the brown wrapper. In it she found the longest pair of socks she’d ever laid eyes on, striped red, yellow and green, wrapped around a story book - Pippi Longstocking. She'd pulled on the socks, and read the book then and there. Later that evening she’d shown her parents what she’d found.

... Jules awoke that morning at seven, with a crick in her neck from sleeping at the desk. She realised she hadn’t thought back to that Christmas in years. She made her way to her bookcase, happily taking in the smell of freshly baked bread that sailed through the window, and reached for the topmost shelf where she kept her most important books out of reach of prying hands. There it was - her copy of Pippi Longstocking. Inside it, on the first page, was written in fading blue ink “Something that I hope will pass as beautiful, for a beautiful little soul.”

She looked out the window, a smile on her face. A yellow butterfly fluttered past. Spreadsheets to work on, unwrapped presents, none of it seemed to matter any longer. All was right with the world once again. Her present that Christmas, she would tell her own little girl years later, was that she had been reminded. 


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© Vaishali Dinakaran - Writer & Journalist