the only thing that
upset Mr. Jain more than
the death of his dear wife
a day before, was, when he
returned home from the
funeral, to find her shadow
lingering near a cupboard
in the living room
startled, out of his mind
at first, two days past, he
grew to adjust to watching
the wraith move around the
place, get lost in dark rooms,
and against the pitch black
wall of the study, disappear

at noon, he’d find his
toast and hot tea at the
table, and at night, his pills
by the bedside, and up at six
in the morning, he’d be hauled
out of bed, and shoved out the
house, in mud-caked running
shoes, pajamas, and a
cotton headband

in the evenings,
when the floor planks
grew a frosty cold, he’d
find her waiting on the bed,
next to a bowl of wafers, corn
and nuts, and a sandalwood
chessboard set up on unwashed
sheets; and while, after all this
time, he found it impossible to
beat her still, her pieces now
were always black

months later, when
Mr. Jain––brinjals, lettuce,
peas, and cauliflower in hand,
crossing a packed road, never
made it across, the shadow
waited on for days and days
by her window, and when
no one ever showed up,
returned, quietly, to
the cupboard

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TUSHAR JAIN is a Delhi-based writer. He was the winner of the 2012 Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize. Subsequently, he won the 2013 Poetry with Prakriti Prize and the 2014 Raed Leaf India Award. He was a winner of the 2014 DWL Short Story Contest and nominated further for the 2014 Dastaan Award. His first play Reading Kafka in Verona was long-listed for the 2013 Hindu Metroplus Playwright Award. His work as a poet was long-listed for the 2015 Toto Funds the Arts Award for Creative Writing. His published work has appeared in various forums; most recently in a favorably received anthology of contemporary Indian poetry, The Unsettled Winter.

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