Moon | Mrityunjay Mohan
Black. Skin flakes like rust from steel. I am housed in a bubble of fear. I am held in a cage up in the clouds. The oar is sunlight in the skies. A weeping tree bends, touches the earth to its forehead. It prays, twists, and I watch the branches unfurl like hair from a bun. The sea shudders like children in snow like it is in fear of my trip. The weeping tree looks over at me, keeps vigil, holds itself responsible for my safety. In small mud houses live small mud people. In rocking wooden boats sit mottled boys with leaking flesh and organs undone. I feel I am a wound. I drip and drip and drip.
Grey. In the moon, mother said, live two angels. They breathe helium (what is that?), they sit on craters (what is that?). The oar laps in the moonlight, a crescent-shaped scar on my left cheek. I am sitting between wood and the moon. I am closer to the stars than the sand. In little pieces of seashells, pressed to the ear, you can still hear my voice. On the shore of the sea, across brown sand, you can still see my face. I know the way like I know the strands of my hair. Black as the sea under my rocking, rocking, rocking boat. I want to reach the moon. That is why I row.
Green. Moss and vines climb upon the little wooden doors of little wooden houses. In the sea, algae and seaweed float like abandoned children in the playground. On the moon, a smiling face looks down at me. She is shrouded in white. The light from the stars glitter like dust in sunlight. Oars of moonlight filter into the sea, splash like sinking bodies, and thrashing arms. The moon is a watercolor on the black sea under the boat. Mama isn’t on Earth anymore. Mama is not alive on land anymore. Mama is in the moon. I see her in the craters (what is that?), breathing helium (what is that?). I quicken my pace. I will reach her soon.
Brown. The wood tumbles like a clumsy man left ashore. It tips to the left, then right, spilling water like tea from a cup. Milk foaming at the top. The clouds cluster over the sea like cells over a wound. Form a group like they are little gossiping children. I know they are talking about me, saying things about the little boy on the little boat. Whispering their nightly prayers before disappearing into their rooms. The night is darkening around me like a blanket, cozy as a blister on the lower lip. Little children dot the moon like hollowed-out eyes, tiny sockets gleaming, a star on each round brown sea. Thin, shapeless skies. I am closer now. I can make out the little curve of the mole on my mother’s nose. I can smell her in the sea. She smells of sandalwood. She smells of wet forests after dark. She is the sweat that hangs around my forehead. She is the hope coiled around my chest like armor. I know I will get there in a few minutes. Closer still.
White. I am swaddled in a blanket. I wrap the cloth around my shoulders and step out of the trembling boat. The boat is human; it aches, struggles, folds in on itself. I leave the boat at the steps to the moon. My fingers are curled into a fist, forming little crescent moons on my palm. The steps are rickety, old, warped, wooden planks. They are little talking angels covered in brown. I can hear them whispering about my arrival. I walk up the steps, and into a large crater (what is that?) and mama is here. She looks at me. She wears a white gown. I breathe helium (what is that?) and mama beckons me forward. I grab her hand between my own like a single oar in an abandoned boat, like I am to be saved from sinking in the sea, from sinking amidst the little talking angels. I am standing in a house of white dust. I am enclosed in thin-veiled fear. I sink into mama’s body like the moon sinking into the clouds. I am a translucent bag of wounded organs. I cannot talk anymore. Syllables wither and melt within me. They turn to solid husks of forgotten letters. Mama kisses my forehead. And rocks me to sleep.
More about the author:
Mrityunjay’s work has been published or is forthcoming in The Michigan Quarterly Review, The Indianapolis Review, Oyster River Pages, The Masters Review, and elsewhere. He’s been awarded scholarships by Sundance Institute, The Common, Frontier Poetry, and elsewhere. He was a semi-finalist for the Copper Canyon Press Publishing Fellowship. He has worked as a guest editor, a reader, and an intern at various literary journals. Currently, he’s an editor for ANMLY, and he’s a reader for the Harvard Review and The Masters Review.