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By Mydhili R Varma

It was the fourth watch of a mosquito-annexed nighttide

When I first saw the tree with its flaming fruits.

Bewitched, I held the rusty window bars and watched

And watched and watched

Until time broke down into burnt flecks and landed on my cheeks

Until a wailing crowd formed around the low-hanging fruits and blocked my view,

Reminding me to uncross my legs and dash to pee.

Nobody knows on which day

The tree will bear these dazzling, fiery fruits

But as legend goes, it happens on the day

The waifs set off the invisible tripwire

On ground zero of loathing soaked in timeless bias,

Forgetting how far a non-person should go

Forgetting which lanes their feet shouldn’t tread

Forgetting not to hum hymns while buying groceries

Forgetting never to make direct eye contact.

They find their deaths in the oddest of places –

Forbidden roadsides, temples, schools.

This is where all of those who shouldn't even exist, end up

Strung up a branch and lit like a bonfire

Heirs of the blazing fruit tree.

Ma issues the same warnings every morning we go out to play

Not that road, not that shop, not so close, not too loud.

I hold my breath until we’re in a safe zone

But Sonu will listen to no one

He’s always testing the tripwire

A foot here, a finger there, a grin too wide, a hum too loud.

I don’t tell ma

Not because she will threaten to beat him with a rolling pin

I don’t tell ma because if there is anyone

Who can cross the tripwire without setting it off

It is him

And maybe someday he will

Until then we’ll have to be careful not to end up

As heirs of the blazing fruit tree

By Mydhili R Varma

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