Darling, Every Day I Wake Up Afraid

Urvashi Bahuguna

Fresh from the ER, I drove round a parade 
ground empty but for peepal trees and a row

of slumbering buses. Stretches where I released
the wheel – most freedom I ever granted myself.

I meant to tell you of times I have been afraid 
– most times, most days. Look how I take up driving

and give it up again & again. Instead, I tell you this.
Once, I longed for ice cream, drunk and happy 

in the middle of nowhere, vineyards on all sides of the night. 
We tunnelled through darkness unblemished, stopped

on a shoulder to see the space station cross over 
the grapes. Climbed halfway up the gate we parked by.

I felt my own glow hum as I held the bars 
and leaned back to tilt my face to the stars. 

It was foolhardy. I was brown in white country, 
a trespasser on private land. I didn’t care. Could 

scarcely grasp the numbers I beheld, the way 
the light of one star seemed to touch 

another. I want to say something about grace and rescue.
About how fear chases me. A trained canine, a girl and a corn field.

Instead, I’ll remind you of this. We jumped over a different fence,
long ago, in Nrityagram. No one would have come for us,

fair skinned, wearing the right clothes in the right year. Can still see 
myself climbing over that gate in my kurta, thinking I could do this, 

eat fear for lunch, as my feet landed on that red, shuttered earth.