Wingword Poetry Prize 2020 is now open. Submit your poems today!

Dream Catcher

Niharika Shah

I am running. I am always running
away, never to,
never run to wards.
I am breathless. I am always short of air –
a drought, a casket empty somehow still holding on
to a body that bays to be plundered,
hands to be cuffed, limbs, quivering,
manacled, forced to be wide as the waters of
the East, to be dived
into,
divided through, like the Sea that split for the weary.
I was not born a miracle
but I bleed the same color and I wonder if they still think
I’m pretty.


I find windows bolted shut one night
magically broken into the next.
Walls that absorb my screams, give form to doors
and secret passages.
Week after week, the narrative builds.
The escape is new, but the prison remains.
The fear – grows.


I am always running.


Sometimes, he is faceless, or I choose for him to be so;
Sometimes he dons familiar eyes
and you ask me – which cuts deeper?
Being chased and hushed and riveted to wood
by a man without a mouth,
without ears to hear me writhe?
Or waking up to hearing his footsteps amplify
for in this world, he brings me
breakfast.


I am never in one place twice.
It is either a village, or the corner of a noisy street,
quiet,
the back of a diner on a traffic-free highway,
a bathroom, a bus, a broken-down hut;
nobody ever saves me.
I don’t walk out a hero. I don’t suddenly grow wings –
I run.
I do what it takes to save me
and I used to wake up to a pillow soaking wet,
feeling naked
stunted
wrong
till I realized not once when I’m running
do I slip, or stumble,
do I fall. I never die.
Perhaps because it is my dream to dream,
my plot and its pawns
– if so, what is this here
if not my poem,
if not my life,
if not my course to run.


Leave a comment