Phantom Dreams and Ghost Pain

Muskaan Ohri

at seven you look up at the sky
drowning your eyes in the yellow moon above
you raise pudgy hands to touch it, catch it
seemingly just out of reach
but you can’t,
so learning of funny looking men
who go to space in their fishbowl heads
you vow to hold it one day
and stumble over the word astronaut
writing it in the sand.

at ten you read your first novel
under the bed sheet, past midnight
stories of heroes and villains and the in-betweens
tales of conquerors and their blazing swords
bringing glory to their name and land.
finding solace in the black and white
who become your friends
you swear to save the world.

at thirteen you read a magazine
sifting through the glossy pages
“Phantom Limbs and Ghost Pain”
the title reads.
placing a finger at every word as you progress
you take it in and wonder how people hurt
in arms and legs they once had
but no longer exist
how the mind is an absolute trickster
a deceiver, a cheater
and perhaps you will be a hero and
perhaps you’ll save the world this way
if only you unravel its mystery
and write down ‘neurologist’,
dreaming of you
wearing a coat of white one day.

at fifteen you have your first heartbreak
shriveling in sobs on the floor of your bedroom
you watch your reddened eyes in the mirror
and find a spark dulled, diluted
the eyes that were black and white before
you find, have a speck of grey.
tunes of love and loss fill the room
you don’t know or see it then
a chink in your armor
and you find yourself a little less whole,
hurting for a phantom love
searching for ghosts of yesterday.

at seventeen you storm inside and slam the door,
drowning the voices behind you
hoping it seals the leak in your heart
or your brain
a paper sits heavy on the desk
motionless as the wind blows
the red on it marks your failure
the things you wanted to be
leave the things you are
and float up silently
to become castles in the air
and outside the window
as you look at the moon
you find yourself shrunken
a fist that can’t hold
the vast expanse of the land it wished to save.

at twenty-one, you enter a well lit graveyard
hundreds of warm bodies
heads hung over a table of books
you catch a tiny ray of hope
these are now
flashes of lightning, rare and sudden
trying to make the most of it while it lasts
you down the cup of brown liquid next to you
with fervour
and hope to salvage a saving grace
as the sun sets, and comes up again.

look around
in the train as you journey home
in the rain with your hefty backpack
in the space for your thoughts
while they slip and wander
as you struggle to push the key in the keyhole
as you stir the pot for a defeated dinner
in the mirror, in your empty eyes
whose colour you’ve long since forgotten
and ask yourself
Where is the land that dreams go
when they die and become ghosts?

This work has been published in Beetle Magazine's July 2020 Issue

Illustration by Dhanashree Pimputkar


  • Real awesome

    Vibha Khullar
  • It’s awesome. The choice of words is simply brilliant. The expression of thoughts is so flowy and effortless. Keep it up.

    Anita Sawhney

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