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Fresh-Green Saplings – Sudha Balagopal

This much I know about dismemberment. It’s an absence, and a presence at the same time – a shadow-ghost, a persistent haunting, and a piercing pain.

Serrated knife poised over the hefty papaya, I read your text, ‘She’s pregnant.’ Next thing I know, I’ve sliced off the tip of my index finger. 

That papaya. Such a duplicitous fruit, the skin a deceptive shade of yellow, the flesh raw-solid, the seeds clustered like black pearls. Hard to judge from the appearance whether the fruit is sweet or tasteless, succulent or squishy.

I lose not just my finger-print whorl, I lose the most sensitive part of my digit, the one with which I’ve learned to feel: for skin, for beard, for jaw, for lips.

I discard that bloody fruit.

In the past, I’ve saved papaya seeds, dried them in the sun, sowed them into soil in pretty pots, and transplanted them into the ground where they grew into fresh-green saplings with wide leaves.

Every year, a crazed wind arrives in April and I fret and fuss with the foot-high slender stems as they bend and buckle in the gusts. I’ve tried covering the small plants with cages, with sheets, with buckets; my papaya plants give up against the gale’s force.

But you implanted a seed in her that grew.

Now, my four fingers must work extra hard, labour over the burden shifted to them, while the tipless finger points in the direction where you live with her and the child.