2023 Theme: Glow
Consider the idea that we can glow where light does not reach––like fireflies in the dark of the night, like jellyfish in the depths of the Mariana Trench, like nebulae in a universe of black matter… These little shimmers of ideas are birthed from one individual, holding a tiny sparkle to become one out of the million that grow and flourish into its own universe, its own power, its own voice … Tell us that glow for you.
Trinity Times’ first ever writing competition, in collaboration with TedxUofT and thereby corresponding to their 2023 annual conference theme of Radiance, was held over the month of Jan-Feb. The winners’ submissions follow.
WINNER #1- “The Return”
By: Mathuri Sivanesan
My time has almost come.
the weight of the Earth and the moon shall propel my being into another space,
into another time.
As the icy air stings my dulling round face,
seeping into my nose
filling my lungs with the shards of ice—
a cold heat.
With every step
I hurt, I ache
I wonder when the tremors will end
The Earth I stand on pulses,
What are you doing here?
Is it your time already?
And I retort:
Am I meant to know?
And each time the Earth bellows back to me
A strand of my hair rises,
Glittering strands floating into the air,
Each word from the soil
lifting a part of me into the space above,
and yet my feet stay stuck to the barren ground.
I am scared,
I cry out.
Calling for a boon from the skies,
for a boon to take me home into the night—
the Earth below me begins to rumble.
The clouds roll into wispy charcoal smokes
of fallen atoms—
I feel the weight of it all
pluming over me.
The waters pull far back from the shore,
then sweeps in the sands, the seashells, the crabs, the plastic bags, the broken bottles,
leaving those underwater to struggle
for air, before taking refuge in the tsunami.
Letting the waves pull those souls back to their home,
or some faraway place.
And as I tremble, the clouds shatter,
the heavens come undone,
calling the skies to weep,
calling the skies to wail.
And the Gods, they cry with me too.
They attempt to wash away the misery,
the drought, the dust, and the black mold—
attempting to flood us all again, because we have submerged those
and so, we all must drown too,
for it is only fair.
In the spirit of clean and alive, the heir comes down to say:
You mean well.
And I wonder, how they know this.
How can anyone mean
deeper into the earth,
farther than light can reach.
As I look around me,
as I look around the dark that
surrounds my eyes, my lungs,
the dark that is stored underneath the soles of my feet,
sifting between my toes,
entrapping me within its gravity
I look up once again
to see an epoch of light
in the shape of an orb.
And in this orb,
I see the sky in all its eternity,
and because of that the sky sees
So, I wait for the downpour to take me too,
Closing my eyes, I think to myself:
This is right where I should be.
Wishing for the water fill up my lungs
hoping that may wash away
the ash rushing through my veins,
the ash that feels gritty between my teeth,
the ash stuck underneath my fingernails.
I hope for the rain to fill this well with
me in it,
the only way to float.
But this does not happen.
the rain feels lighter now,
against the dark of my skin.
If anything, it feels cool and soft—
like small kisses on eyelids.
Finally opening my eyes,
only to see small glittering snowflakes
in the dark of this chasm
“The Return” was written using an intersectional and ecopoetic lens — taking strong influence from Black, Indigenous, and South Asian ecopoetics and ideology. In light of climate change and efforts of anti-colonialism, this poem invites a dialogue between Earth and the human in the hopes of writing our planet as an alive, thinking, and feeling character. The speaker of the poem faces the brink of what seems to be the end for both herself and the world she inhabits. When writing this piece, I strived to create movement and rhythm within the stanzas, as well as a building up towards the end of the poem in which the speaker experiences a sort of euphoric surrender, a renewed beginning.
“The Return” makes real the ability for the Earth to still instill hope and guidance in the form of light— providing a quiet, yet powerful hope. If one is open to the Earth the Earth will make way for you.
WINNER #2- My Fair Maiden
By: Laiba Irfan Butt
The angels, dismayed, Beauty was but tame,
The stars had lost their mesmerizing shine.
The doves less symbolic, swans brought to shame,
For there was a maiden much more divine.
Her laugh was that of a child’s happy days,
Her cheeks bloomed like blossoms of cherry red.
Her eyes sparkled with warmth and kindness,
Her words, magic, as once a fairy said.
The shadow of time overtook the maiden,
The years passed by, and love made her a wife.
Her love for two kids, her beauty forgotten,
But she’ll love us till the end of her life.
Though nought I can do, will return her glow of youth,
Her heart still shines bright, like an irrefutable truth.
In this sonnet, the speaker explains that even though society has stopped considering their mother beautiful, to the speaker, she still defines beauty. The speaker presents the setting of a time when the mother had all the symbols of beauty, with even Beauty itself taken aback by how godly the maiden in question was, using multiple literary devices such as metaphors to exemplify the conventional attractive features of this young woman. The speaker’s thoughts take a darker
turn, describing how aging has removed the woman’s socially accepted beauty, and while this is a natural process, of how cruel it is. However, the speaker reflects on their own feelings and indicates that beauty is truly internal and carried with love, which makes the woman, their mother, the most beautiful to them despite what others may think. This poem reflects being able to find the “glow” in a situation where society has dictated a negative attitude and that the inner beauty someone holds is far more impactful than their surface appearance.
WINNER #3 – Chilli Cheese Popcorn
By: Devarya Singhania
It usually takes six minutes, or three-hundred sixty seconds to pop a bag of popcorn. If you go three seconds under you’ll be feasting on kernels, and three over would give you burnt bitterness, masquerading as miniscule stained flowers we consider ‘popcorn’. A Daily Show highlight, two listens of Arabella by Arctic Monkeys or the time it takes for me to snooze my alarm in the morning; all are great accompaniments while you wait. And still, till the ice in my iced tea melts as the popcorn delays the seconds, there’s a trance which I kiss, cuddle until the smell of the chilli cheese popcorn warps my nostrils.
In a frantic breath of the aroma you’ve desired, you exercise your calves to rhyme with the slithering scent of paprika and cheese which currently rests in your mind, and you land before the minimalist kitchen, engraved with wooden shelves and marble tables.
The kitchen is lonely, aloof. Nefariously glistened by the whirs of the plastic fan on the ceiling as it breathes a view of the cider cabinets in their solace. I visit it to keep it company, but I’m the visitor whose exit is to hurt soon too. And becoming a visitor, you seek a place. You stand adjacent to the beige stool mom or grandma probably bought when you were sleeping-in last Sunday afternoon, making space on the table which still has a few Basmati rice granules splattered because the bag in which the rice came villainously had a hole of a few millimetres. It’s four-thirty and you haven’t eaten lunch yet. Rice doesn’t taste like grandma’s vegetable stews anymore, nor is it the accompaniment to a family dinner during festivals. Now it’s nutrition. Sixty grams of carbohydrates as per the serving. That’s how you know it.
You’ve barely eaten, and you’re still stubborn to accept coffee as a meal. You’re hungry for rebellion, but the gurgles in your stomach aren’t as energetic. Being hungry makes you seem like you’re flattening, that’s flattering. As the granules of the rice dangle in the corner, a few centimetres from where you sit, you notice it to be slightly damp, a tawny liquid probably cold. A subtle blur which reflects the diverging streak of the silver torch expressed by the flickering bulbs your dad forgot to fix last weekend – must be from grandma’s chai, four was half-an-hour ago. The househelp must’ve spilled it – yup that’s ginger and cardamom, grandma’s recipe. I’m not a chai scholar, but I’ve seen her sprinkle a pinch of cardamom – a pinch which fits accurately only on the circumference of her wrinkled fingers – which is then accompanied with some cinnamon, ginger, and the elevated down-pour of steamed milk onto the concoction. She calls it bliss. But your eyes can only flutter to the froth which flaunts itself through the elucidation and reminds you of the waterfall trips grandma took you to, until you outgrew the height of the tables. With the gurgles in your stomach, you inch closer to interrogate—you’ve always been curious. It sure smells like her chai – it must be.
Grandma is sleeping now and will wake up in an hour to have another cup. How can it be both a caffeine drink and a soothing concoction? She and Mom share the same habit, and yet I drink coffee. Wait, there’s an opened pack of biscuits resting quietly over the damp corner. You’re not surprised, you have around thirty packs of the same biscuit in the kitchen because everyone in your family loves those. Dad with his tea, uncle with his cappuccino, aunt with her cold brew, and mom
and grandma with their chai. You used to eat the biscuit with an adoration, but it’s too bleak now. Seeing it everywhere also irks you; you like cookies now.
You chuckle knowing that the moisture would soften the biscuits texture and harden dad’s irritation when he drinks his tea to-morrow. But you leave it be anyway, not knowing if dad will notice it this time because he’s been rushing to work in a frantic sprint. He arrives late too, and mom waits till midnight to accompany his exasperation. She’s hungry at eight, but eats not before eleven. You’ve told her to eat at nine, but she has to put your younger sister to sleep. You barely eat on time anyway, and so you start joining the dinner at eleven. Mom shouts as she can hear the gurgles roar in your stomach, but you convince her you’re not hungry.
By eleven the food’s a bit cold, and so you reheat it, taking a bite hoping to taste flavour: you don’t. Even still, your parents never complain, and devour the rice and stew with a general glee, while you count the granules in each spoonful.
The kitchen’s getting slightly cold. It’s a gloomy afternoon, quiet, while the fan spews out a breeze to awaken the faint hairs on your arm, otherwise always covered in the sleeves of a jacket. It’s thirty degrees outside, but you still wear a jacket. Hilarious as you’ve always been.
Lost to the squinting of your eyes as you view the ramp of fashionable glasses cemented on different shelves, you feel yourself to be in a museum. Lost in a trance, the edge of your right palm soaks in the cold, spilled remains of the chai, while you shudder in a heave.
There. Chilli cheese. Marvellous. Your eighth bag this week, but each smell was stupendous. Eight meetings with the kitchen of three hundred and sixty seconds, eight conversations. Eight occasions where the chai oozed out from a different corner, and eight occasions which saw differences in the disguises of the chaos at home. Thursday it heard discontent between mom and grandma as their chai was cold. Friday it could hear dad talk about investments with grandpa at eleven thirty at night.
Today was Saturday’s silent gesture.
It’s a routine you’re all too familiar with, and The Big Bang Theory’s eighteenth re-run awaits. The bag isn’t hot because you’ve learnt to grab it from the top.
You gently nudge it open, as the smell of the chilli cheese popcorn warps your nostrils.