When the Haze Descends

When the haze descends

upon this sun-speared land, already wet

with sweat and tropical rain, clouds are veiled,

and there is smoke

in the air. Everything is a dismal grey.


Beneath September’s scented moon

the flames of lanterns link

together like lovers’ hands. Ghosts

let loose for a day, rise

to meet the haze.


My heart turns wistful. Longing

for things I had once abhorred —the acrid blue

of spent crackers. The noise. The oil

of lamps defying a moon

mourning for the night.


I sniff around for autumn’s nip

right here in scoops of briny air.

My children are oblivious of my pain,

my friends aghast at my embrace

of the haze.


This polluting dust and smoke,

poverty’s export, falling

like toxic pollen on their children—

that’s their haze.


I walk under open skies tiara’d by

Singapore’s cityscape, and the static

of this wired metropolis hisses. I

walk on to meet the chins of street lamps

growing fuzzy beards of light.

The smell of insects roasting

in the dying embers

of spent fireworks. A dusk

hanging low in the sky. And a strange

wind murmuring, as if to itself,

a soliloquy about a land

that gropes in the sea for rock and sand.



Note: Around September each year, fires from vegetation burning in Indonesia affect Singapore’s air.


Author: Shikhandin

Shikhandin is the nom de plume of an Indian writer who writes for adults and children. She is an alumnus of The Anam Cara Writing Workshop, Ireland. Her published books, as Shikhandin, include Immoderate Men (Speaking Tiger), and Vibhuti Cat (Duckbill-Penguin-RHI). Contributor to Magic Stories for Eight Year Olds by Penguin RHI, and Flipped: An Anthology of School and Sports Stories by Harper Collins. A novel and a short story collection were published prior to her becoming Shikhandin. Her sci-fi story "Communal" was published simultaneously in two anthologies, A Dying Planet from Flametree Press and Avatar from Future Fiction in January 2020. Shikhandin's honours include: pushcart nominee by Aeolian Harp (USA) 2019, winner 2017 Children First Contest curated by Duckbill in association with Parag an initiative of Tata Trust, first prize Brilliant Flash Fiction Contest 2019 (USA), runner up Half and One Short Story Competition (India), Shortlist Erbacce Poetry Prize (UK), 35th Moon Prize (Writing in a Woman's Voice: USA), first runner up The DNA-OoP Short Story Contest 2016 (India), second Prize India Currents Katha Short Story Contest 2016 (USA), first prize Anam Cara Short Fiction Competition 2012 (Ireland), long list Bridport Poetry Prize 2006 (UK), finalist Aesthetica Poetry Contest 2010 (UK), Pushcart nominee by Cha: An Asian Literary Journal 2011 (Hong Kong). Shikhandin's poetry and prose have been published worldwide.

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