Gone Lawn
a journal of literature
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Gone Lawn 44
Spring equinox, 2022

Featured artwork, v903 (Dark Oddities Series), by Joe Lugara

New Works

Aekta Khubchandani

Folded Island
After Beckett

I am in my mother's shadow. Like I never left. Maybe she cast her thick, black shadow on her womb. And then perhaps, I made it mine. I certainly stretched it out of the womb when I entered this world. It's as if I were wrapped in a blanket that was her shadow, and I carry it with me everywhere I go. Perhaps that's not true and this is only an assumption, because what mother would nurse a shadow, or a darkness so dark, and willingly bring it to life? What I mean to say is that my shadow is just like my mother's, which only means that I am a lot like her, and a lot of her is inside of me, and outside too, if you look closely at my features and the texture of my skin.

By the time I was born, she had died so much and yet, had a fair share of dying still to do. Like her paintings, her dying also remains unfinished, and that perhaps is the reason why I carry a dying of a peculiar kind within the chambers of my chest. On most days, I want to finish her paintings for her, die a little on her behalf so she doesn't have to. I die because I have her dying genetics, and I die to finish my own dying, which should never be the focus of someone's life. But it is mine now. It was her paintings that made me acutely aware of this transaction, this tension or it perhaps just felt like two heavy ticking watches worn on both my ankles. It has been tough to walk this life. Perhaps I'm testing my imagination, perhaps I'm telling a white lie but that too, I learnt from my mother. And if you believe me, if you believe that I'm lying, then you'd know that I am in fact not lying at all because I'm just like her.

When I left her womb, the first sky I saw was my mother's full-blown canvas painting, torn at the edges, clipped on the ceiling. It had silver dollar fishes, a disfigured face screaming underwater with bubbles and tears, blood oozing. I think it is possible that bubbles were blotches of blood and tears were just shapes that I imagined to tickle my imagination. There were multiple hands chopped off at the wrists in different corners and the colors were cobalt blue, aquamarine, leaf green, deep violet, cerulean blue, and emerald green with black and burgundy stippling in different places. It is probably not possible for me to have seen this painting when I was a baby and to know that a silver dollar fish was a silver dollar fish and a disfigured face would look like what was painted on the canvas and so on. It's not possible to have known these things firstly, and then secondly, to remember them with such exactitude that it puts my mother's motherly character to you in question. By telling you this, I have now caused you to judge my character. Do you see how my mother and I go hand in hand? How you cannot think about her without thinking about me or how you cannot think about me without thinking about her? Do you not wonder how we can be two separate bodies when she is as much me as I am as her?

But I should tell you that she was special. A slender neck over her shoulders, a firm head, her skull was big and beautiful and perhaps that was the birthplace of all her ideas for paintings and when she painted, her brush strokes were thick and strong, they would take weeks to dry on the canvas. Every morning she would sit with a cup of hot noodle soup and stare at the canvas. She painted like she was writing. The canvas was spread over the desk and not mounted on an easel. Her hair was curly and long and sometimes she would dip it in paint and paint with her leaking hair. When I was little, she sang a song about honey and teeth to keep me from crying, had me swaying on a hammock indoors. And she painted half jellyfishes and half stars on the part of the ceiling that was right above the hammock. She must have wanted to paint something simple and nice for me.

I grew up seeing her paint and then I grew up seeing her shrink. Her paintings kept getting bigger and she kept getting smaller and she looked even smaller because her paintings were larger than life. Even worse, as I grew bigger, she looked tinier, so much so that I didn't know anymore what her purpose in this life was. Was it not to finish her dying? The teeth and eyes in her paintings were bigger than what she held in her body. Her face had more wrinkles, which became folds and soon I could imagine what would become of her body—a quiet, folded island. She looked just like the shadow, her own shadow, that she had cast over my birth.

One morning, I poured my deepest desire into her noodle soup cup. It was sacred for me to wish for her death. Perhaps that soup cup was my magic lamp and I brutally wished for her end. And after she had the soup, a part of me died with her.

Aekta Khubchandani is a writer and poet from Bombay. She is matriculating her dual MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry & Nonfiction) from The New School in New York, where she works as a Readings & Community Development Assistant. She is a Teaching Assistant for the senior illustration class at Parsons School of Design. She is the founder of Poetry Plant Project, where she conducts month-long workshops. She is the winner of most recently, Epiphany's Breakout Prize 2022 in Poetry among others. Her film, "New Normal," won the Best Microfilm award at the Los Angeles International Film Festival. Her work is nominated for Best American Short Fiction, Best Microfiction, Best of Net (Poetry), and others. She has been longlisted for Toto Awards by TFA three times. She has works published in Tupelo Quarterly, Passages North, Speculative Nonfiction, Pigeon Pages NYC, Entropy and others. She's working on two hybrid books.