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I once rented an apartment, that earlier belonged to someone else.

Someone who loved lavender, as the walls of the living room indicated,

Someone who liked the morning sun pour onto their bedroom sheets,

While the window lay curtain less and its panes remained spot free.

Someone who knew the light shone brightest in the west corner of the balcony,

For all the plants and pots lay assembled, smiling their days to glory.

Someone who loved pigeons but did not make friends with them,

For several packs of grains lay in the feeding trays, completely sealed.

Someone had left their heart permanently in a temporary home.


I once searched for the quietest and farthest corner in the library,

One that no one could have found.

Only to realise that it was already housed by a stranger who had by then left.

But had housed the corner for that brief period of time.

An earmarked copy of meditations by Aurelius lay bare,

Hinting at the lessons that that stranger had contemplated.

Along with teetered pencil ends and rejected bits of crumpled notes,

Buried in Dickens’ Oliver Twist and Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own

What wisdom did the reader collect, what philosophy did those books share,

Or did they simply provide permanent company to the reader’s solitary mind sphere.


I once walked into a coffee shop, adding to its cacophony.

To the quick rush of caffeine induced laughter, and a mindless hurry.

I hovered my eyes to find a spot, within the morning humdrum of affairs.

Right in the middle of the noise, lay an empty table and a chair,

Accompanied by a lipstick stained tall latte glass,

And half a caramel biscuit bitten to shreds.

Next to it lay a bill, that had a cancelled order of one espresso,

For whom, I’d never know.

Someone had waited upon someone else.

Someone had not showed up.

A conversation to be had, but accompanied by silence instead.

A permanent purchase of coffee imagined for a meeting that never happened.  


I once walked into someone’s heart, just like that.

Knowing it wasn’t mine to stay.

Yet I laughed and cried along with it,

Hoping that it would say,

Those words that I wanted to hear.

I love you and I love you forever.

I wouldn’t have stayed there. I would’ve wandered astray.

And I knew it would hurt, as long as I remained there.

For I was making a permanent mark in a temporary heart.


We live permanent emotions in temporary situations,

Fleeting moments of rest as emotional solvents.

Try as we might to protect ourselves from change,

It always comes knocking our doors, crashing through hallways.

Homes and hearts. Are all the same.

Filled with so much love, and voids of pain.

We are but residual inklings.

Like stars in a dark sky,

Out of our reach yet in our grasp every night.

What then is our life?

If nothing but a series of temporary homes edging towards a permanent respite.


This poem was originally published by New Asian Writing on 8 April, 2019. The link to the website is here:

Mariyam Raza Haider

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A journalist by training, Mariyam Haider is a writer and performance poet in Singapore.
She is the researcher of the book The Billionaire Raj: A Journey Through India’s New Gilded Age written by James Crabtree.
Her writing has appeared in Hindustan Times, Livemint, Feminism In India, New Asian Writing and Kitaab.

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