While Spain has 35.1 organ donors per million, Britain has 27, USA has 26, Canada has 14, and Australia has 11, India’s count stands at 0.08 donors per million population… around 1 million Indians suffer from corneal blindness and are awaiting corneal transplantation. Against a requirement of 1,00,000 corneas, only 38,000 eyes are collected annually.
–The Times of India, 27 November 2010
You have to understand—I grew up dreaming of surplus eyes
dumped in oceans too far to swim to. I grew up in a body accused
of laziness. I grew up on imported tears and foggy days.
Then, you died—the phone call was a lottery winning.
After months counted on knuckles to be sure
how many days each entailed, I was
the chosen one. You were a long-awaited
delivery of spare parts. I’m sorry.
Because you waited, patient and airless, because your eye
could see past twelve years of impossibles, because
my mother could organize our rendezvous over email,
because you waited, I owe you my college degree.
We met just before Valentine’s Day, I remember
because the chocolates brought to my hospital bed
all came in heart-shaped boxes. When I awoke
to small print and colors like magenta and olive,
they gave me a certificate of bravery. We celebrated
that you were young and healthy when the moment came.
I did not know what death meant
Did you hear me, drugged and dizzy, counting
in Spanish? Did you wonder, at the touch of scalpel,
whom you were entering? Do you speak Spanish now?
You clung on despite broken stitches, fought
the monsoon with your little brass sword.
I forgive you the stabs; I know you
were practising for something important.
I had buried birds in my grandfather’s backyard,
knew something of stillness and sleep. But I did not
know your death meant that you had lived.
I’m glad we’ve learned to sing
each other to sleep again.
PS: In a different version of our stories, could we have been friends?
This poem was first published in the April 2014 issues of the Four Quarters Magazine