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"At Sixteen": A Poetry Collection by Shruti Dubey

Heavenly Hell

i feel empty.

when the day comes, there is no light.

there is a gaping wound in my chest

being slowly carved into a second face.

the demonic hand grips me with its talons

and pushes everything inside me all at once.

overwhelming, it makes me feel.

yet at once a smile appears

on my face in which people see -

nothing but me, and only a version of me. 

but when darkness ascends, there is a spark.

it speaks to me, it is my friend -

a safe haven, all troubles put aside,

it invites me into this beautiful den

in which no explanation, no proof need be:

just me and what i need to be.

me and my heart, we don’t have to beat.

this hollowness that stands before me -

its fulfilment expands into wonderful things.

come another day, my troubles are past.

remembering back, the hallucinations don’t last.

a brief moment of weakness, it was.

a glimpse of what happens when emotions take over;

not by fear, but by hope itself -

the possibilities and all it entails.

but what if that hope doesn’t last,

and yet again we fall into this pit of heavenly hell?

More Than My Ending

When I approach your doors,

Greet me not with finality

Nor pressure me to sleep,

Have me not chained and begging

For you to lend me peace -

For I will come prepared,

Ready to accept your hand,

And I will treat you faithfully,

Hoping life doesn’t end with me.

When I cry myself to reality,

And say goodbye to family,

Find it in your heart

To not take me so suddenly,

Nor lend me your helping hand

When I have yet to surrender only.

When you disturb my thoughts,

The way you do so daily,

I ask for understanding

In my faithful imagining

Of yourself being so graceful,

So tender just like sleeping.

Let me fall not so suddenly,

Nor let me leave entirely empty;

Let me have the satisfaction

Of saving my gentle memory.

For even now I am hoping

You are more than my ending -

And when the time comes, 

You bring a new beginning.


Inside the sari shop we are sitting.

Touching and talking to the vibrant stitchings

Of fabrics long-stretched - as if to the River and back,

With which my hands make contact, 

And I feel myself come alive.

Of every colour I see, the next one is better;

Canary-mint with an explosion of heather,

Black-blood with the scent of bitter-sweet paan,

Sangria-gray like an old woman's last days -

When all that exists has been sought

And gracefully washed away.

Designs and demonstrations of Banaras’ history.

The people can be seen singing and dancing

To rhythmic melodies of their rich, old stories

Of a time when the country came to a beginning;

When my father was yet to be born,

And my mother, yet to be living.

In another moment, I live elsewhere.

Back home in the city of the faraway me,

Sitting and talking to all the distant things,

Feeling out of place in a country I was born in.

But in this shop, I am sitting.

Playing with the cousins for a long time I won’t see.

The marriage is tomorrow, the reception the day after -

And here I sit with my sister, choosing my mother’s sari.

I will travel around Varanasi, breathing in its air

While the temples and drivers surrender to their prayers.

I will search the world and seek wonderful things,

But nothing as eye-opening as what has come to define me

Here: in my mother’s city - Varanasi. 

Take Me Back

it’s back again.

out of the blues

it has appeared

to tear and to wear me

into one of its many mists.

i am droplets -


from bright and

heavy clouds

that softly sing me. 

take me back  

to your vacation

when you slept

and sighed

in others’ dreams.

leave me alone now,

for i have been rising

into more 

than what you made me.

but you are back again.

and now i am splattering

to your infectious rhythm

of pain and desire

to go back 

to when i was fire,

and you were nothing.

blissful ignorance

they say

that when death comes

the soul borne away with the air

traps itself in reflective surfaces.

is it because

humanity fades into existing

whilst refraining from

allowing their truths 

to seep into reality?

is it because 

we glimpse at living

through a depleted surface

of pretence?

or that

we allow not our capabilities

to invade our very mind-frame,

bleed into our deepest secrets

and reveal our ignorance?

why then,

do those mourning souls

hold on to the living,

straining for every fibre

that reflects blissful being,

yet being unable to pass

through that barrier of death,

into the nation of lies and secrecy -

into the waves of sanity,

away from insanity 

and far from terrifying reality?

someone once said

the difference between tragedy and terror

lies in how it is terror that exists

when humans realise 

What they are truly capable of [1]

stories hang in this midst of a crowd,

waves of emotions 

and unfathomable existence.

in the after

is when these tangible imposters

wash away with the wishes of the fallen -

and are borne away from

the opposite land of what we call

blissful ignorance. 


[1] A quote by Joseph Brosky - a Russian-American Poet.


there is no limit to my fall

like a feather i am weightless -

weighed down to nothingness

in all that defines me

as my burdens sing me

into the tragic song of humanity

when the wind whispers its stories

it does so delicately

and so entreatingly

that i become everything 

and nothing and

all at once i define me

yet i have no ground

when i see suffering and pain

and feel it too deeply rooted 

in my - 

where do you belong?

where am i and who can i be 

when there is no limit to me?

like winds over the salty seas

my direction changes so often

i have become aimless -

but with my sense of confusion

comes also that of clarity

when i understand that you

and me

and us

and we,

how infinite we are in our abilities

and capable in our self-assurity.

how insignificant in our 


and unknown as the dust 

of past memory

nothing lives on 

because everything fades

either into 


incompetence or

the light of a new day

but i know that with me 

what remains is my limit

and how undignified it is 

in crossing all boundaries -

allowing me to become whoever 

i think i can be

and making me dance 

on the tip of my toes

even when i’m certain 

all that is ever tangible

is the abstractness 

of these holes

in my heart 

and brain 

and people around me

i see voids ever so consuming.

all that is or ever was has no meaning

all that i am and know 

only holds true in my feelings

and i am certain i don’t need anything else

other than that which makes me stop,

and realise,

and live

in this brief, bright light of 

unknown experiences,

and limitless 

all-consuming time

of my 

weightless existence.


Poem collection ('At Sixteen') by Shruti (Shree) Dubey, 17 years old, Bangkok


"Most of these poems were written during the one year and more I spent at home self-studying for my IGCSEs. (I had to come out of my previous school due to financial complications.) I was cut off from my friends and school environment - the latter was a prominent aspect that defined me significantly at that point in my life. I caved into depression for months after that, and having to navigate my life took a lot of time and emotional rollercoasters. 

I had hope that things would work out because I wanted to be strong and confident again, like how I was at my previous school. These poems are only a small fraction of the numerous ones I’ve written since then. Hopefully, you recognise how the themes of depression, loss and hope are ingrained into these poems. From “Heavenly Hell” depicting my sadness to “Varanasi” providing me with a new, hopeful, perspective on my life - after I visited Varanasi, India, with my family to attend my uncle’s wedding - and then “Take Me Back” highlighting how uncertain and emotionally draining isolating myself from society was. 

Despite all that chaos, I see character development. I believe that I’ve grown in every way as a result of my hardship, and appreciate the chances that life provides for people to learn - especially about themselves, and how resilient they can be in simply existing."

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Joel Amani Mafigi
Joel Amani Mafigi
Sep 05, 2021

When I read through the poems, I feel another living energy expressing what I call everlasting.

Thank you for the poems.

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