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The New Word We Learned

Babitha Marina Justin

The first time Prof. Thomas taught us
anachronism in Dr. Faustus, the girls
tittered, we jangled our bangles
and pleated our pallus
with our shy, sweaty palms.

‘Aana’ in Malayalam is an elephant,
and in our arrogant parlance of the young
‘chroni’ was madness.
We laughed at the ‘mad elephant.’

Everything tickled us, the handsome professor
cracked a joke to distract the class,
we had read that before in
Boban and Molly
comic strips.
He glanced at us like lightning,
licked his moustache and spelled
‘necromancy’ with a hiss. Nothing to do with
either neck or romance, he said.
That zipped us up with a double-edged stab,
we didn’t talk about it.

Years later, I met Prof. Thomas at his home,
arthritic and obese. He could no longer
teach, but he lingered like an anachronism,
senility drooling from his mouth,
in a room full of freshly washed grand-children.
My neck tingled
sensing the absence of new words.

Babitha Marina Justin is an Associate Professor in English, a poet, and an artist. A Pushcart Prize nominee in 2018, her poems and short stories have appeared in many journals like Eclectica, Esthetic Apostle, The Paragon Press, Fulcrum, The Scriblerus, Trampset, Constellations, etc. She has published two collections of poems, Of Fireflies, Guns and the Hills (2015) and I Cook My Own Feast (2019). She is about to debut as a novelist with Sandpaper Memories (2021).