The Penal Colony

The days are running slowly in this penal colony, and I take my time to do anything I like doing when I feel it. In the meantime, in between my spontaneous and lazy actions, I listen to the multitude of birds singing, the gentle sea raising not far away, the squirrel’s squeaky rhythm, and I enjoy the sight of all the greenery that surrounds me: palm trees, banana trees, the great mangoes, the bougainvillea, and the flowering hibiscus, plus the colossal banyan that covers and protects my home and soul from the scorching sun. They saturate my neighborhood with oxygen and delight.

The rhythm of life is as slow as my breath, both during the day and at night, when the Queen of the Night, who now sleeps, opens its flowers, saturating the air with the intoxicating scent of jasmine. I glimpse the sun rising far beyond the tall trees fencing my property, the sky brightening, and the crows approaching my balcony hoping to receive a few bites of my breakfast. Every morning the same; they stare at me croaking, inciting, and begging. Not today, not now, I’ve already eaten it all, and the crumbles belong to the ants now.

After a long time, I write again in pen on the notebook, like many years ago. The speed and the creepy sound of the ink that fixes on the paper are synchronous with the rate of my thought, my mood of the moment and the lush nature that surrounds me. I breathe deeply and look up to the sky, and down to the earth, and in the middle to the trees that join the dimensions. Sounds, early morning smells, 200-degree vision, the taste of breakfast in my mouth, and the fresh air on my skin saturate my senses and complete the present.

Even the mind wants its part and wonders if this is a penal colony or a prize holiday I won or earned in some way that I also don’t know or remember. It’s up to me to decide. Meanwhile, a cow bellows out of sight, and my ears are in divine bliss. If I knew who to ask, I could choose to opt for a life-sentence and settle-down here, in no man’s land, where the passing time is watching me watching and resting in the arms of an endless number of setting and rising suns.

Umer Malik

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