Sunday, 29 June 2014

Grace

“If there is a knower of tongues here, fetch him;
There is a stranger in the city
And he has many things to say.”
[Mirza Asad Ullah Khan Ghalib]

He will say what he has to, of course,
but to learn to listen, that is the greatest trial and joy;
To know of love, that insidious stranger,
that magnificent word, to fall
willfully and with the grace
that love demands, and the surrender.
For on the other side
of reason and rationality
I often forget something important.
With all of my logic, my caution,
my 'self-awareness', my exhaustion;

Sometimes I still wade through my days
and float through my nights, and emerge,
dry driftwood,
untouched by the the ocean, caressed by no wind,
tossed wildly in ecstasy by no frothing waves.
I am, but a stiff white skeleton of what I might have been.
Safe, safe but with no grace. I learnt how to live
once, under the bowers of towering trees,
but in the callousness of rubble and city lights, I forget.

There is no grace
in the passing of time without the giving of myself, broken as I might be,
indiscriminately. There is no grace
in holding back, deliberating,
forgetting where a day began and where it is ending.
There is no joy in living this life if I live it hollow,
if the echoes ring back to me in my fragile dreams.

I worried I would forget
the massive vulnerability
I hold in myself, so carefully.

But it is a joy
to know that there is still grace.
There is grace in the newness you open within me.
Grace in the delicate fumbles in the dark,
in the wonderful awkwardness of
freshly born lovers. There is grace
in the notes of your classical guitar,
resting on my skin like gentle drops of dew.

There is a stranger in my city,
and I wish to know him. I will learn the tongues
and wait in the rain in a blue dress.
I will open myself to the skies, and my skin
won't be burned or numb. I want to feel the drizzle
slide off my arms, and I want to feel a thunderstorm
beating in on my worn-out door, if it has to.
I want to hold every moment
in the hollows of my hands,
and partake of it well and deeply.

And perhaps when it passes
I will let myself pick up the glass fragments
of once-seamless hours, and hold them up to the light;
watch the sun break through the dust, and smile
at the grace of life.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Empty Plot

When I was younger,
There was an empty plot beside my house.

Weeds and brambles
boxed in on three sides.
An entanglement
One canal wide.

When goldfish from my aquarium died,
we threw them over the terrace wall.
Until we could see them no longer,
we would watch them fall.
That chaos of green seemed to have no floor,
on which unloved dead fish could land.
I watched, but
they simply vanished,
out of sight, out of hand.

They started building a house there.
It took years.
I would watch, wide-eyed,
a silent child,
watch my mysterious forest disappear.
I watched bricks and concrete and marble tiles
rise up from the floor they somehow found.
It took years.
Once, I tripped over fallen bricks,
and cracked a bone. That house, constantly in flux
watched my childhood pass. As I grew, so did it.

From my terrace, I now see an immaculate lawn.
Flowers in pots. Tiles on the driveway. A towering house,
looming over mine. A familiar stranger
to greet me whenever I come back home. Like
the rest of my street. The rest of my goddamn city.

Behind my house lay a bungalow, peach-walled.
I would watch it from my windows. It was always
alarmingly empty. Looking over my back-garden,
my guava tree, my grandparents' swing. It saw me
play, build, break. It watched steadfastly as I dreamed.
For as long as I can remember, it stood there, sturdy.

They're breaking it down now. I never asked why.
It's been a matter of days. Workers come
every morning, in the stifling heat,
brown figures against the stretched out sky
fighting a house with atavistic anger, straight out their bones.
First the walls went, on the first floor. I wonder why
they didn't use one of those huge machines. I wonder
how much they pay these daily-wage workers.
Tirelessly drilling through the ceiling. They left
the pillars, through the pillars we could see
windows, and the street beyond.
(In cities, we have no horizon).
The roof went. Falling through itself,
cracking and crashing. Then they attacked
the floor, two wiry men in ragged clothes
taking turns, with hammers heavier than them,
Thud. Thud. Thud.
They brought down those massive hammers
on a square of floor between them. Right
where they stood. I watched
from the window, eighteen years old now,
nose pressed up against the glass.
A wide-eyed, silent child.

If they broke the floor on which they stood,
wouldn't they fall?

Now even the ground floor has no roof.
Or the first floor has no floor.
Through pieces of pictures
gashed out by iron rods
we see rubble filling
the living room, the bedrooms.
I wonder if anybody will miss this house.
The men are still drilling through
the chaos of grey concrete and peach walls.
There's a single staircase on the first floor now,
leading to nowhere.
There's a green bottle tottering precariously on a ledge.
Daily-wage laborers get thirsty too, I guess.
There's broken bricks and tiles and
rooms and cupboards and walls.
Soon, this will be gone. Just
a day or two more. It will be as if
there was never a house here. Just an empty plot.

For now,
all that's left is the shallowly-breathing
skeleton of a house. It's only been
a couple of days. There's a single pillar
still standing, and on it
hangs a mirror,
framed in golden,
unbroken.

From my window, I try to catch my reflection.

I see rubble. Grey concrete, peach walls.
Iron rods balancing in empty corridors and halls.
Beyond the destruction, I see a shard of sky.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Tears.

Words rumble and roll down mountains of youth;
Down valleys and rivers and gurgling brooks
until they come to rest in this darkened pool.
It is still and empty
and
the magnificent thunder of silence
rings in my ears.

I wept for the stranger in the photograph.

Stand as high as you can and hold the sunbeams in your hand;
isn't possession all you want?
Irrelevant human.

The tears were so silent. So sudden.

Pick up the shattered glass pieces of your life
and hold them to the light.
Let them tell the story you're afraid to hear.

My face, my neck, and my collarbones.
Wet. The ridges and curves
it took thousands of years to perfect.
Atavistic mechanism activated.
Watch the lights and the shadows
dance in the belly of time. Impatient.

Hold my salt-dried face in the hollows of your hands.
Let me cry if I need to.

Someday, I want to be
a poem that would shake you.




Monday, 28 April 2014

Grey.

In the chaos in my mind, there are images, fleeting.
A yellow window with shadows flitting.
Footsteps. Leaves. Bad decisions.
Later, sitting on a pile of chairs,
I could be the last one left here.
The crumpled edges of clouds float by.
The leaves forget to flutter. I hold on
to the armrests, grabbing them tight.
I'm in a ship, unsunk, yet
floundering in this maelstrom.

The meowing cats and graying sky,
violently loud to my silent mind.
Momentary madness.
And everything gets rolled up
and punches me in the gut.
It's heavy as iron. Rusted and raw.

Sunday afternoons are the worst.
One doesn't know what one is waiting for.
Everybody is a mystery. Everything obscure.
Freedom was always the colour of the sky -
Until it faded into a pale, washed-out grey.
The clicking keyboard. The bent back.
Unable to really look up, to see. To change.
To run like the wind into faster days,
instead of easing into the future
like pickle leaking out of a labelled glass bottle.
Staining the mantelpiece a shadowed blood red.

What am I doing? I should be doing something.
But I look around, and it hurts even more.
The lives, so many, hollowed out,
like the deep gorges carved on aged faces.
It makes no sense. The ache in my chest,
it deepens. Homo demens.
I drift further. In my mind, even further.

When I'm desperate, though, it's easy to console myself.
You see this mess? It isn't me.
I live far too meaningfully.
My real life isn't here.
It's by the swaying trees
far away. Where the sky is blue,
and the birds sing anew every day.
And I'll watch the clouds from there:
By the fields where the dogs lay.


Friday, 4 April 2014

Numbness

A hundred, a thousand
neatly folded slices of history
carelessly packed by grimy hands
handed to guards, deposited in yards
and street names and numbers zoom
past wobbling bicycles
the day awakens lustily.

A hundred, a thousand
cups of tea
a veritable ocean on the stoves
of a thousand squalling kitchens.
Early morning hands unfold the papers,
bleary eyes peer through warm tea vapors.
Sleep swollen mouths sip, pause.

         what
                    and he died
          again
                         cheating
      and lying
                          we died
again.

Sip again. Swallow.
What does it take for a man to give up?
For a spirit as wide as a sea to hollow.
What does it take to kill a child? Hold down a woman?
What does it take to steal, to lie,
To die. To kill.

A hundred, a thousand
stories we tell. Can you imagine
the sheer power of newsprint
deliberate and dark
holding tight behind walls of alphabets
stories of infinite endless unspeakable violence.
Day after day
                  after day
                           after day
                                       after

and we are numbed, blunted
heavy thuds leave no impact
sharp jabs provoke no pain
we have layers and layers
of middle-class protection, of artificial conscience

We have lives to live.
Lives to lose.

So we read
halfheartedly about
Suffering;
watch it on the screens
keep it fresh with the coriander leaves
in the fridge, cool
under the children's mattresses
behind cobwebs in cupboards
hidden under the scream of the pressure cooker.

Someday we will do something about it.
For now, fold and live.
Fold and live.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Getting lost, patiently.

"The art of losing isn't hard to master,
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster." (Elizabeth bishop)

Beginning after ending is so strange,
Going the whole way, learning and unlearning,
Growing and shrinking. Believing. Losing.
In psychology, they say
development is not linear -
it takes the form of a spiral.
Can you see it?
You, in the roller coaster of your life.
Constantly in flux.
Progressing, then regressing.
Before moving on, you must assimilate.
You must consolidate.
And yet, you might go right ahead and do the stupid thing.
After learning better, you might fall harder.

So be patient.

Sunlight slants through the blinds,
A yellow gloom rises in the room.
I feel the soft-footed nostalgia of a thousand things
that are yet to happen. My heart swells up like a raincloud.

I'm a little lost. A little found.
A bit of a square peg,
and yet a little round.
Who I was is now folded in flowers.
Deliberated in memories unearthed in weaker hours.
Who I was became who I am,
before I could lose myself again.

A man bears beliefs like tree bears fruits -
And love and life will grab you right by the roots,
Shake up each and every one of your truths.
What remains? Spiraling onward,
Weary traveler of time,
Be patient.

Stand up to your full height in the storm,
            and succumb.
Let the wind take you where it may,
Let yourself be blown away.

Let yourself be found,
In the art of getting lost.

Life lies in the gentle caress, the fierce passion
of Love. In the vulnerability of living and losing
and living again. There will be a thousand endings,
I assure you, there will be a thousand beginnings.
A thousand truths you and I will reach,
and a thousand more we might lose on the way.

Let yourself get lost.
In the depth of the darkness,
in the eye of the storm,
you will be found.

So be patient.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Looking For You.

In this tumultuous chatter
falling around me, leaves underfoot
crunching in the solid pain of chaos
the horizon, stretching from side to side -
and wide! - wide as a river in spate,
wide as my eyes
watching for you
silent, unnerved
by your fists, your mouth
the shadows you own
the various countries that are yours
in the timelessness of your body
I am lost.

I wake and I sleep
all in a dream, it seems
and somewhere
I have to begin to search
although
not for answers, answers
will come when it is time
Rilke smiles.
Irreverence, irrelevance
on the same hand.
Somewhere in this mess,
in the endless oceans of myself
I have to find the summer
to begin.
Only then
can I find the dried leaves, the snow
the reds and yellows
the autumns of leaving
and in all their glorious
chapters and smells,
the endings
that lead to endless doors.

Which one are you behind?
How could you expect me to find
you, in this tumultuous chatter.
In this horizon, this seasonless matter.

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

April 30 : Uncontained Endings


There's something about dying roses.

A sense of an ending
strangely poignant
in the crisp twisted petals
and the tangy scent of death.

And well, it's too cold,
the sky is too grey;
my tea is too hot,
my heart is out to bay.
And my arms are simply too goosebumped to hold you tight.

So wrap me up in some clingfilm
and leave me out to dry:
I'm a soaked out desert in a concrete maze
and today, I can't help but lie.
I lost all my maps and I lost all my guides, how can I possibly reach the light?

Floating in the empty sea
I watch the sun rise and I watch it set
the purples and reds surround me and fade
taking me with them to the land of the dead.

Marmalade stains on ragged blankets
line the lining of your heart.
Time seems to move in jerks and falls
sepia-tinted pictures mark the walls.

An abyss of beginnings, endings,
aftereffects (and mayhapses)
rises around the dying fire.
Someday we shall look back and smile
It'll happen, just give it a while.

My heart is full from this night
and my eyes are on you.
Let us walk away from this day
as uncontained as you.

Morality and humanity
sit by the ashes of our souls.
Mark My Words and In My Opinions
are tossed back and forth in rolls.

My coarse shirtsleeves fend off
burning smoulders from the fire.
But who'll be around to hold my hands
when I rest my shoulders in the pyre?

Monday, 29 April 2013

April 29 : City Boy.


From the thick-grilled windows
in the tall concrete buildings
caked with the dirt of hopelessness
you watch the streets, silent.
Four fifty-five. Tick tock.
An uncontained numbness is in your eyes,
lending a certain desperation to your lies.
But somewhere, your soul is alive.

Dappled remains of sunshine
on the rippling surface
green-clear.
The stones writhe under every surge
of white-foamed froth.
The valley closes in on you
and opens up her skies.
Silver ropes slam into the water
ploughing it up like
so much gunfire.
Wind crashes into your face
with all the gentleness of a scorned lover
and all the grace.
You gaze into the heavens
wet and still.

Shirt sticking to chest
clammy hands on solid ground
cold feet soaked into hiking shoes
hair plastered back, you smile.

With the sting of every raindrop
(like so many shards of glass)
you feel alive. Slowly cracks the precious farce
the layers and the lies peel off from sheer force
and you dissolve into the torrent of froth
that the river rages against the rocks. You dissolve
into the air and the thunder, into the mossy pine trees;
you are so much more than a City Boy.

What has a City? Neon lights.
Unpleasant smells and painful sights.
Grimy legless men with begging bowls
outside of fancy boutiques. Angry men.
So many crying children. Unhappy people
unsatisfied with their lives and their wives.
Empty eyed old woman with unreal smiles;
Black-suited shiny-booted clones with files.
A dull sort of heartache throbbing around the
skyscrapers and steeples and heavy court buildings.
A concrete maze leading deeper and deeper
into the heart of nothing. Aching.
And in the grey and the garish
you sometimes forget the reasons
you often clench your jaw and your fist
and tears escape your bottled heart
(brimming over in frustration)
but you cannot remember
(or perhaps you never knew).
And then nothing seems to be worth it,
nothing seems real at all.

But under the fiery gray heavens
under the stoic mountainsides
under the raindrops and the burning sunshine
on your soul, you will remember.
And once you live to be more than
a gray City Boy under grimy neon lights,
you might never forget again.

The precious thunder of the river rages on;
perhaps that's what happiness is made out of.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

April 28 : Dreamcatchers And Wanderlust


Soft lines mark out
deep honey coloured eyes
in a hard smiling face.
Tinted glasses (the colour of the night)
perched upon beautiful little nose.
Shining self-consciously in a dull, lifeless crowd;
in her monochromed life, alarmingly bright.

Well-fitted starched clothes to work. Heels.
Businesslike, brisk. Confident and composed.
After all, a life to live: built up
so carefully from fragments
of cracked porcelain dreams
picked out and held against
the blinding lights of reality:
the commonplace ruins of practicality.
It hides well her inner romantic, in this melancholy city.
But beneath the shells and layers and memories
her soul is made of dreamcatchers and wanderlust.

Behind the dark-tinted sunglasses lie her secrets
(open sometimes to those who float above shallow waters,
open to herself some of the time against a solid, dependable life
mother, daughter, lover and wife)
a worldfull of chances and mayhaps
built up so carefully from a perfect life
a house of cards rising against the gleaming glass counters
as order falls, the tentative yearning for chaos.
Within the whirl of her embroidered Indian skirt
lie rugged mountains and infinite oceans
exotic-skinned people, deep purple sunsets,
skyscrapers and windbreakers and railwaystation tea
dizzy late-night drives on winding roads and
comfortable blankets against pine-smelling fireplaces:
after all
her soul is made of dreamcatchers and wanderlust.

She lives in the night sky, with the stars;
casting aside demons with a twist of her arm
she puts away fear gently on the windowsill, rain-stained.
Pale skin bruised, fat ego tight-lipped, integrity intact.
Smug about her maelstrom of adventure (sipping her chai
against the pounding pain in her skull, shining eyes
half tear-filled and half innocent eagerness)
she doesn't hold back. She lets it fly, her anger
and her pain and her endless sky-filled joy;
floating, she dissolves in herself
pointing at beautiful sight after sight
against this rose-tinted horizon
in her night-tinted glasses.
Her sorrow she holds quite tight to her chest
wrapped up in ancient insecurities
she is silent, gathering it all in a single
tightly clenched fist at the end of an arm
held quite open against the thundering wind
threatening to topple her over
today.

And she will think more and cry more
see more and sigh more
she will have more to regret
more to repress
but she will have lived more than anybody
in these narrow crowded streets and spaces
(against the tight-set faces, the long-healed traces).
With the risk and the fear, she pulls into her arms
all the joy of the world. Complete and untainted
(as it is only when it comes with a price
as it is just when it's undented and unpainted).
Joy that comes with the hunger for knowledge,
experience, good food and endless love.
Joy as gentle as it is proud,
as silent as it can be loud.
She smiles, balanced solidly upon shaky ground
floating simply on the ephemeral clouds:

after all
her soul is made of dreamcatchers and wanderlust.