Saturday, 26 September 2015


today i'm made of
jazz and wildflowers,
my mouth an ocean of smiles.

my fingers are giddy
from tracing the lines of your skin,
shadow lights and diamond darkness.

these moments are so precious;
stretched tight like the strings of a guitar
until the gentlest touch produces a melody
so taut and brimming with moonshine that
i could cry.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Notes on Auschwitz

 1. The day I went to Auschwitz it almost rained, but not quite. The sky and I were brave. We held back our weeping, untied our tears from our eyes only in gentle drizzle.

2. If these buildings could talk, they would scream.

3. I stepped lightly on the gravel, not wanting to put my weight on this broken land. I was guilty even touching door handles, grazing the walls with my numb fingers, or looking for a moment longer than necessary.

4. I didn't want to leave too much of myself here, didn't want to carry back too much from this place. It was an altar of grief, a monolith of despair.

5. Other tourists (the word in this context made me even more nauseous than I was) wanted to hold on to this moment. Thousands of cameras clicks filled the air once colonised with bullet shots. I wanted to claw my heart out of my throat.

6. Our tour guide told us that there wasn’t an inch of land in Birkenau not covered in human ashes. The air we were breathing, the ground we were walking on, all of it was ashes. I tried not to breathe.

7. We walked through rooms filled with used children’s shoes, with women’s hair cut off from their corpses, with empty cans of Zyklon-B. My jaw was clenched. My fists were tight. My eyes burned with a fever, and I ached blind.

8. Our tour guide spoke in perfectly mediated tones. She had told these stories of horror a hundred times, but she kept that bitter, indignant tone alive. To me, everything felt like a farce, everything hurt. Eliot muttered to me about the ancient women who gathered fuel in ancient lots, and I kept him in my mouth like a prayer.

9. I think I survived that place because of the wildflowers. They were everywhere, delicate as only wildflowers can be. Lemon yellow, deep lavender, pale white. They grew over grief, human ashes, the quiet stench of desperation. They bloomed fierce, like stars dotting skies of anger darkness.

10. I plucked two unassuming wildflowers near the parking lot, left purple imprints in my notebook. That hope was all I wanted to remember of the place.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

The Moon Told Me

I accidentally swallowed the moon tonight.
It burnt my tongue, scorched my throat,
caressed the caves of me with the white-hot,
the fierce bloom, the licking flames and ache.

Memory is a terrible sin, almost
carnal in nature.

Seductive, but vicious
when it is able to possess.
Physical in it’s urgent needs.

I swallowed the moon and it told me
not to cry, it told me that a hundred times
and I always listened. It is a terrible power
to trace my scars and know that I left them
on my scaled skin myself, I myself was always
the one to wield the knives. The moon told me
not to cry and I never did; I was too strong to
let myself get hurt, I was protected a hundred
times over, and I paid for it dearly: my skin is
a fragile beating of scars, I wielded the knives
and lashed out in self-preservation, wounded
the others, so many now, and left myself here;


navigating the echoes of my cruelty
for so many shadowy months after;
the traces I left on my own life, as well as the
others, their kindly faces, those gentle lovers.

The moon told me to forget.
Today, I could not listen. It has
been too long, and I ache blind.
I swallowed the moon whole, told 
myself to be a better person, not
let twisted ideas of beauty guide
me to thoughtlessness, impatience,
the unforgivable cruelty of protecting

my own wretched self with the books,
the stars, the dried leaves and stories,
round pebbles, swaying sunsets, new
friends, old poems, golden sunbeams,
or this magnificent, malicious moon

shining silver in the darkness, an exquisite
dinner plate accidentally left in the sky, a glow
left on too long, a piece of beauty that blooms
so fierce it is hard for me to remember
the reasons or this thudding
ache in the centre
of forgetful

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

War/ a life

War is cruel.

Of course, there's so much cruelty in this world.

The people, billions of them, their lives, insignificant
as flies. Some of them, with deceptive comforts, the
fairytale lives of the first world, the struggles of
a date gone wrong, a sulking child, a stained blue dress.

The others; the outcasts, the fallen, the skin stretched tight
across straining ribcage, the cold dripping through makeshift
walls, the dehydration, the sticky tears, hunger beating through
sense like a carnal sin. The lives lived in refugee camps.

War is strange, brings it all together in the most horrible of ways:
the mothers, afraid; the lives, built over years and years, come to mean
Soldier; the throats eager to find a cause, a belief, a reason to live through
simple joys and winding pain; the countries, making sure nobody remembers
what is wrong here, with us and our people - the imagined communities.
The easy route to belonging somewhere
(anywhere), knowing you have validation
to let the carnal instinct of hatred take over
the strained civilisation you were born in.

It makes sense - war is peace. Orwell smiles in black and white. It makes
sense, but somewhere it drives me wild, it pierces somewhere deep inside,
somewhere it hurts. The world, singularly obsessed, following the news as if
it is the kind of conflict one can solve with another battlefield - a fistfight
on a playground, a larger punch, the shrill ringing bell that brings comfort
and louder cries for revenge - the kind of conflict that can be solved in this
unreal trajectory, with another silly paper signed by another dignitary.

I don't find War in the heroic battles, even in the armaments, the horrifying bombs.
Think about it with me for a second: a life, that too, the whole and gorgeous gem
of a life, a childhood precious with mist, the one afternoon the chubby babe said
"Mama", and his mother almost cried, called the neighbours and beamed like a
sunbeam at her husband; the evenings they dined together, the roses he picked
from the schoolyard bush, the first time he fell in love, the long conversations on
crackling telephone lines, the one sunset he watched on vacation and remembers;
a life whose sole motive becomes either to fight or escape the terrifying battlefield.

A life, forgotten in the rigour of army training; a life, kept precious back at home
with the conversations on repeat, the precious studio portraits, the awaited letters.
A life, the hundred things he might be thinking as he marches; the one sandwich
he is craving today, whether his ragged blanket will survive another day, how he
must darn his socks, write a letter, remember a word. A life, the hundreds of lives
that go into bringing up a child. A life, the scar on his right ankle from when he was
just fourteen, the small mole on his collarbone, the way his hair curled around his ears.

And of course, the inevitable, the climax reaching a denouement that nobody told him about,
the single afternoon picked out of so many, the mindless bullets, the single deadly shot, the
body in shock, the sky bluer than ever and the sense of a falling, the crowds marching, the cry
of a bird in the distance. The silence and ruins as dusk approaches. The corpse in a nondescript
corridor in a city of shadows. The compact pool of blood, as large as an ocean, the colour of wine.

And of course, the moment of eventual discovery. Another wobbling, broken soldier
who throws him into a grave with twenty others; or a war photographer, sick with
emotion, full of everything, convinced of his noble war against the war but unwilling
to touch this gruesome still mountain of a life. And of course, the picture, black and white,

in some museum or the other, fifty years later, another insignificant piece of art
that wants to be a part of history but is too small, too unlucky, doesn't know how.
And of course, me, quiet and wound up, in part the criminal and in part the victim,
in part the ruined scene of war - a landscape of destruction, a cracked time and space.
Of course, me, walking through another museum in another strange city, fists clenched
tight, full of everything, willing my eyes to absorb in all depth, walking small steps until

I reach this picture, this same picture a hundred times over;
a corpse, on cobbled stone or in overgrown grass; a corpse; a corpse; a corpse.

That one decisive moment, a life, for god's sake a whole goddamn life
wasted in the propaganda now long forgotten, the slogans and the meaningless
news reports, political angles, new weapons, maybe whole factories for uniforms
and boots and warfield toothbrushes; my god, a life, and nobody looked back,
nobody could blame it on the accountable remorse of illness or the callousness
of time; a life, not gone because the child was stillborn or unlucky with disease
at an early age, not gone because the adolescent decided that this life wasn't enough
and a noose would have to do instead; no choices, just a life blacked out, a life.

A life, and it made no difference. Nobody lost and nobody, nobody won.

There is so much cruelty in the world
but all of them still hurt, burn themselves into the white secrets of my flesh.

Image I

ref: In Vain from Berlin bhf. by Tihanyi Anna

The image: the whole tense obscure ocean
of a person (me?), sitting on a bed. A hotel room
or home? It is all the same, sparsely furnished, devoid
of the undulating familiarity one secretly craves, never
truly finds. Comfortingly ugly wallpaper. Luggage,
the disconcerting sight of rootlessness. Tightly packed.
The door, shut. The symbol: me, an ocean, for once
without an island? Embracing solitude like a master.
Strong as a mountain. Stepping over these stones
lightly, with the springing step of a quieter animal.

But the other, darker, corners of my picture frame:
the door, shut but not bolted; instead, precariously
balanced into compliance with an incongruous pile
of telephone sets, pastel coloured, last century. Yes,
the symbol: communication, my crackling voice
reaching out to yours through twisted black wire;
hearing but not seeing, hearing but not really
listening, are you? Are you listening? My voice
is bruised in the darkness, it is stained with light,
it has slithered under the warm carpeting to reach
your waiting ears, please tell me you are listening,
this is my last hiding place. My secrets are safe now.
My voice as a wonderful thing, a deceptive bridge, a
burnt ruin on a thundering river. A phone call, not a
conversation. A conversation, not my soul. You think
you see me, but my doors are shut. My voice wears
my clothes and parades around the streets. I sit, pick
my choice of pastel telephone set, pack and repack
my eternal luggage, watch the shadows in this room.
Light the lamps at dusk. Avoid the mirror.

Thursday, 6 August 2015


I have not put pen to paper
in so long.
I have been writing

in my mind;
daydreaming in elastic prose,
talking to myself in Eliot, Roy,
imitating the woman's voice
from crowded metro stations
in dilli. Vishwa Vidyayala:
doors will open. Please stand back.
I am lost in language. I must make words.

I have strange dreams sometimes;
one long afternoon in a guesthouse
on a lazy Rishi Valley day, I dreamt
myself walking in the forest
wrapped in the same white bedsheet
I slept in, austere, as if I were on a
pilgrimage. Half-asleep, half-lost,
I named every plant I saw. The dream
was half made of image, half of words.
The air crackled with poetry. It sounded
more like prayer.

There is so much I want to say.
For months it brims over, and then
for months I am fallow. A tired field.
May in Ayemenem is a hot, brooding month. (1)
A hundred voices are leaving bruises on me.
This is just the way it's meant to be.


I have not been home for more than a week.
It is bittersweet - the comfort and the complacency;
it always has been. Home seems to stay the same
but I am not. I am travelling.

I still cannot define poetry. I get tongue-tied.
I hope I am able to impress. Somewhere, I still worry,
the mermaids, I do not think they will sing to me. (2)
I do not know what it is, this constellation, a poem,
but I know what I want to create. Something made
of dust and water, an infusion of scale and feather,
bruise and mist. (3) Something solid, firm, not one word
more than necessary, something that stands erect and
sturdy, stronger than me. I want to create something
that isn't afraid to sway, something that leaves enough
space for anybody to enter, leave, possess it as they may.
Something made of air. Something that shines in mellow
evening light. I want to make magic. With words.

Sitting in various buses in various countries
I marvel at the horizon. The sun beats down
hardest before it begins to dip, stains the blue
of horizon a faded purple, orange, pale grey.
Every day, I worry that I am not writing.

The sunset was beautiful in the evening,
a few hours ago. Today I munched on the
final strands of prose of the book I was reading,
let myself fall down the rabbit hole headfirst, no
hesitant touch, no gentle withdrawal. The words
lit up with the passing beams, they shone yellow
and rose on the page. I could taste them: wholesome,
yet hollow. Every word as a good poem. Every word
a country I passed through, a new horizon I watched.

There are so many places to see. So much to learn,
so much to read. I have not put pen to paper
in so long, but I must give myself time.

(1) Arundhati Roy
(2) T.S. Eliot
(3) Nayyirah Waheed

Friday, 19 June 2015

Right Words

Looking for the right words
to say all the wrong things.
The heat is passing through
this city, making every breath
unbearable. It's an effort to

Everything outside of me
is dry, cracked, broken.
My mind and heart
are still rejoicing
a monsoon
that seems too far
from where I live.

There is so much I want to say.

I see things:
The tremble of beauty,
the solid sorrows of time.
It is a skill to break
down into language.
I have it, and every day
I am thankful for it.
I do not want it
to become my only
way of interaction
with the world.

I will not find the right words.
I don't want to be afraid of that.
I want to embrace it.

I want to calm, sometimes, the bubbling
in my belly, the thunder in my fingers.
Perhaps I must shrug off the structures
around which I organize my world.

The chaos terrifies me,
but I will learn to love it.
There's a new crisis
every day, a new and
wholly different way
of looking, of learning.

harder, faster, sooner
than I'd want to fall through
the various rabbit holes of
passing days.

Friday, 15 May 2015

midnight meditations on meaning

After a long day, I lay in my bed, listening to the fan whirr, cool wind from the window brushing against my thin shirt; preparing myself to sleep, I stretched my legs, felt the muscles tense and pull, and I thought: I thought about the marvellous, opaque, diamond of a world, and how it produced the first spark of life, of consciousness, a single cell that trembled with agency, and how woefully, miserably meaningless that was - how it evolved, step by painful step, and all the meaningless deaths on the way; life, and how it filled the seas and the skies, and how there were creatures that could scream in agony and in ecstasy, make tools and make wars, and how we evolved from there, how my tensing muscles remind me of my forest roots, my singing seas, my sparks of life that created this complex body based solely on survival and need; I thought about how meaningless it still is, how much more life there is and yet, how little it does, how the sky is a hundred shades of blue and the sea is mighty and tidal, and how they will rest against one another in an endless dance and that will really be all there is in this world, no matter how hard we try to leave scratches on the rocks of our lands - and yet, as I lay there, cool wind caressing my hair, I thought about my day, about how I inhaled the scent of home after months, and how my sister's eyes shone brighter than the sun, how I unpacked my memories disguised as empty boxes and paints and scarves, how sunbeams fall in shafts on my bed, how the books that line my shelf are trembling in eagerness to be read, and how I could smell the spices from the kitchen as I bathed, cool water rushing down the caves of my body to meet with the earth, how summer fills my heart with warmth and I feel clean and alive, how I can still hear the ringing laughter that I laughed today on my parents' bed, limbs intertwined and hands held by warm hands; and I thought about how much joy there is in this world, in my simple life, in a warm day. If there is such joy in this world, can we not find meaning? And if there is such joy, do we really need meaning? And if there is such joy, is it not meaning enough?

Monday, 11 May 2015

homeward bound

home isn't home anymore
it's a place of transit:

home is where I go back to
after things end
before things begin.

it is the secret I hide
in my pockets.
the word that i say
when I want to leave -
even if it's not really
where I want to go.

home is the smell
of lemongrass incense
clinging to my hair.
the half-smile on
my father's face.

it will be sunshine
in the summer -
everywhere, shafts
of solid light falling
on furniture and floor.

home is the music
my mother listens to
when everybody goes to bed.
the sound of it wafting down
to my bed, raining down

it is where I always return
to settle in my skin, if only
for a few days - where everything
I've learnt and unlearnt in all the time
I've been away untangles slowly, and
falls into place in my mind. that's home.

right now
I'm almost homeward bound

I reek of exhaustion:
sleeplessness buried in bags under
bloodshot eyes, and
my mind an overfull cup.
mosquito bites and bruises
leave purple blossoms on my skin.
my bones, made of shafts of light,
ache. throb. sigh.

I need you to caress me
as gently as you can.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

sunshine music

listening to sunshine music
at 4 am - humming to Nietzsche
under my breath,

i'm feeling all of summer at once:

the heat that rises up my spine
and murmurs on my skin like dust;

the songs that wrap themselves
in my arms and ask me to listen;

memories of faces that once
lived inside of my life and composed
the harmonies of my days - faces
that faded faster than smoke,
whose curves and smiles
i can't quite recall anymore.

summer murmurs different melodies
to me every moment -

the joy that flutters in warm wind,
and the summertime sadness
that settles on my shoulders,
heavy as light.

there are
new faces now.
they change
in darkness and light.
there are
new eyes i want to confide in
but i am shaky and restless, unstable,
i'm floating - trying to learn
from wild hearts that break mine.
my heart says it's wild
but really, its a baby, and it doesn't
understand the nuances of the world.
afraid of rawness. afraid of settling.

sunshine music settles in my heart
like wildflowers. warms my shoulders.
it is heavy as light.