15.7.16

The Living

I keep thinking of those lines from Marie Howe's poem.
"This is what the living do", she wrote. "This is it" --
the driving, the thinking, the deep blue sky, the silly mistakes
of an endless everyday. The words wrench something heavy
from my chest, leave me heaving silently on my seat.
The plane cuts through a solid city of clouds, and I
tell myself again: "This is what the living do". Watch clouds,
magnificent as towers and forests and mountains, glorious
snow-white shapes against the deep blue distance of sky.
This is it, the strange spectacle of the everyday that
my grandmother will never see again.

If I had more faith, perhaps I would imagine her in a space
much like this. A landscape of pearly white, the clouds settled
in the sky like dreams, and my grandmother looking unbelievably
serene, perhaps in a white sari, carrying on dignified conversation
with the angels. I cannot see it. I cannot believe. I cannot hear her
footsteps in the dark, or her voice, or the ringing of the telephone.
My house is a strange sort of empty, a singular portion of grief.
She is not here either -- among the cliffs and bowers of cloud,
or the tender wisps of rain, or the dark thunder, or the clear sky.
Thirty thousand feet in the air, higher even than Everest; even here
I do not see it, even here there is no heaven, no safe space
where her pale skin or jewelled toenails will be granted
permanent existence. Even here, there is only the strange circular
poetry of the everyday, the man next to me snoring gently, a child
fascinated by the window shades, my own mind an overfull carnival.

Sometimes it feels like an endless loss: these mundane moments
strung together in compulsion, lives that we carve out of smoke.
Time lies ahead of me like an endless desert, and I am afraid.
The clouds now look like sculptures, and now like countries
cut off from the sea. She will see none of it -- but here I am,
my nose chilled by the air conditioning, my left foot asleep,
watching cities emerge like secrets on the vast earth below.
"This is what the living do", I murmur, keeping the words
in my mouth as though they can save me from the ordinary
desperation of living. Somehow, they do. This is what we do,
circle the same stories of loss in our minds, worry incessantly.
This is it, the whole strange business of living. Remembering
the bruise of a lover's lips on my neck, or familiar conversations
with my mother. We grieve endlessly over the inevitable griefs.
We are living. We remember. We watch these floating cities
of clouds, and sometimes feel an immense and intricate giddiness
in our bellies, some sort of lucidity, a precious and private gold.
That is all we can ask for.

24.6.16

edge

there is a certain hard look
                              that I wear on my face.

I wish I didn't.

there is a blade of truth
                               that hides under my tongue.

someday, I will get angrier
                                        at you
                                              than you will allow me to.

here, on the edge of things,
                                    it is slippery.
                                             the blade cracks like glass.
                                                      the sky shatters.

20.6.16

rainy evening I

you woke me up, and
we’re here now. I write poetry
in the damp insides of my mouth
and try not to break your
overfull heart.

the sky shudders and darkens. I hide
behind a bower in the mango tree, and smoke
a lonesome cigarette. the smoke is a silver thread
the wind pulls out of my mouth. like a secret poem.

listen, I still don’t know
whether I’m living okay. but I have words
like loose change in my pockets, and dreams
the size of cities. light slants onto my 
fingers and paints them gold.

my mother and I are listening
to the music you sent me. some of it
leaves me billowing, larger than the frame
of my little bones. a rag left in the wind
that expands to the size of a sea.

in the distance, I hear a train rumble.
the sky is quiet now, it has spent its fury.
everything is dewdrops and damp skin and light.
the lost birds start to call to me again. I tell them

to wait. to go on. to find me again.

7.6.16

Breakfast

At breakfast, I try to keep my grief off the table.
I eat my slice of melon, look silently about the room,
watch morning unfold hazily in the front garden.

Behind me, a large picture frame has frozen
my grandmother's warm face into ice. My father
lights an agarbatti every morning to help it thaw, 
his mouth sombre under his flyaway hair and
sleepy eyes, in t-shirt and boxer shorts.

I try not to wear grief on my face. It is 8:30 am.
She has been dead five months now. I still forget.
Grief slips into my voice and makes it ragged;
I sip tea to soothe the tears I hide in my throat.
I burn my tongue, try not to drown.

My grandfather has small dark spots on his face,
like so many constellations. Three moles near his
left eye that make Orion's Belt. A shadow on his
jawline like the North Star. He is thoughtful --
or distracted, silent either way.

My father tells us the news. I wander, fall between
the cracks in my overworked mind, and end up
somewhere else entirely. Where we are sitting
is exactly where we laid her body, the day after
it happened. Everybody visited. The furniture
was moved out, and the floor covered in white. 
Everybody was weeping. It seems worlds away
from this quiet breakfast scene. To talk about her
now is to skirt an awkward edge, try not to hurt
too hard. Was she ever here? Was it only ever
silent grandfather and bleary-eyed father
at this table, and sometimes me?

Morning routine moves on like clockwork.
It is like every other day, except that I am home
and everything smells like a tragedy. On our way
back from the mountains in the highway dirt,
my sister pointed out a bougainvillea bush
painted sepia in dust -- it looks just like
an old picture, she murmured to me, as if
she was telling me a secret. On the next turn,
I saw a fire burning near a building, silently.
I never told.

30.4.16

April 30: Closure

This time
I will be satisfied even
with no ending lines,
no last conversations
in my mind. I know
I am difficult to love.

This time, I am ready
to leave without asking
for the world. I am ready
to walk out to sea and taste
the salty air the seagulls
fly in. I am ready to fly it.

I try to be softer, kinder,
less insistent. I forget how
to love, every day, like a
language that peels off
my tongue and hangs
in the ancient rooms.

I need no names
for the trees. No names
for the different kinds of
breeze. No names for the
oceans my body meets and
falls in love with, no names
for the love I own and disown.

It is only ever endings,
and not even
in a tragic way. It is only ever
sunbirds on a terrace building
a nest that cannot last. It is
only ever lamplight and ache.

Like A, I want the good work,
the hearty meal, the tired eyes.
I want the long journeys and
I want new learnings, sunsets
that taste of rose and gold,
intimacy that curls my toes
and hurts my lungs
in happy ways.

It is only ever endings;
I am satisfied with my lot.