Thursday, 30 October 2014

An Ode to my Spectacles

You and I, I must say,
have quite a love-hate relationship.

Since the fifth grade, I've had on my nose,
some goddamn plastic frame or the other.
You know, that as far I can remember, I've looked at the world
through a blurry frame. Through a clear-glass separation,
 a distance upon which I am dependant,
without which - what? I can count the number of fingers
laughing friends put up, but you know, you know -
the world looks to me like a watercolour painting
that hasn't been penned in, like a foggy day,
like raw confusion: and you know
how uncomfortable, insecure I am
how I pride my ability, in every other way,
to See. 

To see, to see, what does it mean to see?
Clarity and confusion balance, stumble,
on a single vowel that stretches across the sky -
the sky stretched out on a windy day
sometime last year over a classroom.
Atticus stood in a deserted, waiting street
and my literature teacher was solemn.
He pushed his glasses to his forehead; 
they slipped down, and he dropped them in the street. 
In the silence, I heard them crack. 
Atticus' glasses gave us room for a host of metaphors -
his wisdom, his ability to see clearly, more clearly,
than anybody else in Maycomb. Atticus' glasses
gave me hope for my own glasses - if life is poetry,
then my glasses are a metaphor for my vision,
my discomfort with blurry sight, an allegory.
If I'm writing this story, I gave myself glasses,
in a character sketch you will find them,
inseparable from me, adding all sorts of
interesting connotations to me as protagonist.

O spectacles, sitting regally,
on pimple-spotted nose,
result of prescription sheets shouting
Myopia, Astigmatism, little bleary-eyed child,
O spectacles, extension of my physical self
since age ten, how I hate being dependant, blind.
How I instinctively fiddle with the plastic frame
when I'm awkward with my hands,
how, when I cry, little salt-water droplets
sit on you like dewdrops, waiting to be wiped.
O spectacles, I do apologize,
for leaving you on the bathroom counter today, unloved.
Me, I take you off my weary nose only at night,
when the world is cloaked with darkness.

My personal watercolour painting of the world
will never be penned in, lights large and looming,
ink blots spreading across the canvas. Without you,
my eyes will show me only a constant foggy day,
an image of chaos.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Transitory: Three Poems

What do you think, O Monks, is rupa permanent, or is it transitory?”
It is transitory, Reverend Sir.”
And that which is transitory – is it painful, or is it pleasant?”
It is painful, Reverend Sir.”
And that which is transitory, painful, and liable to change – is it possible to say of it: 'This is mine; this am I; this is my self'?”
Certainly not, Reverend Sir.”
Is feeling, perception, volition, consciousness, permanent, or transitory? Is it painful, or is it pleasant? Is it possible to say of it: 'This is mine; this am I; this is my self'?”
(Buddhism as Philosophy, Mark Siderits)

1. I have travelled far and long,
and I have seen the oceans, and
lay upon their shores. I have felt
the fleeting fire of a snowflake
upon my tongue, but my god,
it is nothing compared to the
countries of your body.

Don't talk to me about
impermanence of form -
don't talk of consciousness.
We're a tangle of blankets
and bad memories, a pair
of lost birds, a microcosm
of all the chaos in the world.
In your arms, there is no
consciousness – don't you see?
There is feeling, rising up in me
like smoke, there is perception,
and there is all the permanence
of the world, suspended on the
tightrope of desire.

We are young, and there is
a long way to go. My life
is not your life; nor is yours
Mine. This am I, this is my self.
And that is you, beyond the
border. Don't pretend like
you know me. Don't pretend
that we understand each other -
we've known each other a few
fumbling hours, for god's sake.
I'm nothing new. There is nothing new
here, today, in the bright lights
of a pulsating city; but our grandparents
would never understand. Our parents
would try, and fail. Life is moving
fast, and we take impermanence
in our stride, we hold on to it
and use it to our advantage.
Imagine if I were forced to spend
my life with you. We are young.

The impermanence of form -
is drilled into us. I know about it
already. Don't read poetry to me.
This isn't a poem: this is life.
In this scene, you and I,
are on a bed. Or a couch.
In this scene, one of us
will always be able to back out
in time. Before it gets
serious, real, threatening.

We're a desperate tangle of limbs,
an amalgamation of reason and passion,
a mess of innocent desire and paradox.
We will unravel before we grow roots,
before we sense moss. We will unravel
because, O stranger, there is no permanence.
The years are slipping by – learn to slip by
with them. It is painless, this partition, there
need be no history, no memory at all.
O lover, you are not mine, nor am I yours.

Your corporeal form wrapped in mine:
let us make this distinction of souls clear.

2. The clock on the mantelpiece
sounds the same as it did, all those years ago.
The pictures are fading faster in the sunlight.
I have watched the sun rest on the taut string
of horizon, from this window, a hundred times.
I have watched my hands grow old, and I have watched
yours. I feel the lines, like webs, across my face my arms
my hands and legs my once-beautiful neck, and I can look
you in the face and tell you this corporeal form is transitory.

We're constantly reading about love, watching it
being overused in the advertisements, like
Christmastime or puppies, or God. You and I,
have watched each other from the blossoms
of our youth to today – what is this? Where are we?
What am I to expect from you when all we have
is the ransom of memory, a thread from you to me,
stretching farther and farther with every day, every sigh.

I know the backs of my wrinkled hands, now, like I know
the backs of yours. I have seen your precious face,
every morning, for years – and I want to call this
Love, like we did in the start, but I can be honest,
can't I? We are used to each other. We don't know
how else to be, who else to watch, where else to go.
It is too late for options. Too late for romance.
Too late to know if I made the right choice
when I chose you. We have contracts and agreements,
tangible (in the photos, in the grandchildren's sparkling eyes),
intangible (in society's quiet, decisive conditions about marriage);
but all set in stone. Permanent. Our love is eternal.
My god, we're going to be buried together. Isn't this
what we always wanted? This isn't transitory -
it isn't painful – it isn't pleasant. This is mine;
this am I; this is my self – because it is all I have.

Your body, and mine. The privilege to watch
the ravages of time. Our feelings, perceptions,
our consciousness, volition. Some days, I can't stand you.
Some days, I feel lonely when I drop you off in the car.
Either of us might go first – and then the permanence
of your goddamn face will disappear, a clean slate.
I'll be a newborn again. Innocent of the malice
of love, of eternity, of unbearable lightness.
Love, as a necessary evil. Love, as salvation.

And to think
that I could have chosen
Christmastime, or puppies,
or God.


3. O my little monk,
huddled under white sheets on this grey morning,
what can I get you to drink? Listen: raindrops scrape
against thin walls. There's another sliver of eyelash
on your porcelain cheek; make a wish,
beloved, unfurl your dreams into the wind.

Someday I will look back and search for meaning
in memory: let me set the scene for posterity.
Four walls, sound of rain, palewhite hands in mine.
A swollen bookcase, feeble smiles, prescriptions
and medicine drawers, bills for chemotherapy,
shuddering roof against onslaught of sea from sky.
One little figure in bed, bald, huddled in white.

I want to hold each raindrop
in the hollows of my hand, and fashion them
into oceans for you. Oceans are permanent,
infinite and alive, but what of the oceans
of your eyes? Your form is transitory, fragile,
a solitary silver feather caught in a cage
of shatter-glass bone. Your fingers, your scars, your
breath warming my shoulder: transitory. Your body
against mine, the mole on your cheek, dark curls
against the valleys of your collarbones. Your arms,
limp against the harsh white of bedspread.
Your body, painful. Liable to change, lapping
against my life like a singing wave, unsure, unsteady.

Your smile, my endless blue sky. Your eyes,
watching me unfold my life a step at a time.
Your thunder of life in a corporeal frame of flesh.
The endless rhythm of heartbeat against my chest -
it is transitory. Is it possible to say of it:
This is mine” - can I accept the flaws
that come with your particular perfection,
smile at your apologetic smile, and say:
This am I”? This is where I am,
in the embrace of your momentary
corporeal form, split-second reality.

For this life – is it transitory? - yes,
by god, it is ephemeral and fleeting and yet
it is the only thing that is eternal. It is liable
to change, and mutate, and writhe in agony,
and it is the only constant, our only hope.
This life, it is painful, I know, as do you.

I will go through it all again if I have the chance.
Every desperate tear that I have ever shed. Every heartbreak,
every gut-wrenching, white-knuckled time the doctor said
'We don't know'. Don't worry, doctor. The answer
doesn't lie in your files.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Old friend.

God, I've missed you.
It's been long - so long,
and I've been thinking.

The reality of a relationship
isn't in the distance that makes a heart grow
fonder. The reality of a relationship 
is in the few moments I catch on the phone with you.
When we can laugh again. When the situation
makes sense. 

Reality
is really just made up of an infinite web
of relationships. My reality one evening
was with a new friend on a hill, talking.
Happy to be understood. Happy to be there.
Happy the streetlights looked the way they did
across the football field. That was then.

Alone in my room,
I don't think of realities and
relationships. I create for myself
the beauty that I need, and I surround
myself with it. (I'm afraid
of being dependant, I think).

You know when I think most of these things?

When I meet an old friend like you.
When the lights are bright and the music loud.
When I get a moment and I could lean on you,
and just watch you laugh. It's been so long,
and you're so precious. 

I'm afraid, both of the past and the future.
It's why I'm so glad that I can still hug you like this
now. There is too much chaos around,
and I want You And Me to make sense.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Sketch of a night.

Whirlpool of faces sounds arms voices:
smooth sound of African Jazz rising up
settling down like liquid under my skin.
Sweet nostalgia of warm lighting, live music,
new friends dizzy with dance and drink.
Sweet seductive smell of alcohol
floating like a feather in the wind.
Winding up in unfamiliar arms, hand
in sweaty hand, head on a new shoulder.
Walking in a daze through the swaying crowd.

Later, careening down the stairs with dancing thoughts.
I hear histories repeat themselves in my voice, bleary eyes.
The feather floats, stays with us on the streets, in the car.
Sitting straight and suddenly quiet, I look out the window.
I'm curled up like a pretzel in my mind, twisted driftwood.
Regret and yearning sit, heavy and unbearably light,
in the nape of my neck, countries of my body.
I woke up in the morning with watery eyes.
Inebriation and quiet memories leave
a strange aftertaste in my mouth.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Nostalgia.

Sometimes I am afraid I write too much about the Valley, talk too much about it.
I'm sure people get sick of me, you know. I'm sure I come off as strange.
I'm afraid that I'm so used to saying beautiful things about the Valley, that I can't see it for what it is any more. I'm afraid of the next time I go - what if it isn't everything I hold it to be?
I'm afraid of thinking about it too much, to be honest. I'm afraid of putting it down in words and images and sighs, because I don't want to steal away any of its magic.

And then some days, when I'm stealing away the last hour of sleep in bed, a liquid ache settles in my bones. What is this, prose or poetry? I don't know. I'm afraid of being overly sentimental - and I'm afraid that someday, I won't be. A liquid ache settles down in me, and my body hurts to be so far. So far in both space and time. My body hurts, I lie in bed and hold it to myself, my knees my arms my wavering heart. I'm on the precipice, somewhere important, it's a boundary a border an edge. I might cry. I might cry, and I don't know where these tears come from, and I try to pin it down, travel deep down the lines of my body to remember.

When I start to remember, that's when I ache.

I sit in class sometimes, paying attention, writing notes. In a cold windowless classroom, I might turn back for a second to listen to someone. They've raised their hand, they're talking about Shakespeare, they're talking about Hume and how he contradicts Plato, they're talking about how power distribution is the foundation of all political activity. This is where I want to be. This is what I want to learn. I see myself grow every day. But when I turn back, sometimes, I realize that I'm not there, I'm sitting in the library on a magnificent golden afternoon. The desk is under a window, and the window looks out onto a pond in the administrative block. I can see artwork on the softboard outside, and everybody who passes by and sees me smiles. I smile and wave. There are pink lilies in the pond, and a frangipani tree. Delicate white flowers have fallen on lilypads, on the gravel around the pond, and in the water itself. They float. Next to me are books which opened up so much to me, so many ways of thinking. These books are the reason I'm in this college right now, genuinely excited by Plato and Hume. My bag is on the floor, some books in the damp sunlight on the desk. I'm sure I'm working, but I rest for just a minute. I float.

One of my hiding places was between two shelves in the library, on the floor. Light filtered through shelves and dusty books, and nobody saw me there unless they looked. There were poetry books there, and I curled up in a corner, a part of the wall the straw mat the white shelves the books themselves. Pablo Neruda and Vikram Seth, Eliot and Wordsworth, obscure German and Native American poets - they all sat with me, silent. They let me discover them, devour them; in turn, I let myself be devoured by them. I let myself be devoured by their words, and then by the delicately worn books themselves, incurably romantic objects. I let myself by devoured by the library (curled up in corners so I was a part of it) and by the forest that surrounded it. I have been devoured by the people, the trees, the sky of that school.

I don't know what to do with the great swirling sea inside of me.

Today morning in bed, I felt like being kind to myself. I let myself remember. And when I let myself relive whole days in the Valley, everything comes alive: mornings where I wake up myself with the birds and the dawn floating in through my windows, evenings where I detached myself from the laughter and conversation to look up and watch the sky, Orion winking at me through the clouds. There's too much to remember, and I know that forest like the back of my hand. Every winding path, I can trace it on myself. My footsteps remember the uneven terrain, the steps, the rocks.

All my life, I will write about the Valley. I will write about the Valley even if I mistrust my writing, because that is all I can do when it hits me like a punch in the gut. It's all I can do when I look back and remember days filled with magic that seems unreal from where I am now, from where all the world is. It's all I can do because I am exhilarated when I think of the Valley, and I am unbearably sad, and Sylvia Plath told me that I will be okay as long as I can wrench a piece of hurt and beauty out of my life and put it on paper, that I will never crawl back home broken and defeated if I can make stories out of my heartbreak. I will write about the Valley because from where I am in my life, those seem like the happiest days that I will know. I don't know why - was it the people, the trees, the sky? Was it what those rambling paths awoke in me?

I will write about the Valley all my life, and I will search for ways to go back. I will go back, I know it, but it will never be the same, and that nostalgia (straight from its Greek derivative, "the pain of an old wound") will sit with me, both heavy and unbearably light, for all my life. There will never be enough to say about it. I will make paintings when I miss it, and fashion critical thinking essays justifying why Valley is home - although the answer is here already, solid and tangible, sitting inside me and smiling.

There is a liquid ache in my bones my voice my mouth my hands. There is a liquid ache, and I might spill over. How to explain that this is not rhetoric, this is something real and alive inside of me, a fire and a flood all at once? Perhaps on somebody else's tongue, these words will represent only pretense, artifice. On my tongue, these words are a desperate plea to the gods of expression. On my tongue, these words are all I have. Pause. Breathe. I have to go for class now. I won't let myself think of Valley for a few days - too much of me is ragged and fluttering in the wind right now. Let me gather myself, so I can begin again.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

The Nature of Desire

Words float down the breeze
to me. Across windowless cold classrooms.
'The nature of desire is such'
he says and I give myself
a cold hard look,
'that it is never ending'.

'The nature of desire...'
I test it on my tongue.
An earthy word, stable,
that settles like dust
on the sensual sound
of 'desire'. Wisdom
perhaps is the greatest
vice, gently pulling you
from side to side, open
to the storms of the world.
Screw this. I don't want
to know. (Who am I kidding?)

To know, to believe, to
understand, and then give way
to yourself to grow. I want to
be wise, and yet I also want to
possess you, and everything you
stand for. And not only you,
and not just in that way. I want
to hold on, desperately,
to every moment, every sight,
every limb of mine desperately screaming
'desire'. I desire beauty. I desire life,
and knowledge, and joy, and youth.
I desire every galaxy, every photograph,
every deep-veined leaf floating in the wind.
I desire - and I sit, on the other side
of the mirror, watching. I sit 
in the eye of my cyclone, listening
to myself think. I lie down 
in a golden field at sunset, and
fashion rhetoric from my words.
'The problem of possession', I say.
'The existential angst'. The grasses
lap like waves at my feet, blown astray
by the wild, wild wind. The sun rests momentarily
on the taut string of horizon, a deep orange orb
against sky.

I languish
in a fragmentary existence.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

To The Others

We can breathe meaninglessness
into anything. We don't even have to try.
We are children of the sun, all of you and I,
and if that is true then I'd
want to be caught
only in the night sky.
I want to be
far from a definition of myself
that includes your callous eye.

I want to be far from the
cracked beer bottles, far
from stubs in ashtrays.
I want to be far
from your whirlpool
of seductive smoke
strobe lights flashy cars angry mouths
spitting angry lyrics to angry beats
in an angry world.

Sometimes,
it's fun to dance.
Sometimes, in the backseat
of a car zooming down a highway,
with the windows down
and the volume high, I'd smile at you
and your simply joys.
But what you stand for
every day, when all I see in my mind
are the children dying, and the
thousands of questions
that no-one will ever answer,
I can't stand you then.

There is war.
There is war, and that is why I must study,
do you understand? There are chickens
strapped to the back of trucks, and I must
fashion my ideals carefully every day
to see that I don't go wrong. There are rapists
and cynics and neo-liberalists and
there are those who are hopeless.
And I cannot unwind all this from around myself,
I cannot stop watching and thinking that there is
too much that is wrong with the world.
And I want to grow, and I want to learn
and be the absolute best person that I can
stretch myself to find in me.

I'm sorry. You and I,
we're from the very same boat.
It's just, I choose to dive deep into the sea
every day, and I get the feeling
that you don't.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Ready to leave

I am ready to leave.
I have been ready to leave
for the longest time.

Still, dust-laden roads
line this city. The conversations
are tired; the sky a weary shade.
I am a stranger here.
I know only that pulsating screen that pulls me
like a planet, a dangerously divine orb.

My story gave up looking for nourishment here.
I lit it up from within, a vanilla candle in a ceramic frame,
casting a midnight dance of light and shadows,
upon the walls of my mind, within the belly of Time.

But I have a home (although it's not here,
in this deeply-bricked complacency
I hate within myself). I fell in love
with a forest at the edge of a city,
a thousand miles from here. And
that is where I will belong. For even
as I languish in the heart of a city
I never loved, my plot lines escape me.
They flutter in the cool wind of a Bangalore evening,
beneath the gently waving trees. My plot lines
are fragile, ragged, wild. They write me a poem
loose on a breeze, a vagabond of Love.

Now I'm leaving home, physically,
(and so in my mind, too). As I pack
my bags, brush my teeth, get into the car;
as I drive past the streets I never held close;
I must also leave what is home in my mind.
I will have to call out to the wind,
go rambling down loved paths to call back
my ragged nostalgia, my fluttering joys, my plot lines.
It's a relief to have found a place I can always return to.
It's strange to leave my house,
and not head to my valley of yearning.
It's strange, but I must do it anyway.
Who knows what I will find on my paths,
what deep-veined red leaves, what feathers,
what polished round stones, what stories?

It's good to keep moving. It's good to have hope.
It's a beautiful day, and I hope tomorrow is better.
I hope to find within myself all the magic I have sought,
and I hope to have the strength to keep seeking.

I'm ready to leave, it's good to keep moving.
I'm tip-toeing, balancing on a well-settled life. Packing away anchors,
(in my mind and out, in suitcases and backpacks and memories)
sipping the deep form of ocean from the hollows of my hands.
Now I'm putting up sails, bright yellow against a swaying shade of sky.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Where the poetry goes to die.

There is poetry in me.
In the gravity of the black alphabets
I am able to make sense of.
(I tell myself).

The windows mist up,
clear. The green outside
is fresh and crisp; waiting
on the clear wings of dawn.
But on a cloudy day, sometimes,
when I forget to be living a meaningful life.

I see the absolute
futility
of a human life in search of beauty.

(I tell myself)
There is poetry in the feverish chaos
running in the wrinkles of an aging face.
In the cynicism that punctures
something important within me.
There is poetry, also,
in the deep well of stillness I feel in the wild.
And in the pulsating power of a harsh screen
that pulls me to it like a planet, there must be poetry,
in the malicious bubble
of complacency and lethargy
that fits around me like a glove.
There must be poetry in this maelstrom.

Some days, the storm is raging and the light harsh.
In the meandering mess of this mortal life,
in the rolls and loops and webs of stories,
relationships and people and arbitrary memories,
in the faith you must put in your existence
in order to survive, yes, make it through
another day, in the existential struggles of
crossing the road or having a meaningless conversation;
the futility hits you hard. Where it hurts.

What if
there is no poetry there?
What if I am able to, really, see the world
without the overbearing cloak of beauty
that I assign to it, surround it with?
"See the world for what it is" -
do you know what dangerous advice that is?
I sleepwalk through the hours. It is a desperate attempt
to hold on to sanity and purpose. I dive,
wade through the days and float through the nights,
hoping to come across an island, a salvation,
a catharsis to this ever-growing sea in my soul,
a veritable ocean of ephemeral silences, senseless rhythms.

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.