The Corrosion of Empathy

what do they feel like,
your thoughts, as they emerge,
still caterpillar curled, wrapped in the
slick uncertainty of after-birth,
morphing, mutating into inadequate sounds
in the void between us,
who knows what mask they fake
in the tight bondage of pleasantry,
who knows what sense they make
in the corrosion of empathy,

what does it feel like,
to live inside your skin, to know a heart
so well you stop hearing its beat,
i cannot feel the callouses of moods that
crease your forehead, or smell the light
that shifts the edges of your lips,
who knows the song in a brown moth’s eyes
but the harlot flame that seduces it,
who knows the frozen voice of death
but the waiting earth that inters it;

what would it feel like
if understanding was the sea,
under the surf of ephemera,
bound to the one eternal coast,
but what if the river yearns for sweetness
as the salt crusts over her moan,
who knows the ache of the sky each night
as she counts scars from aquila’s wings
who knows the tears of the ununderstood
as they unspell words each new thought brings,

what could it feel like
in the last flicker of a brown moth’s eye,
in the fleck of rust brushed from the wounded sky,
in the fleeting eternity between thought and word,
in the unbroken,
in the unspoken,
what could it feel like, just knowing.


time lifted his shirt
and showed them his purple scars,
it was me, he said,
I wanted to stop
but I couldn’t,
I saw it in her eyes
but I couldn’t,
I tripped and fell
but I couldn’t,
I stayed forever,
still, I couldn’t.

Quadrille: a 44 word poem
Linked to the Dverse Poets (Prompt: Scar)

The Promiscuity of Distance

but Delhi, thirteen hundred miles away,
still feels like an arrhythmic heartbeat,
its old summer breath alive and warm,
sand like rubble in the pores of its skin,
tasting of lychees and parchment
and a time long gone;

yet this graveyard, a mile, maybe two, down the road,
watches everyday as my feet rush past,
hesitant, urgent, blind,
past the flower sellers on remembrance day,
baskets of lilies and marigold,
the smell of death and strangers
and time unknown;

for what is near can seem so far
in a way that far can never seem near,
it is the promiscuity of distance,
the edge-less uncertainty of space
that swallows fingers,
a phone that will not ring,
yet damns itself counting time,
growing bigger and heavier with each second,
a measure of stretching silence;

tell me how much further is the horizon,
already the sweet sea gurgles around my ankles,
tell me how much closer is the moon,
already the silver ropes bind my feet,
it is the wanton myth of distance,
it is the debauchery of points in a plane,
tell me can you see the beginning
right where I can see the end
already the miles sink into a quasi middle.

The Paradox of Impossibility

some dots should not be connected,
some lines never drawn,
where wanting is consequence preceding cause,
where folly is tomorrow’s aversion to turn, to pause,
where one cry meets another, not in silence,
but in the birthing throes of a scream,
where one fire meets another, not in the dark,
but in the conflagration of a dream;
some lines should not be connected,
some boxes never drawn,
where truth is the preoccupation of failure,
where love is the extravagance of loss,
where words leave secrets, not in perfidy ,
but with the indifference of impiety,
where faith leaves hearts, not in discord,
but in the paradox of impossibility;
some boxes should not be connected,
some patterns never drawn,
some dots should not be connected,
some lines never drawn.

The Trouble with Tanka-10

the revolving door spins-
in a crackle of leaves and stars,
autumn departs,
the ghost of winter bleeds the sky white,
even memories refuse to walk in this storm


its golden eyes darken
a white scarf tightens around its neck
autumn screams-
its soundless voice freezing in the icy wind
just yesterday leaves were falling in russet rhyme


I must go
to that place within me
a return pilgrimage
stripped of thought, unchained from the world,
bloody, screaming, the way I came

Fujiwara no Teika’s Tanka Technique 10: Demon-quelling – onihishigitei or kiratsu no tei – includes strong or even vulgar diction but these elements are treated with sensibility and gentleness.
A wonderful month of Tanka prompts concludes at CDHK. My posts can be found here: The Trouble with Tanka 1-10