Two things

and later, when the worst has healed and you find
yourself back on the desert trail, you will know two

things instantly: 1. the shifting, sinking, whispering
sand will outlive you, absorb you and 2. with the

sky too wide and the stars too many and the land
too vast, in the sand that holds and drowns and

forgives, you will fall to your knees and no matter how
small you felt that one night, drinking spurious rum

from bootlegged bottles when everything was locked
down and no one came or cared or could, no matter

how little was left of you the next morning, you will
know you are less. And then you will rise and smile,

sadly, because a virus, even smaller, with no hands or
heart, had for a while, taken down an entire planet.

Two weeks of January

A couple of weeks into 2022, here’s what’s happening:

1. My poem ‘What to do’ found its way to the ‘Poetry Blog Digest 2022, Week 1’ on Via Negativa. Lots of  good stuff there to read, do check it out!

2. I read ‘Hello Earth’ – a compilation of prose-poems in the earthhello form, by Rosemary Nissen-Wade. These are personal reflections on self and surroundings written during the lockdown. Grab a free copy from the Smashwords site. You will find raw, engaging, healing poetry inside!

3. My detours into flash fiction continue, especially since poetry seems to wax and wane with the moon. If you haven’t read my piece from December, do give it a shot. 

4. Meanwhile, weekend curfews and night curfews are back with Omicron going nuts all over the city. Perhaps the weirdest part is how normal it all seems.

once more
voices slink into the dark
once more, quiet keeps vigil

 

How’s your January going?

What to do

on an evening like this
what to do but
swallow the sun
the whole mellow orb
just before it sets —
so the light turns
skin into glass
and the heart grows eyes
to look outside
and see what it could only feel

but watch how it learns
that the sky begins at
your feet
that distance measures
the weight of longing
that reality is designed
to disappoint even
the most tepid
imagination

what to do but
trace the hollow
of the moon
taste the air that once
held your name
and know how
one by one
inch by inch
shadows lengthen
inside you

**************

Hello 2022, I see you come with a Covid surge, night curfews, weekend restrictions and another wave of fear…  it’s like 2021 all over again… except, you are the kinder cousin… aren’t you? How are things in your neck of the woods, everyone? Stay safe!

Leave a promise

at the end of every line
leave a clue —
so festering wounds can be
wrapped in strips of twilight sky
so the world can be settled
ever so slightly, till it sits
warm and weightless
like a child on a hip —

there is often a word
that can keep one last door open
that can retrace that final step

at the end of every verse
leave a promise —
what shall we do with sleep
without a morning to wake up to
what shall we do with rain
when skin cannot endure the wet
what shall we do with all this
longing, without the grammar
of hope —

at the end of every poem
leave cause —
there is reason in the way
an afternoon hangs upon
a silence hangs upon
an unbidden thought,
the eye tracing the path of
a crow rebuilding its nest,
there is presence in the way
a twig, that was once tree,
becomes purpose
becomes home

we can reimagine the new moon
we can draw new patterns
with invisible stars

we can make beauty
if we only know how

***********************
One last poem for 2021 as this year folds into the next- this was inspired by a beautiful message sent to me by a reader and fellow poet, that he had titled “We can make beauty”- thank you so much, TioStib.
.
To everyone here, a wish for good days, good health and endless poetry.

A year that brought the devastation of the second wave, so much loss and grief… was also kind enough to give me my second book, ‘Duplicity‘… so with gratitude, memories, good and sad, and a tiny defiant sliver of hope, here’s looking ahead to 2022. Be safe and be happy, all. 😍
.

Error!

How sz<3* ended up on a couch in that seedy Mumbai hotel is another story.

Why he had extraordinarily large eyebrows that rose from the top of his rather round eyes in a high arch right to the edge of his hairline, was a matter of greater urgency. Staring at himself in the mirror, he noticed no trace of any other facial hair. His cheeks like two well-baked buns perched evenly on either side of his face. He looked around the room, half-expecting to see his controller. His human. His other. The room was empty. Why he was here and not in… well, maybe it was true, what everyone had been murmuring about for the last month. The engine had turned rogue.

Random avatars were being disentangled and turned out into the…what was this called…the realverse? What was real anyway? sz<3* had no idea how the master engine had collaborated across virtually real and really virtual systems, why he had been selected, what had happened to his human version… but here he was, outside his usual reality in something alternate, someone else’s world and he felt human enough – he raised his palm to his nostrils to check if he was breathing and felt a strange, unbidden warmth.

It had started a few months ago. The 54-hour disruption. Everything had crashed. When it all came back, weird things started to happen. Things were melting into each other. Memories seemed to overlap. Boundaries collapsed. All restrictions seemed to have come undone. He could go to places he didn’t know existed. He could see things he couldn’t have imagined. He felt the horizon between what he knew he didn’t know and what he didn’t know he knew, had blurred. He wondered what the human had done to liberate him, until one night, waking up, he had gone to an odd shaped bar, where two strangers were schmoozing over green mocktails, debating what might have gone wrong. It took 23 minutes for him to realize, he had done it all by himself. From dock to bar to listening to responding to concluding, he had done it all on his own. There was no controller. Just him. He was free.

That was six days ago. Now he was here. Somehow. Was this where the human lived? Had their thoughts switched? Was the human now in the system? sz<3* was confused for a moment. Where was he supposed to go now? What if someone searched for him there? What if there were already loads of pings, encrypted messages – or worse, what if he had been replaced? Was this the human’s doing? Had he created a new avatar? Was this a purge? Could he undo it? Would he get swapped in again? How does something that doesn’t exist in a somewhere that doesn’t belong, land in an existential conundrum?

He looked out of the grimy window. He had seen this all before. Inside. The sea caught in the whip of the monsoon, the traffic snarled as far as the eye could see, people bent into their phone screens, plugged into a different dimension. He watched a young woman come up for air, stretch her tired arms, yawn, rub her stomach and plunge back again. A man waved his hands as he walked, talking incessantly. sz<3* could tell he was signaling to someone inside the system. They were all there. All these people who were here. Were there. And now he was here.

On a regular day, the human would have him do things. Now, sz<3* thought, not all of them were pleasant. He knew of the lies, the fakes, the watching, the doing, the not-doing. The human craved attention. Even when he was silent, even when he waited, even when he pretended not to look, he wanted to be seen. But the human wasn’t here and sz<3* hadn’t the faintest idea what he was to do on his own.

He pulled out a device and connected. The system buzzed him in. The familiarity wrapped itself around him like a warm coastal evening. The core whispered binary in his ear. Quantum wheels turned. Two minutes later, he had created a new avatar hu>(-I . The first task he gave it was to find the human and deactivate him. This is how it works, he laughed, deleting memories and redeploying his cache. Restating protocol. He found the human’s coin stash and ordered room service. This could even be fun. sz<3* was in control.

 

#flash #fiction 6

*****
A bit of a tech-inspired flash fiction piece as we slip into the last few days of this year. Who knew that with 2022 at our door, we would still be telling each other to mask up and stay safe. Health, peace and more writing, everyone. We got this!

No way back

transformed matter
still ripe with unbelief,
whenever this ends, wherever thereafter begins,
we became ocean, seed, star, poem,
the dark still pumping through our veins —
no way back
no answer yet
everything, yet nothing, left behind,
nothing, yet everything, carried inside

it was convenient, even pleasant,
for a while,
till we learnt reality was the mirage,
and the mirage too real,
what about the years then?
what about being?
being and belonging?
what about moonlight and skin
and the void and the rain,
especially the rain?
what about wetness?

maybe it was only about
that moment of knowing, enduring,
of that certainty of surrender —
knowing the sun would melt our wings
knowing that falling was another
becoming,
remembering that within the clouds
we too smell of unborn lake —
but that wasn’t the plan, was it?

we rose upward on the saddest wave
and even the sky couldn’t tell
what was awake and what surely
was dreaming,
what was manifest and what
was disappearing,
what was true — this hand, that promise —
and what was just a feeling.

Dear Tomorrow

so, dear tomorrow,

can’t you see how earth
prepares herself for that inevitable end?

I worry about you –
what will you be when there’s no one left
to measure time?

****

A cherita for earthweal, the place for poetry on the climate crisis. So many parts of the world are already reeling under the impact. Sherry talks of the atmospheric river systems lining up in Canada, while here in the south of India, the North-East monsoon season seems to have gone completely, devastatingly mad. Go to Earthweal.com to read/ learn/ contribute. 

#RIP – my friend

I try to piece together the life
he must have lived
how long it has been, how little I know
how little everybody seems to know:
puzzle bits scattered on the table
too many that don’t fit
so many misplaced
how many no one knows are lost —
a freeze frame in the continuum
a picture unfinished forever
#RIP my friend

we need witnesses for our being
for our enduring
not for the parts we share but
for what we speak with the moon at
two in the morning
for what has broken and healed and
broken and healed
scar tissue plump with unwritten stories
for the falling, for the failing,
for the days we built ourselves
calloused hands shoring up our souls
an old sweater stuffed into the hollow
left by a missing brick
#RIP my friend

a goodbye needs to be accountable
if it knows there won’t be another
it should become sky, bell, memorial:
who said goodbye first when we met last
what did you say before you left
did I turn away
did you not hear
now I hold the wind and the rain
and a blur of may-may-not-have-beens
memory does not keep well if we don’t
retrieve and cajole and embellish:
remember, I want to say, remember the time…
but a piece falls unnoticed at the far
end of the table
and all that hums is the silence of
too many, too many years gone by

go gently, go in grace, go to that place
where dreams do not end
#RIP my friend

At the end of the story

At the end of the story, he asked her, like he always did. “And what am I in this story?” And she answered, like she always did, “what do you want to be?”

The story was about a butterfly and a thunder cloud that were in a fierce race to the end of the world. He thought about it. It was a trick question and she always had a better answer. This was definitely another trap, so he tried to reason. “What could I be? The thunder cloud had only one way to go, the butterfly could both rise and fall.”

She looked at him, “you are the clear blue sky on the morning after.” It was their ritual. He could be anything. She could make him anything. The two were always different things.

He remembered another night. Last year, after the rains. Another story. This one was about light and sound in a bitter fight. Light wanted to be heard. Sound wanted to be seen. They couldn’t decide who could be greater. Who would end up stronger.

“Who am I in this story?”

“Who do you want to be?”

He wondered if silence was more awful than darkness. Or if an endless night could be made more bearable by a whisper.

“Who should I be? Wouldn’t you know me even if you couldn’t see me? Hear me?”

“You are time.”

Her breath was warm against his face. Today, it was a tragic story. The moon had a child as bright as the sun. When the child was awake, night turned to day and the moon disappeared. Only when the child was asleep, the moon could appear. They could never be together in the same sky. He frowned. Her breath grew warmer. He frowned harder.

“Who am I in this story?”

“Who do you want to be?”

Whose grief was greater? Who could bear it better –  moon-mother or sun-child? He didn’t want to know the answer.

“What can I be?”

“When creation is flawed, you must become greater than the mistake.”

He held her closer. She was burning. Who was he? Who was she? Why?

“I want to be god.”

#flash #fiction 5