Trees amble down the still-dark streets, dusty
roots behind them, dropping the vermilion and
turmeric of gulmohar and tabebuia as if the
hour is auspicious. Meanwhile, humans stand,
nailed to the roadside, hair tangled in pigeon
feet and electric lines, yesterday’s washing and
forgotten dreams, while a half-tree, too tired
to move, is asleep in a lamp-carved half-human
shadow. Before dawn, gods are still asleep in
temples and the dead are still alive. Pain is a
solid sphere that the moon sculpts in its own
image and truth is flattened, two dimensional, its
length stretching a different certainty from its
breadth. Light is our cover. By day, we trade
in brightness and falsehoods. We pretend trees
stand, we pretend we are moving, we pretend
we don’t have roots. We deny what is alive
within us, we don’t see the moon. This city has
twenty four pockets in which we conceal pain.
The City Poems: #4
(The City Poems: #3)
What did they do before fear? Before god? Did
people kneel? Press palms together? Or was it
just the inexorable beauty of dusk that dried
their mouths and fired their loins, stars stuck
in their molars, thighs tight together, ankles
twisted around roses so red they must have
bloomed from the mortal wound of the earth?
Mornings, before its sores are visible, before
the gangrene in its cracks begins to reek, this
city becomes the line of separation between
fear and hope. Its roads lift up from the
edges of crumbling sidewalks, grab your
ankles, the sky impales pre-light into your
eyes, your body crumples like a promise that
should never have been made. The daytime
moon holds your throat and plucks from it
like a beastly silver bird, the undigested
remains of a thousand generations that
tastes of wings and bones and milk and the
knees of sinners scraped against the asphalt.
Fear has the flavour of unravelled time, of
frozen bile, of unspoken language, the rhythm
of footsteps matching the slap of ocean on
shore. Before there was life, did death kneel?
Press its hips together? Raise the arms of the
unborn sun like a praying mantis destined to
be crushed by a wayward shoe? Mornings, this
city becomes the line of separation between
yesterday and the road that never ends.
The City Poems – #3
Whoever first called it a murder of crows
should see this city overrun by an occupation
of pigeons. Don’t multitudes cry out for an
identity different from the sum of their
constituents? With the sun still unripe on
dawn’s bough, an infestation of morning
walkers scourge the streets, interrupted only
by the disapproval of a crescendo of street
dogs. It is that time of day when alone is
plural. When thoughts grow legs and dreams
can see and the wordlessness of night is erased
step by step. You are moving in a crowd, inside
a safe place, and an exclamation of a thousand
yous is reaching for the edge. There is a
quietude of realities. Birds watch over asphalt
and humans and garbage. A group of invisible
universes becomes a silence. An infinity of
uncertainties is renamed god. A sigh is the
only possible breath of a collective waiting.
The City Poems: #2
You don’t see even though you do. At dawn,
the city is not pretty. Homelessness and
garbage heaps and sullen faces in windows
offend the eye. But, need has never been
beautiful. Even in low light. You lift your head
and focus on squares of mottled sky. Behind
a haphazard cluster of buildings, the sun is
struggling to rise. The shiver of perspiration
finding the short route down your back feels
incorrect. In the shadow of a traffic light,
you check your phone again for a message.
The City Poems: #1
Oh, our truth may be malleable, but you can’t accuse
us of deliberate perjury. We bend with the wind of
self-preservation. Isn’t that our elemental mandate?
We dress in convenient falsehoods. Our masks wear
masks. Reality is a lover we scorn by day and take to
our beds at night, so the pain will comfort our
numbness. We strut like naked emperors bearing
our crowns of opportunism. Truth itself is complicit.
If it wished, verity could fill the light in its vertiginous
ascent to the sky. Are we water that we will harden
or disappear just to accommodate the whim of the
weather? No, our forbearance has no preordained
horizon. Our certitudes have disclaimers. We don’t
fear death, we are afraid of being forgotten. Our
last honest confession could have been hunger, but
we have long learnt to quietly swallow our pride.
There is a cyclical monotony to remorse. We fail,
we fall, we begin again, hoping each time for a
different ending. We learn this from the sky.
It turns murky and desperate. Cleanses its insides.
Weeps. Finds itself unchanged in the morning.
Resets its congenital angst. Wouldn’t you like
to look up and find something different, it asked,
in all seriousness, one night. There is a surreal
potency in telling the sky about the waning
moon. In seeing its eyes widen. In watching it shift,
uncovering a few more stars. Unveiling another
moon. Will this make you happy, it asks, bemused.
Does it matter, I counter, in the sudden light,
but it can no longer hear me. I follow new stars,
they too are whirling. In the morning, they will be
gone. Hidden from different eyes. I will sit by the
window, waiting for the sky to turn dark again.
Image by Matt Boyce (Picture prompt provided by Visual Verse)
Emotion congeals into grey clouds that hide the
light. The poem feels ink falling like warm rain.
As if there is a wet season for writing. You used
to say only Illusions are spun from light- love
and gods and dawn and the paleness around
my finger where your ring used to be. You used
to say darkness is the primordial truth. The poem
swallows its vowels. There are things that should
not be said. After the rain, there must still be sky.
Alone wasn’t a thing, till we made it up. Till a
storm forced it into the poem. Till hyphens gave
up the things they held together. The poem lies
beside me and touches the wound of absence.
We learn to feed our solitude with consonants.