There has to be.

I can walk away from this, from your
universe. One, two, three steps and the
shackles start falling away, I begin to
unlearn, I forget your name, we become
strangers. Beyond this, there is another
space. There has to be. I grow with the
distance, larger, larger, until I can peer over
the giant fence, until the clouds are below
my feet, until what was becomes a tiny morass
of mostly darkness, its lights fading like the
memory of last night. Nail down your stars,
glue your shadows tight, incarcerate your sky,
hold your emptiness close, the song that echoes
in my heart is playing somewhere else.

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More than love

Isn’t ‘gentle’ the most gentle word? More than healing.
Or life. Or love? I know you’re thinking of lilies or jasmine
but they are cruel, their white frocks ruffled with
unfinished memories. ‘Soft’, you suggest, like skin in
twilight, or ‘silk’, barely creasing as the heat shifts under
it. But backwards is not a happy direction. The past is a
solid rock, nicked and gored, but hardly temperate in the
long shadow it casts over the burgeoning moon. Let’s
look elsewhere for our definitions. I could watch forever
the surf curling around your ankles, but ‘forever’ is only a
trick of light, something heavy stops in my throat each time
I try to say it. Today- so distant from your hands, empty of
your voice- today wraps its arms around me, feels tight across
my chest, cold along my spine, my legs buckle under the
weight of its truth. It should kill me, but it spares me for yet
another tomorrow. Just for now, I will let you breathe, it
whispers, gently. I feel the air filling my lungs, I feel the air
escape my being. Gently. It warms my lips like a half kiss in the
early light, the tongue of a promise running over teeth, the
earth moving, ever so slowly. ‘Gentle’. More than life. Or love.

Have you spoken?

Have you spoken to the ocean recently? Or to Yemen? Or to
a yellow dinghy at the bottom of the Mediterranean? How

about a polar bear? Or a blueprint in a factory somewhere,
for a nastier gun? I can hardly make a list better than your

morning paper. What would you say to a bird perched on a
length of barbed wire separating this from that? Keeping

person from person? Me from you? Don’t ask me. I don’t
speak. I spend the evenings in the balcony, mourning a lost

love. Bemoaning the universe’s broken parts that collude
against me. Thinking about a young Krishna who opened

his mouth to show his mother the entire cosmos within.
Unbroken. I talk to myself. About silence. Endings. About

love. A little bird on the concrete parapet opens its beak to
to scare the encroaching dusk. Darkness falls over us like a

coarse blanket, all at once. Starless. Moonless. Skyless. How
can you bargain for peace when you have nothing to give?

How can you bargain for love? The night takes my hands
away from me. Like plastic, like chemicals, like everything

we made and used and threw away, won’t love turn up
on a distant shore, in the belly of a murdered sperm

whale? Have you talked recently to the naked mountains-
cold, their lips parched in this strange December rain?

time/ and things

brittle- mind and
memory/ fragile- bones- under the
soft earth/ we break, we are broken
debris of time/ and things we refuse
to understand/ I remember love like
the fading scent of a lover’s skin on
an old shirt/ a fleeting compulsion to
which I pin/ dates and words and love
making/ today I hear your voice again as
if there have/ been many lives in
between/ saved and drowned and
washed ashore/ kissed and buried and
blossomed as jasmine flowers/ hushed
and sung and muzzled by cosmic
bands/ why are we shackled by this
falseness/ of elapsed days and
years?/ now an ocean turned/ then
a sky was born/ now a door is both half
open and half shut/ then a phone was
warm against my ear/ “hello”

Only the Mirror Changes

Only the mirror changes, showing vibrant orange wings instead
of creeping, hungry green. How vain is the heart that rolls the past

into an impotent caterpillar? What makes the butterfly think the
metamorphosis is complete? I tell myself I am distanced from you,

from that night, from that abrasion of skin upon skin. I am surprised
I can remember. I am surprised by the precision of detail, by the absence

of theatre. I am surprised I have the same eyes. Somewhere behind
a closed door is the opera of sunshine, where time does not exist

or self. Where you can step back into a sentence, where you can reach
out and feel again, where moments look different in each mirror

and you can stand before the one in which you smile. That night
still wears the August moon. I am surprised you have the same eyes.

Searching with Words

This poem was published a few days ago on the Indian Review.
It first appeared (under a slightly different name) in June 2017 in The Quiet Letter

The idiom of childhood
seeps into this borrowed lexicon,
like the leaky roof drawing patches on the wall
smelling of another rain,
smelling of grandfather’s only black coat
that he wore like a second skin;
when it hung on the nail behind the door,
he was shrunken, diminished,
swallowed by loud kitchen voices,
rambunctious brass and copper pots,
their warm bottoms patterned with soot;
his walking stick stands in my cupboard,
older than me, than him,
head bent in a way his never was,
even the night by grandma’s body,
preparing her, preparing himself;
I search for him with words
in a language he never spoke,
that can state he laughed out loud
watching cartoons with me
that last summer,
but cannot translate
the way his whole body shook,
the way the sea trickled out of one eye,
his face contorted into something
that I now call joy.