It is war

It is war
and the unarmed cower in living rooms —
trenches that are not safe
from the unseen enemy.

But we’ve won before.
It will take more than a virus.
We will take down more than a virus.
We’ve won before.
We have a recurring tryst with destiny,
even in a world askew,
even where there is no time to grieve
even when there is too much grief
We’ve won before.
We know how to gather our loss,
know how to console our hearts,
know when the next dawn will come.

Yesterday an old woman almost died,
it took thirty-seven people
it took two hundred and fourteen messages
to get her to a hospital bed.
But she will be home in a week.
It will start with her.
We know.
We’ve won before.
It always starts with one person.
It always starts with one battle.
It always starts with one victory.
It always starts when the first person says no.

On the Rough Road

On the Rough Road is a collection of haiku that I first put together in 2016 following a series of prompts on ‘Carpe Diem Haiku Kai’ based on Matsuo Basho’s ‘Oku no hosimichi’ (Narrow road to the Deep North)

Recently, I redesigned and edited the chapbook and though it seemed to take forever, it was a nostalgic walk through old haiku and haibun I had written, giving me fresh insight into my state of mind and writing style, then – and now.

Over the years, I’ve surely learnt a thing or two, but also lost something. I don’t entirely know what that is, but I believe some of my best haiku are in this little chapbook. For more details, check this link.

I chose one haiku to leave here today:

here, finally

i open my book of regrets

to the rain

Countless broken hearts

It’s been a catastrophic April in India, with Covid-19 ravaging the country and causing bottomless suffering. I’ve tried to write micro-poetry through it all (on instagram – @tp_poetry), only to realize that there are not enough words for pain and grief. This was the last poem for April. Where do we go from here? What will May bring?

countless broken hearts:
each fragment a universe
in which stars are dying.
there is a reason we should not see
stars imploding —
the sky is part-dream, part-faith, wholly alabaster,
the ceiling that keeps out the endless deluge,
the monsoon is our one unspoken compromise.
but now silver turns to dust in wet eyes.
grief that needs to be intensely personal,
grief that belongs inside the occasional soul,
that grief is now plural.
we hold that polished stone inside our chests,
abandoned, naked,
naked in this city of wailing mirrors.

Moon Poetry

I’ve been posting some “moon poetry” on Instagram (@tp_poetry) for NaPoWriMo and I just realized I hadn’t posted any of those poems here. Is this happening to you too- is Instagram (or twitter) becoming your primary poetry app? I think I still come back here to post longer poems and to read poetry of fellow-bloggers. But I worry about the future of poetry blogs. That said:

(1)
like a separated lover
she bewitches
from a safe distance –

admit it! close up,
the moon would be unbearable

(2)
“and moonlight on naked skin.”
– even one more word
could be too much for a poem

(3)
this grief borrows from the primordial chaos,
the chaos that stirs the mud, the mud that

doesn’t hold on to the river, the river that knows
the route to the sea, the sea that cannot unlove

the moon, the moon that is always whole and
dark, the dark that tries to tell you that light is

false perception. Tell me, have you found a
different way to console yourself, tonight?

The light

mid-march, the light

a feverish wound
inside my eyes

burning the end
of a story
I took all winter to write

Spring in Goscieradz: Leon Wyczolkowski

These Bangalore Nights

I fail poetry and poetry gives up on me. This is the machination
of muses and fates. The present is a documentary playing on the

back of a cloud. These Bangalore nights. The uncensored underbelly.
The filth, the loneliness, the lies, the insomniac buildings that

follow the sun, the bikes tripping on empty roads past midnight,
the feet stumbling out of overpriced pubs and seedy bars, all

dreaming the same dream, all reaching for the same exit, a
one-way street jammed from this red light to the next. An

arthouse film in monochrome. Around the haunting cliché
of a poet at her desk staring at an empty page. Writing a poem

that has no intention of being written. Ninety minutes later,
she crumples the paper and lets it fall to the floor. The floor

that falls with it. The silence that breaks with it. The poet who
flies through the window and rips up the yellow moon. The end.

Poetry of the rice fields

transplanting rice

she complains
about her heartless lover

to a scarecrow
without
a head

sweat trickling down her back

she watches him
in the rice field

a shadow lands,
then an egret
another shadow, another egret

first summer rain

the smell of want
the smell of soil

ankle-deep in water
she giggles —
covering his face

Throwback to some Cherita

In August 2017, I had six poems published on The Cherita. I couldn’t share the poems immediately because of the rules of the journal and then the display format. Later, ‘The Cherita’ released several anthologies, collecting all the poems published by them. I recently managed to get myself the kindle version of one of the books titled ‘Where the river bends‘ and can finally, have all my poems up on my blog. Cherita is a form, as you might know, created by Ai Li who is the editor of the online journal and the curator of the anthologies. (If you’ve already seen a few of them on my Instagram page, well, this is the backstory)

(1)
the horizon thickens

the sea separates
from the curdled sky

we rise like wet birds
from the water
into emptiness, into nothing

(This Cherita also appears in my book ‘Water to Water‘)
(2)
origami bird

I fold and refold
our love

hoping
one day
it will fly
(3)
the after-rain

a moon trembles
in every puddle

sleep leaves the window
and slips into
my empty bed
(4)
a door slammed

a dog barked softly
once, twice

she woke up
when she heard the wind
tiptoe into the garden
(5)
afternoon quiet

the cat sleeps
in sunshine squares

the light and I
argue about shadows
and god
(6)
the sound of temple bells

she closes her eyes
for a moment

when did she get
too old
to pray for love

Orange juice

She saw him standing, back to the wall, one foot slightly bent, hands deep in his jacket pockets, staring at the painting across the hall. She could see it, loud swirls of orange and yellow exploding out of the canvas, staining the wall, screaming. An exhibit that wanted to be seen. That would not stop until it had been acknowledged. It was not her kind of art. She liked the real painters, painting real things, things that weren’t a hundred things at once. Explicit. The harmonious song of a definite mind. A thousand hues that were decidedly black or white.

He was lost in that declamation of colour. He had tried to explain one night. How his mind responded to art. Something about sensation and emotion and perception. The way the viewer becomes part of the painting. One continuous story. Points in the same plane. She knew he had a different angle of appreciation. Surely if the artist was trying to communicate with the world outside him, he would use an easily decipherable language. And if it was just a coded articulation of his private thoughts, then guessing his state of mind would hardly be a true understanding of his art. She had tried to argue. On another night. He had smiled and turned his head away. She dreamt that they were caricatures on a massive painting, two tube stations apart, passing messages scratched on train carriages.

When she had raised an eyebrow at a print in his study, calling it amateurish, he hadn’t said a word. A week later, driving to dinner with a friend, he talked about how it revealed the sexuality of the artist, the squiggles and triangles presenting her anxiety about her unsated passion. She knew better than to laugh out loud. The friend shrugged a neutral shoulder. He though sexuality was better represented by colour and texture, patterns were more complicated. She wondered about the conversation. Surely they weren’t serious. She shook her head, scattering images.

Is it dawn? Or sunset? It looks wet, so just after rain? She tried to be pleasant. Clever. He didn’t look at her, eyes fixed on the painting. He thought it was orange juice. Spilt. The man tells his wife he knows she’s cheating on him. She is surprised. Shocked. Drops her glass of juice. There are puddles on the counter, on the floor. Reaching for one another. The morning light streaming in through the kitchen window is dancing on bubbles of freshly squeezed juice. There are dark lines where her skirt is reflected in the shattered glass, in the wetness. She looks at him, not denying. Not agreeing. Who will give in and clean up the mess? Something always breaks when they talk. He watches the patterns forming on white cabinet doors. He wants to interpret the shapes like a Rorschach test. Does it matter to him at all? What is he feeling? Jealousy? Humiliation? Relief? The orange lines quiver to a stop. He offers a childish sullenness. He isn’t going to mop this one up. He walks away quickly. She doesn’t move.

She turned back to the painting. Pushing the hair from her face with a hand that shook just a little. Just for a moment. Her eyes were wide. You got all that from that painting? He was watching her face. Another drop crawled slowly down the white cabinet, taking its time. Her fingers felt cold and sticky.

He turned to her, carefully, handing her a shiny blue brochure. It is dawn, after the rain. Says so right there. Then he was gone.

Theorems of loss

What if you found a one-rupee coin lying in the dust on market street? Is it yours to keep?

What if you wanted to give it away? Is it yours to do what you will?

What if no one cares these days about a rupee more or a rupee less? Is it not something still?

What if the laws of belonging don’t apply to the little things, what if the theorems of loss cannot prove what doesn’t matter? How do their stories end?

And what if I forgot your lips and your eyes and the pain, what if that time fell soundlessly into a timeless sea?  Not mine, not yours, whose is that night instead?

sixth cup of tea —
this morning
is neither here nor there