The edge of what you don’t know and cannot feel

Then you make lists of those you loved (some true) and
those who loved you back and suddenly you understand

distance and space and curvature, the bigness of small
things and how to solve for x. Doesn’t a lifetime only

get you to the edge of what you don’t know and cannot
feel? God, for instance, is a mango tree, flowering in

season, interrupted by pests or a lot of sunshine or a
little rain. Four years ago, a couple made crazy adulterous

love under one tree and it refused to fruit all summer (this,
entirely, is true). There is a reason why broken parts

together weigh more than the whole (this too, is true,
because to know grief is to know heaviness, to know how

to trap air in your open fist). But all this, because I was
sitting under a mango tree, praying it would not rain (not

true for clouds are clouds), because so much comes apart
when you have to run, mid-thought, to where it all began.

Makeshift Eden

Dusty bougainvillea — the pink of rotting beetroot peel —
necks craned over the fence, hibiscus heads nodding,

somehow white petals staying white, an advertisement for
peace or surrender, even though war is in perennial bloom.

From skin to earth to sky, the premise for battle is made
holy. We have perfected want so it resurrects itself out of

reason. Reason that keeps us safe. Reason that makes gods
make us make gods. In a scratched pan, over an open fire, we

fry fish, fresh from the lake, poisonous, perhaps, from
effluents and humans, but we have scrubbed it with so

much turmeric, countered the bitterness of chemicals with
garlic and spices, this scrap of makeshift Eden, its back against

this city – we act like the air is fresh here, act like the stars
are visible, act like it’s fine, us being here, us drinking wine, us

being where we cannot see the bodies, us eating dead fish,
their eyes white, staying white, the colour of burnt fear.

A crow flies backwards

a crow flies backwards
over the house
in which a young man took his life

the old shaman says everything
must go back to that moment
when hope abandoned his heart

the earth must kneel
and surrender that time
to the universe —

but resurrection is not enough,
doesn’t that kind of death
demand retribution?

shouldn’t the cosmos fold itself
into the darkness
where pain turned to harm?

the crow lands back on a bough
and swallows its song,
there is the weighted silence of dread

eternity bows low, a sun
repurposes the sky — who will ask,
who will grant forgiveness now?

Here Now

Through the cracks in the asphalt, new grass rises—
this city has been silent for too long, disquiet has

settled in its bones. The scab of history was scratched
open by asymmetric tears but how can it be war when

one side always wins? When the falsehood of few
becomes the truth of many? The skill of perception, the

eye peering through the prism doesn’t see the other
looking back at it. A battle with no front line, no

rhythm, no rules — in human versus human, faith
cannot be the arbiter. Consider the evidence, death

needs a path to be meaningful, so it can become
the end. Life needs pain to know that it is still alive.

And yet this city is numb, an uncertain mist shrouds
every exit. Here, now, why are the odds still skewed?

The opposite of death

Again and again, I want this life to return, like
a haunting. Until my bones can recite antonyms

in the night. What is the shadow of breath? What
is the inverse of moonlight? What is the antithesis

of the hours you wedged under one leg of the wobbly
earth? The gate to dawn, so long shut, is creaking.

Every mistake wants to be resurrected. Repeated.
Consequences wait at the old places. The traps have

bared their primal teeth. The body knows where
it should burn, where it should wound. Touch is

habit. Desire is the prophesy that can be read only
in a mirror. What is normal if dystopia is an obvious

palindrome? What would be, if not this life? What
do we do with love that is not the opposite of death?

 

While I try to compile them into a more readable format, the 55 posts from the lockdown series will also be accessible through a widget on the sidebar. Check it out!

Curfew: Day 53

24 migrant workers (travelling on top of a loaded truck,
were killed in an accident, on a highway far from home)

no eternal flame/ no memorial/ no statues/ no
flower lined graves / not even a bunch of poppies/ not
even names scratched on a crumbling wall/ though this
is still a war/ though there are still dead people/ people that
nobody knew/ whose stories will never be told/ just a
swollen statistic contains all that they will never be/ I ask
in whose name does the Ganga still flow/ in whose name do
the mountains still stand/ in whose name do we carry
on because lunch is still at 12.30 and dinner at 07.00/ and
sometime before dawn/ many people will be born and many
people will die/ that’s for the moon to make sense of/ what
do we owe dreams that are waiting at home/ for the sleepless
to arrive/ what do we owe roads that never reach/ what
does it matter because this is what was meant to be/ all that
is unfair will be washed away in another forgettable rain/

dear universe
if you can’t be just –
then just be kind today

For the millions of migrant workers making their way back to villages and towns in the hinterland, thousands on foot, walking hundreds of kilometres, as livelihoods are destroyed during the lockdown and hunger becomes a greater threat than disease.

 

Also read:
Curfew: Day 52

 

Curfew: Day 52

1 migrant worker (and the baby she had during
her long walk home)

Hope too is curfewed, hovering 1.8 metres away,
masked and gloved. Everything points to the

appearance of a god, let’s say goddess (but what
are the odds?), to take matters in her own hands

which of course makes the causality problematic,
but faith doesn’t necessarily have to rhyme with

reason. There must be a vanquishing, a triumph,
a reseeding of goodness and the inevitable miracle.

Or two. This is the time, isn’t it? What else could it
mean when the broken are still falling and the fallen

are still breaking , when you hear a million palms
join together, a million knees touch the ground, when

life wants to live longer and death needs to die sooner –
do we know the consequences of so much prayer?

how many dawns
will it take
to erase this endless night

For the millions of migrant workers making their way back to villages and towns in the hinterland, thousands on foot,walking hundreds of kilometres, as livelihoods are destroyed during the lockdown and hunger becomes a greater threat than disease.

Also read:
Curfew: Day 51

Curfew: Day 51

Six migrant workers (were run over by a speeding
bus while on a 1000 km journey home, on foot)

This poem knows nothing of your suffering.
All it can be is a poor witness. A public record

book is more of a poem, it has your name,
your story, even the colour of your eyes before

the dreams were stolen from them. A poem is
just so a poet can breathe. Just a low portal

through which a caravan of gloom has passed
without stopping. This poem is the view through

a window pane while the inferno rages out of
sight. But the poet is so safe inside, so distanced

from the flames that he cannot even smell the
smoke. Yet, this poem wants to talk about the burns

on your skin and the scars on your being. Just so
a poet can still remember what it was like to feel.

we have walked together
for so long – reached different places
for so long

For the millions of migrant workers making their way back to villages and towns in the hinterland, thousands on foot,walking hundreds of kilometres, as livelihoods are destroyed during the lockdown and hunger becomes a greater threat than disease.

 

Also read:
Curfew: Day 50

Curfew: Day 50

Trapped inside walls, death on the loose, outside,
where once days mattered — you say we are safe in

our primal cave, while out in the jungle, tigers wander —
this night must somehow end in an admission of love

or in lovemaking. Maybe it is an ice cave, you suggest,
seeking warmth, and I wonder if sanctuaries can

be so misplaced, imagined so wrong — but we
follow the rule of skin and word: some skin, some

words are more susceptible than others. We hide in
one darkness, outside another lingers, we make skin

speak, make words touch, this night sheds so many
layers. We hold its head and feel its breath, not seeing

is more sacred than love or lovemaking, till outside,
a broken sky bleeds, confesses its sin of first light.

is it not spring –
even if the flowers
refuse to bloom

Also read:
Curfew: Day 49

Curfew: Day 48

Five migrant workers (travelling home in a truck 
loaded with mangoes, killed in a road accident)

This summer of the sun that is and the light that
isn’t. This summer of waiting in queues – the

line of the poor, the line of the poorly, the line
that cannot go all the way home. This summer

of mangoes, red with blood, scattered on a
highway. This summer of overturned empathy.

This summer of counting – minutes and dead
and the number of meanings for ‘distance’ – as

noun, as verb, as antonym for living. This summer
that is the Trojan horse dragged into the city centre,

silence stuffed inside its distended belly. How will
the looming monsoon ever wash this summer away?

 

all things kneel
before the new normal –
even us, even memories

For the millions of migrant workers making their way back to villages and towns in the hinterland, thousands on foot,walking hundreds of kilometres, as livelihoods are destroyed during the lockdown and hunger becomes a greater threat than disease.

Also read:
Curfew: Day 47