Russo

Thank you Hemanth for the Kannada translation.
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Mock That Muse

Is poetry blogging dead? Are we scratching the final poems on its virtual tombstone? Or has it always been this way, a few flashes of lightning, the occasional rumble of thunder, but essentially dense, opaque late-monsoon sky? Or perhaps an unequal firmament, bright in parts – by intelligent design?

And yet, we are in the glorious renaissance of poetry (they say). More books are being sold (they say) and more people are writing than ever before (they say). Maybe they take poetic licence with those facts. Or with that which they label ‘poetry’.

RIP long form. RIP the garrulous rambler. RIP poems that cannot swipe themselves into recognition. RIP mystery and metaphor. RIP magic. What is the Instagram version of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock?

 

But it is that kind of morning, the air
unsure if it wears the scent of rain
or the yellow odour of a sun-drenched
day. The kind of morning when teacups
are bottomless and poems long and
winding, running their hands down your
spine, over your lips, lifting your face so
you can look the light in the eye and ask
yourself if you dare to undress the words,
further, touch the soft skin, the run of bone,
feel the blood pausing at the end of the line,
waiting for you to draw breath. If you dare.
It is that kind of morning. Let the cursor
blink on the blog. Let the spaces gather. Let
the eloquent poets of old watch over your
empty page. Deny the pond for the river. Deny
the river for the sea. Deny the sea for the
deluge that is to come. The muse sits on a
branch, passing the universe like a rubber
ball from hand to hand, the stars like dew in
her hair. The first word has been spoken.
The first word has been written. The
primordial sound echoes inside your
consciousness. Mock that muse. Gather
infinity in your fingertips. Your poem
wants to fill the void between worlds.
It is that kind of morning. If you dare.

How far is the temple?

What makes a poem come alive? Do you prefer reading it in the silence of your being or reading it aloud to yourself or having it whispered to you?

Here’s a recording of ‘How far is the temple?’ a poem that appears in my book Water to Water.

I’m still trying to find my way through the – audacity/soundcloud/ mixing/ wav vs mp3/complete chaos – maze. But here’s a little something.

 

 

Water to Water is available in digital and print formats on Amazon.

Come October

October is not the season for your poetry. The monsoon
declaims its final verse, festivals are lined up, darkness is
punctuated by sesame oil lamps. Diwali is a refrain of ghee
and gold and expectation. Poets are interrupted by semicolons
of human interlude – the annual enjambment of limbs and
sweets and curiosity. Muse after muse is muzzled by the
syntax of pyrotechnics and prayer. It is tradition. October
is not the season for your poetry. The swish of Kanjeevaram
silk is folk song. The crunch of adhirasams is the meter
of piety. Incantation is the line break for the people absent
each year – gone, dead, disappointed. October is the phone
call that breaks a year of end-rhymed silence. October is not
the season for your poetry. October is the unwritten poem.

 

 

Notes from Warsaw – 4

What happened here, at this very place —
did someone die, did someone kiss, did
someone leave with a mouth full of
goodbyes, did someone return, wordless,
arms cradling improbabilities? I wonder
why I am here, now, watching trains
crisscross the Vistula. The river answers
in a language I cannot understand. The
moon into whose eyes I dare peer from
my own rooftop, looks away, showing
bones, a line of jaw, tense, broken. Are
we more forgiving of unanswered
questions in the place we label ‘home’?
Long ago, someone with my voice, with
the same dark eyes must have wondered
why he was in the place he stood, bow
in hand. He was taught to kneel. To press his
forehead to the earth. I turn my face. Stand
taller. My cheek pressed against the cold
cheek of the moon. Another train passes.
A march of yellowed windows toppling
squares of night like dominoes. Somewhere
else, there is a warm moonless morning.

(From the Świętokrzyski Bridge)

 

Also in this series:
Notes from Warsaw – 3
Notes from Warsaw – 2
Notes from Warsaw –

Notes from Warsaw —

his fingers
remember Chopin
as the night
flattens itself
against the walls and
light, little glowing
beads of light, piggyback
on notes as they
ricochet off the
ceiling —

he plays
for the
silence, to
disengage the silence, to
refute the unwillingness
of the silence, just
as the poet writes
to annihilate
emptiness —

the red
silence bleeds
into veins
so blood
rushes in a
torrent, a river,
a deluge that
senses a sea you
cannot
find —

silence whose
eyes and face and
breath he feels, whose
name he cries over and
over, key after key, tell
me its rhythm is
different from your
heartbeat —

the silence
dying till black is
dawn, till the sky is
a square of dirty blue like
wet clay beside a potter’s
wheel, blue clay that
becomes an urn,
becomes a carafe, a
chalice —

vessels are
shaped to interrupt
space, to unsettle the
endless harmony of air, to
break its flight, soft shapes
he knows, shadows he
knows, her throat, her
breasts, her waist, arching
blue as mazurka unwinds to
nocturne —

while words
spill black into
white emptiness, melding,
until the letters are a
bridge the silence
crosses, bleeding
curves on wood, slowly,
softly, each step an
infinity of notes on
which the light
moves —

do you
compose music like
you craft a
poem like you
turn a wheel under
the earth, accidentally,
thinking of her, not
thinking of her, figure
and sound and syllable,
trying hard to do
something
else —

 

(from Krakowskie Przedmieście: 14 Sep 2019)

Like a beast at the water’s edge

I feed on the cold like a beast at the water’s
edge, head bowed to an existential compulsion.
The chill traces a dark path to a primal hunger
that predates the sun. Predates skin. Predates
touch. That November mist is the shifting circle of
my want, intersecting the unmanifest moon in a
contemptuous Venn diagram — a chiaroscuro of
shivering deprivation. But, I will not switch my fealty
to fire. I need this wintry balm, the numbness that
burns inwards from the extremities. If this is dissent,
then I dare heat to make its move. If this is revolt,
then mercury will never rise again. For now, my
blood is frozen. For now, light is an unformed candle
in the guilty sky. For now, warmth is absence, warmth
is malevolent myth, warmth is icy premonition.