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

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

Because February 2021

because the existential subtraction of the past year laid bare the excesses of my carefully contrived alignments,

because the new minimalist right angles of being are putting to shame the cursive blooms of February after a summer, a monsoon, a winter, of letting go,

because so much was so unnecessary, so exhausting, so mindless that turning away was turning inward, hearing myself, allowing the words to come when they were ready — like rain, like a storm, like the night — filling the spaces between here and sky, between me and myself, becoming a bridge that leads to another chance,

because when this stillness has passed, the chaos will come rushing back but there will be a memory of this time when so much nothing happened that it was still a little something,

because sometimes, something is more than enough

then the sky looked down
at the sea, and asked—
what is that strange colour?

Curfew: Day 47

Sixteen migrant workers (were run over by a freight train
as they tried to make their way home)

No matter which way our world falls, only
one side is soiled, only one side is wounded,

only one side bleeds. This inequity is favoured
by a sky that cannot tell day from night. The

illusion of a silver moon is only in eyes forced
to look up. Hands that built our cities, walk

away from them, empty handed. But death is neither
random nor foretold. We formulate methods that

compute the value of lives. Zero or one. From that
we derive the rate at which they will be forgotten.

to know darkness –
the sun must first
understand its light

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 46

Curfew: Day 46

Lockdown writing: ten things about The Poem.

3/3

7. Teach The Poem to run its fingers over sharp edges.
To cry in an unknown language. To bleed until living

and dying are equal options. 8. If you already know what
you’re going to say, don’t say it. The Poem is not your

lover. No part of its body should be so familiar. The Poem
and you are always in your first meeting. 9. You are the

only reader to whom The Poem must make sense. To
everyone else, it is the magic mirror in which their

wounds fill, their scars fade, in which they look more
beautiful. The Poem is their illicit paramour. 10. You

are not the mother who birthed The Poem. You are the
god that created it. It is the being that will forever

ruin your garden of eden, then kneel before you and beg,
as if you alone have the power to forgive the desecration.

The Poem
is waiting for the poet
who is waiting for it

Also Read:
Curfew: Day 45 (Ten things about The Poem 2/3)
Curfew: Day 44 (Ten things about The Poem 1/3)

Curfew: Day 45

Lockdown writing: ten things about The Poem.

2/3

4. Let the day walk around turning off the lights,
turning off the sun, let the layered shadows become

a despairing womb. The Poem will appear as you remove
the blindfolds, one by one. Don’t be gentle. 5. Imagine

desire. Imagine satisfaction. Imagine a heart that has
forgotten longing. If The Poem comes from deprivation,

it cannot feel another’s pain. It fills its eyes and ears with
its own sorrow. 6. When you say goodnight to The Poem, don’t

tuck it in, don’t kiss it goodnight, don’t read it another poem.
Abandon it in the coldest corner, on the hardest floor, in

the darkest room. What it is, will depend on where you find
it in curled up in the morning. And if it is still sleeping.

read – the way
you read the night sky –
not seeing the darkness

Also read:
Curfew: Day 44 (Ten things about The Poem 1/3)

Curfew: Day 44

Lockdown writing: ten things about The Poem.

1/3

1. When you open the door of The Poem, anything
can walk in. But look closer, inside and outside are

now one. What about these faces, are they arriving or
leaving? Where do you think you are standing? 2. Don’t

write about love. Love, like a story, demands an ending.
Everything searches for purpose and meaning. The Poem

will end the minute it has had enough. When there is
nothing more to say. 3. When a small word falls and rolls

under the table, under the bed, under a star or disappears
under the sky, make yourself even smaller and follow it.

 

what did you say –
that this damp twilight
now rhymes with darkness and dawn

 

 

Also read:
Curfew: Day 43

Curfew: Day 43

I watched her, not comprehending- the way she
held her baby, the way she kept glancing at
her phone, the way she rummaged in a big

white bag embroidered with blue pigs and red
billy goats. She sat between me and the window,
a stranger, till I saw the book she wasn’t reading

and suddenly I knew her future, the future of
that sleeping child, I could see how undefined
parts would come together someday. Even with

some pieces missing. She caught my gaze. Took in
the empty chair, the coffee cup, the book on my
table that I wasn’t reading and smiled kindly,

knowing instantly my past, all the things that had
led to this moment. How often is the present contained
in two copies of the same book, closed, unread?

 

when the wind stops blowing
is it still
the wind

Also read:
Curfew: Day 42

Curfew: Day 41

A hundred years from now, this time will be abstracted
into a zen koan that our wise will shape into a mirror,

or a river, and find the anguish of the world returning
their perplexed gaze. Even a painting looks back at you.

Corrects your first impression, draws your eyes to shadows
that weren’t there, that aren’t there. The one on your

wall, of a hand at high tide, reaching for the moon, has
swapped stories with us for so long, we’ve had to invent

new ones. Isn’t there’s always more? If you hang a poem
in a bamboo frame, that a passer-by might read to

himself, or to a lover, the words will disappear in the
low-light, letting him make up his own. Inside every poem

there are two or three more breathing. Inside every poem is
a lifetime precised into a comma. Inside every poem, if you

know how to look, like in a mirror, or a river, there is a
love, between two denials, between three confirmations.

the sky I see
isn’t the sky you see
isn’t the sky that sees us

Also read:
Curfew: Day 40

Curfew: Day 39

When was the last time a thought ran all the way
to an exclamation mark? Disconsolate, broken strings

float in the air – existential paradoxes -somehow
deferring to gravity. This grief too was birthed from

a rib of life. Raised in a sage’s empty bowl. Who
could have foretold this stillness of the sea? The

water silenced, the skin of one shore never touching
the other. Last night the moon sank into its depths.

Last night I counted the stars from inside your eyes.
How much of the sky is bearable? Last night, a dream

started as desire, as balm to an unknown wound, and
became a river, crying because the sea was lost forever.

first this summer
then the monsoon
then will it still matter?

 

Also read:
Curfew: Day 38