Lockdown writing: ten things about The Poem.
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
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
Curfew: Day 42
It’s not that you can keep pushing death and
seeds down the throat of the earth and be sure
it will give back life. Someday, the earth will have
enough – of roots and bare feet, of the skewed
burden of sustained breath. A relationship like
that, any relationship, is designed to give way.
Forever is a supplication that requires knees to
touch the ground. Even on the shore, redemption
leaves footprints that lead away from the sand.
Isn’t this why we have no wings? Isn’t this why
light comes to the earth only as an interruption?
Isn’t that why we moved all our gods to the sky?
because a new day
in the dark
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
Curfew: Day 40
It has been forty days. Anguish has hatched into
golden koi that circle the pond in darkness. The
universe has folded light, eight times, into its
purse. The pyramid of wanting lies on its side,
need has been recalibrated, four times. We wait as
if change is a season. As if this too is physics. As if
time is a primal wound that will keep on hurting.
Is the purpose of sound to decipher if silence is
question or answer? It has been forty days. The
stifled whir of the ceiling fan draws circles of
endurable summer. Is the purpose of life to ask
if death is question or answer. Perhaps, salvation
is one kiss, one afternoon of love making, one
deliberate revelation away. It has been forty days.
in the end
the poem was just a word
the word was the whole poem
Our lockdown has been extended for two more weeks, starting tomorrow. After forty days, I wonder if there is any more poetry left. Stay safe, everyone.
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?
Curfew: Day 38
The painting was an elegy in black: dystopia, with
its mouth full of night, watching, as hope was suckled
by a colossal moon. The man stood before it, silent,
the exaggerated chiaroscuro of expectation and
despair drawing him into its darkness, the light only
a device to examine his own failings. Maybe this was
how things ended. As wordless wounds on walls, as
shadows cast by a loss that had no last name and no
measure. Outside, it could be afternoon. May-flowers
like blood splatter against motionless blue skies. Or
outside it could be raining. Skin begging for a warm
touch. Or outside could be – just another painting.
night wants to be day
wants to be night
Curfew: Day 37
How did we make it this far— through an April with
three million nights? The world we left untended in
the sun has begun to rot from the head. Love is
wilting in my empty arms. Soliloquies are having
dialogues with their echoes. Desire touches the moon
and rushes back, silver under its fingernails, stories in
its haunted eyes, of a darker side. Only poets fantasize
about a love that grows in separation. For poets live
away from themselves and dream about places their
words can’t reach, crafting loneliness as a moat between
lines, as an unerring trap for the reader, as a ruse
that will cause half the poet to smile while the other
half is already talking to the sea about parting ways
with itself so a poet, a poem, can cross to the other side.
so many possibilities –
but the wind tonight
knocks softly on my front door
Curfew: Day 36
This much we know: 1. That having walked this far,
we cannot take one more step together. 2. The
daylight we borrowed has to be returned to the
night. 3. Loss, like the fragrance of roses, is stronger,
close to the skin. 4. With every storm, the sky is
trying to wash more desire off its hands. 5. The
door to the past has lost its key in the future. 6.
A poem should be a hammer that cracks open
that which you didn’t know was closed. 7. A poem
should be silk sliding down hips that call your
name. 8. When it’s time to leave and you see a
sign in the sky, destroy your poems. 9. Leave on
your shelf, empty notebooks full of unwritten poems
that the future will read. 10. The future, that holds the
key, smells of roses and lightning and fills footprints
that could go no further. 11. This is all we need to know.
how bad can it be –
that imagined a moon
Curfew: Day 35
When the monochrome begins to drag you under,
breathless, spluttering — the conflation of fear and
grief drawing concentric circles of bewilderment. At
what angle does a paper boat drift past a hungry
vortex? I imagine my fingers touching yours as
you hand me a cup of tea, ginger and mint seep into
the world between us. What are the new dimensions
of longing? What is this new calculus of belonging?
We are stretched naked on a sacrificial altar, the
knife poised over the distance between us. Time
enters and leaves, barefoot, through a revolving
door of hope. I run through the options in my
head, over and over again. In no scenario is that
tea ever drunk, the cup is always untouched, cold.
how disloyal is dawn
to eyes that have cried
Curfew: Day 34