Curfew: Day 54

Lockdown notes:

1. 54 days is a variable that depends
on where you were when it began

2. 54 days is a language with no
alphabet or sound

3. Mute sorrow has the same
genome as cold outrage

4. The chasm without a bridge
is a chronic wound

5. This death knell moonlights
as a wind chime

6. Randomness is as much a choice
as choice is random

7. Fairness, like the moon, is a deviant,
yet it enchants poets and lovers

8. A god is more consequential by
absence

9. People who hugged strangers before
will do so again

10. Flowers don’t make you happy. When
you’re happy you see the flowers

11. In this hush, even poetry is a privilege
that must end

but we have come this far
and are still exactly
where we started

Lockdown #3 ends today – 54 days since it began on March 25th. This series of daily lockdown posts ends here. Life, or some version of it, will go on. For the generations that did not witness war or partition, the relentless visuals of human suffering will be a mirror and hopefully, change us forever.

 

Also read:
Curfew: Day 53

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

The shape of hope

Bush fires, an almost-war, an impeachment trial, more hate, more weird weather, more inaction – could this year have got off to a worse start? Here in India, led by the young, people are out on the streets protesting a divisive, communal citizenship law. They tell us, in no uncertain terms, that however bad it gets, there will be people who will resist, who will dissent and who will fight for what is right and just and beautiful. They are our shape of hope.

Poetry is another matter altogether. 2019 was a great year, personally – I was lucky to publish a collection and to get a pushcart nomination. They were the shape of my hope. But January brought the cold and thick grey walls that words cannot penetrate. Instead, I have been working on a new chapbook. The compilation plays grave tricks on my mind – screaming at the pointlessness of the effort, even as I soullessly move words around the page. But that’s the thing- it has to be whipped into a shape that even hope will acquiesce to wear. Right now, it is all formless and uphill.

So, it is with no surprise that I found that another publication that carried my work, shut shop at the end of 2019. Haibun Today, that published a little Tanka prose I wrote has gone off the air and am only glad its archives are still accessible. Here’s the piece they carried:

Inevitable

Perhaps your leaving was meant to be. One day there was the crunch of our footsteps on splashes of colour and the next the white expanse of a winter that mandates a quick indrawn breath even though the snow had been foretold. Even though the emptiness had been sung. Even though the last chinar leaf had danced through the space between us as if farewell is not a broken word but a private ritual of bough and dusk and wind that we watch from the bedroom window. Safe. Warm. For a while.

drop by drop
a hesitant light
fills the monk’s bowl—
night withers
into a small shadow

 

 

If you remember, a few weeks ago, I told you that another publication, Calamus Journal, had wound down as well. How many more, I wonder. Now, I hope your year has had a better start. If you have inspiration to share in the form of a new poem you wrote or just kind words to cajole the muse, bring them here, they are much needed and very welcome.

 

Best of 2019

I just saw this ‘best-of-2019’ list (is it December already?) in The Guardian and, well, I put these books into my ‘must-read’ for 2020. The best poetry of a year that has almost gone, some from poets I have never heard of, hitting the high spots against ‘racism, authoritarianism and masculinity’.

It is a message that good poetry, the best poetry, has to stand for something. Or against something. And there is a lot going on, that should not go on, that perhaps needs poetry to be its record keeper. There’s a lovely literary journal called ‘Poets reading the News’ that does this in real time. They call it ‘Journalism in Verse’.

But there is brilliant, visceral poetry that is written with the ooze from raw wounds – demanding, pleading, crying for the world to be a better place. There is also poetry filled with the raw materials of moonlight and dawn sky, whispering, whistling, dancing the world into a more beautiful state. That poetry too, is often birthed from pain.

Do you wonder how your poetry fits into the real world? If it does? Slotting in like the missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle or just waiting like too many consonants in a scrabble play hoping someone will open up a few vowels on the board?

the more I show you
a mirror –
the more I see my own face

 

And why a haibun (not a haibun, just haibun-esque let’s say) came about today will remain a subject for a later post.

The Hands of the Wind

I hold the hands of the wind and try to read its destiny, the lines
deep like the frown of dry river beds, the faint fragrance of

jasmine heating my senses. It could have been from a bride’s
nuptial bed or a funeral cortege, here the language for welcome

and departure is the same, the earth gives and takes back with moon
petals shimmering in its guts. The wind has a love line so long, it

ties every moment gone by to that evening in the coffee shop, when
you read ghazals aloud in the afternoon haze and a life line that

knew the mountains before they scattered into desert sand, the rain
when it was ripe in the throat of the fish, poems before there were

words to name flowers and silence simply went from weddings to
shallow graves smelling of nameless need. The wind shows me its circular

fate line, karma tied in a knot, what does it matter where it comes from,
if that is beginning or end. I hold the hands of the wind and we sing in

metered couplets, the words for love and life and fate are the same
and Hafez is only a fleeting swallow with a jasmine seed in his breast.

 

This poem was published in the Calamus Journal in December 2017. The Calamus Journal, though, shut shop in February 2018 and the original links to its website no longer work. I’m sure they had good reasons, a journal is a huge amount of work – but when I discovered that this poem was essentially homeless, I decided to bring it in from the cold.

I haven’t sent in any poems in several months and I’m wondering – do you submit poems for online publication? Why not? What has been your experience? Do share your submission stories here! 

 

Five blog years…

Five years is a long, long time! More than anything, I feel grateful. For everything this blog has generated: poet-friends from around the world, hours of joy from reading and writing poetry, 3 chapbooks, 1 book – everything started with that first post on 25th Oct, 2014.

To every single person who stopped here to read a poem: Thank You! 

Anyway, here’s where we are now:

 

Water to Water– my poetry collection- is available on Amazon.
Two of my chapbooks can be freely downloaded from the blog.

 

 

 

The PDF of my new chapbook ‘On turning 50’ is available on request.

 

 

 

In November, I will host poetry sharing on Tuesdays – more details on prompts and participation soon. See you on the poetry trail!

A little chat with Khaya!

Had a little chat with fellow-poet, Khaya Ronkainen, about my book ‘Water to Water’ and about life and all things poetry! Thank you, Khaya, that was a lot of fun!

Khaya lives in Finland and Amazon being Amazon and international shipping being, well, international shipping, I mailed her a copy from the closest point I could reach – a tiny little post office in the middle of Old Town, Tallin, Estonia, which has the friendliest post-office-person in the world! From there the book could have caught the two-hour fast ferry to Helsinki, if it wanted to! Poetry crosses boundaries in ways we cannot imagine!

Here’s the link to the post on her blog.

Also, with Diwali round the corner, I’d like to give away a copy of ‘Water to Water’ to one interested poetry blogger in India. (Indian mailing addresses only!) So drop me an email at suspension.point@yahoo.com before 27th October 2019 if you would like a copy  and I’ll pick one name by lot.  Please include the name of your blog in the email.

 

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.