As if for the first time

We’ve seen the pictures. We, who weren’t there. The
ravaged cities, the wounded buildings, silent in sepia tones;

rubble and contorted metal, a toy, dusty, half-buried under
what was a wall, a window, a refuge, a home; a little boy

washed up on a faraway coast, kids playing on a beach,
paused forever, the horizon ablaze with a thousand suns;

a sentence unfinished, the words still hovering, without
lips, without sound; dreams perched on hollowed-out

vehicles, with no sleep, no dreamer, no shore — we’ve
seen them all, we who weren’t there, ugly smoke rising

over what-might-have-been. Still, we shudder. Still, we are
surprised. As if for the first time. As if for the last time. Never

again. Never again. How does it work, this seeing and not
knowing, this knowing and not seeing, this forgetting and

not wishing to remember, this forgiving ourselves over and
over again, this unbearable faith in tomorrow morning.

Black Kite

I think of the watches in Hiroshima that stopped at 8:15…what
does war do to time? That it is frozen, yet flowing? I look up at

the sky. A black kite circles, a cloud waits, the late-morning sun
slants at deliberate angles. 200 miles to either coast, then open

sea. There is nowhere to go. A second kite enters the frame.
They float together. Orbits only they can see. A student is dead,

far away from home, in a battle he wanted no part of. Still. Yet
moving. The cloud stretches. Straightening. A shroud. A moment.

The news is incessant. Time reaches for it with long arms. Have
you heard a kite cry into the quiet? Like a whistle. Like a siren.

Awake

Awake for an hour and a bit, I’ve already told a lie or two,
already made one excuse for not living, another for not

dying, one more for not knowing how to shape prosaic
being into poetic absence. Already, I have recalibrated time

spent waiting for things to be made right, abstracted feeling
so nothing seems too wrong, it is okay now to be unfinished,

a little chipped, seams showing, not to have done everything,
not to have said, have heard everything, already one more

reckoning has faded into the viscous dark. What is worse
than an apology that comes too late, that never comes?

What is colder than sadness? What if that sharp bulbul cry is
not song, just wretched swearing at the sky? Awake so far

ahead of dawn, I have already bargained for a thing you
would call happiness with a thing you wouldn’t call god.

What if I don’t want to go back?

Step outside yourself, the air here tastes of stubborn
wonderment. The statelessness negates gravity, wings

tickle the fears in your back. There are more moons
than you can count, each one a different shape. Each

one with a backstory that the dark will stay long enough
to hear. What if I don’t want to go back, I ask a swirling

star. What if this universe, that I could not see from
within, has also stepped out of a billion beings? What if

that hexahedron moon is you? What do you see when
you see me? A hungry wedge of sky swallows the light.

Everything is moving in random certitude. The way
back to myself has already changed infinite times.

Running Away

As far back as she could remember, she had always wanted to run away. Not run away from any place in particular, not run away to anywhere special. Just run. Away.

Here wasn’t necessarily bad. She had figured out early that as long as she kept putting one foot before the other, the most impossible objects tended to collapse into negotiable substitutes. Here wasn’t necessarily good, either. But she reasoned, locations were not the issue. Nor were circumstances. Things usually average out into banal-grey if you let them be, long enough. Pain was interesting, a different dimension, but if you reach out, really reach out and twiddle with the knobs outside space-time, it too, could lose its lustre. She always imagined three little wheels on a not-quite-wall, though she had never discovered what the one in the middle actually did.

In the end, she had made up Kawi. She knew he was imaginary, that imaginary meant that it was not in this reality, but after all these years, as Kawi kept growing up with her, it didn’t matter. Not everything has to make sense to everyone. Though, now there were things even Kawi didn’t know. Not after he had broken down, twice, acting like a sappy drama lead, saying he was in love. She wondered why she had imagined that scene, twice. And why twice, she couldn’t imagine an answer. Was love the last mystery? Or the first reality? She didn’t want to ask Kawi that question. Not now.

Then, the night of the after-storm, she decided to run away. Not from here. Not to there. She considered leaving Kawi behind. That would mean, if a detective did turn up, that she had not actually left here. Not really run away, at least. Why wouldn’t she take Kawi if she were running away? Why wouldn’t Kawi take her? But, detectives were not trained to see the obvious. Kawi said looking for the mysterious was an inferred science, not an empirical art form. Also, where would she go, if she wasn’t going anywhere? Where was anywhere, if it wasn’t a place that someone was going to? Who was she?

Then there was the issue with the note. All running away requires the leaving of a note, Kawi said. No one owns a pen anymore, she argued. Just text someone, but then, text whom? And this was not running away, was neither from nor to anywhere, so technically a note would only complicate it. Kawi won in the end, as he normally did, and a note was conceived. Written with a fountain pen, of course. Who wrote the note of their non-lives or the rest of their lives with anything else? “Running away. Don’t look for me,” was dropped after much consultation. So was “I run, therefore I am.” Kawi finally wrote a long-ish memo that said even though they were running away, no one could really run because at every moment you are actually somewhere and that is a kind of present-stillness. So they were just going to creating a series of alternative stillnesses.” Somehow, this made the most sense. Kawi was sad as he wrote the note. He held her hand tightly, she could tell he needed comforting. In the single line of light that came in from the windows, his silhouette folded into three, framing his desk. A caricature. A product of the angle of light. Or night. She patted his head gently. It was time to go.

She realized the next morning that someone had found the note. Someone screamed. They hadn’t even left. She was still there in her usual place, still wanting to run away, still not clear why or why not. People were rushing in. Someone pushed her and she fell, head first on to the ground. She saw the feet, upside-down feet. Fluffy bedroom rabbit-slippers, blue and white rubber slip-ons, creaseless black leather work shoes in which the ceiling fan was turning, rapidly.

People were shouting Kawi’s name. Shaking him. He seemed not to be moving. Rabbit-slippers was crying. A wedge heel clicked its way into the room, into a hysteric pause. The heel stepped on her face, uncaring. The mud from the wet walkway staining the velvety pink of her cotton-stuffed cheek.

#flash #fiction 7

*****
A flash fiction piece to kickstart February. I post poems on instagram sometimes that don’t make their way to this blog, so if you’re on the gram, do follow @tp_poetry for regular updates.

Paradox

(life as a game of snakes and ladders)

As you roll the dice, you wonder if you can
train a snake to uncoil slowly, so you descend
in stages, arriving gently at the bottom. The

snake is an excuse to cancel the light. To return
to the womb. To become a root, seeking
water, having never seen a leaf, a flower in full

bloom. You feel the ladder, made of mist and
hope, always two rungs short of home. But a
goal is a function of desire and luck as much as

laboured ascent. The ladder serves the myth
that elevation is a need. Because stars and gods
live in the sky. Because the higher you go, the

further it still is. You move seven squares forward,
dodging a venomous fang, not quite at the
lowest step. It has been raining for days. If

there was a sky, it has collapsed into the ground.
You wonder how things would work, upside-down.
You turn the board around, count down from the end.

**********

Finding a process that works, that cuts through the numb silence and translates stirrings to words is half the battle. I found my way around writer’s block by doodling my thoughts and putting them aside, letting the words come when they were ready.  It hardly matters if you can’t draw to save your life. It also doesn’t matter if the words aren’t exactly what the image intended to be. The poem is the journey! Am learning to enjoy it! 

Chaos

the chaos is real
tangled inside and out
you try to iron it like a shirt
but it creases against skin
over every warp, every scar,
over the forgotten, the elapsed —
like the delusion of stretched blue sky
that turns as it comes closer,
into viscous cloud, into grimy light,
dead stars falling into unopened eyes:

the knots connect thick and deep
in the end you let them be
because to unravel one
you have to undo everything —
because a patch of garden on a sand dune
does not improve the desert,
that is not its burden,
but it keeps the thirsty traveller walking
in the hope there will be another one…

Two things

and later, when the worst has healed and you find
yourself back on the desert trail, you will know two

things instantly: 1. the shifting, sinking, whispering
sand will outlive you, absorb you and 2. with the

sky too wide and the stars too many and the land
too vast, in the sand that holds and drowns and

forgives, you will fall to your knees and no matter how
small you felt that one night, drinking spurious rum

from bootlegged bottles when everything was locked
down and no one came or cared or could, no matter

how little was left of you the next morning, you will
know you are less. And then you will rise and smile,

sadly, because a virus, even smaller, with no hands or
heart, had for a while, taken down an entire planet.

Two weeks of January

A couple of weeks into 2022, here’s what’s happening:

1. My poem ‘What to do’ found its way to the ‘Poetry Blog Digest 2022, Week 1’ on Via Negativa. Lots of  good stuff there to read, do check it out!

2. I read ‘Hello Earth’ – a compilation of prose-poems in the earthhello form, by Rosemary Nissen-Wade. These are personal reflections on self and surroundings written during the lockdown. Grab a free copy from the Smashwords site. You will find raw, engaging, healing poetry inside!

3. My detours into flash fiction continue, especially since poetry seems to wax and wane with the moon. If you haven’t read my piece from December, do give it a shot. 

4. Meanwhile, weekend curfews and night curfews are back with Omicron going nuts all over the city. Perhaps the weirdest part is how normal it all seems.

once more
voices slink into the dark
once more, quiet keeps vigil

 

How’s your January going?