Silent Rain

Between apartment blocks, the sky heaves black and the rain
descends, a steel bridge, a wire, on which a messiah can walk,

finding horizontal constructs across disconnected spaces, the
ground below filling with the entrails of decaying prayers. How

these chequered buildings map the grid of human despair, this
urban morass, this pea soup of barren want and miscarried

dreams! Through the window I see more windows as cats and
pigeons and shadows and clouds flatten themselves against

the same wall. These are different silences. I once found, inside
a derelict temple, a thousand year old quiet, soft as the worn

steps of the sanctum. In the distance, after the last train has passed,
the silence is thick with the discontent of flowers from graves. In

this city, silence is the cacophony we stop hearing, the armour of
our solitude impenetrable, the rain reduced to a peripheral hush.

We are running away from it and towards it, both in the same
direction. And our sky is dying, the way we live, through attrition.

 

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Flawed Truth

Under cover of monsoon evenings, the city bathes herself, squeezing
the deluge from her hair, letting the filthy residue of our lives, run into

her giant drains. We watch from the balcony. The weather demands tea and
samosas. He is only a minor god, his forehead as creased as his soggy blue

jeans, his soft eyes like the forsaken sun. Even the rain is flawed, I tell
him. It was never supposed to fall on glass or tile or asphalt, but look how

it embraces them in a song that was never meant to be. Even time is
imperfect, turning provocateur as it winds back upon itself in the wet dark.

Every great truth is part lie, isn’t it? And we don’t want to know which part
is false. Afraid of what might be true. He smiled, seeing a future in the

fragrant dregs. Rain does not taste of its past, he said. Water is the secret
hidden behind the sunset. The possibility of a second chance. Tea and Rain.

 

More poems in the “monologues with a minor god” series here.

Darkness before the Dark

waiting
for the season to turn,
in the darkness before the dark,
the grey so low, the earth reaches
up to fondle her swollen belly,
we lie spent,
like the moulted skin of summer,
empty,
throbbing in the first rain,
the air tastes of thirst and wet cigarettes,
a lethargy spreading under the fever
of diagonal rain,
a slow song seeps out of the radio, running
across the room, a puddle gathering below
a window half eaten by cloud,
love likes the monsoon when the hours
belong to clocks and
water, sometimes you say a word
and it splashes
through new streams and
troubled seas, its clothes hitched up to its
waist, spluttering oddly when it reaches me,
I wonder, watching the grass bend at
its waist, watching the night search for a
lost moon, I wonder,
measuring the distance between us,
how long a poem would stay dry
in a crumpled paper boat.

A love less ordinary

But Shahid wept after Begum Akhtar’s passing, that the sky was still
blue and calm when he wished to talk of the end of the world. When
Faiz died, he remembered how she gave sharpened his ghazals, as Faiz,
like memory, became “necessary”. How does word and note, treble and
tremble, spill upon this page that looks like any other? As if this was a
printed recipe for rain, even a thunderstorm. Or the steady breath
of a man asleep beside a beautiful woman, her breasts rising and falling
to a rhythm conceded to an insipid world. I buried love in an unmarked
grave and walked away, the wind fitting tomorrow to my footprints.
Under the coffee table, an everyday cloud, a grey cat, a colourless rose
nuzzle against my leg. Ordinary wants to excite me. To make love. Nothing
is left of the love that was so ill suited to this universe, too much, too less,
too benign, too contagious. Shadows sit with me, Ali’s book open in their
hands. I read a poem, hear a song. Akhtar sings Faiz. The transcendental
turns to circadian beats that turn with the moon, away, away from the
light. Love that was sky is now dirt under my fingernails. “Necessary.”

 

In response to Poets United‘s Midweek prompt “Tribute Poem”. References are to Agha Shahid Ali’s poems “In Memory of Begum Akhtar” and “Homage to Faiz Ahmed Faiz”. Images from his collected poems in “The Veiled Suite”.

Halfway House

Even the full moon stuck in your throat will soon dissolve in the bituminous
bile, happiness is only a halfway house, a symptom of unconsummated grief,
a deferment. Ask anyone who has been in pain, ask how their night comes,
panting like an insatiable whore. Aren’t we born for this, like moths, knowing
inherently the singe of the flame, the burn, the incendiary futility of want?
Still, we colour our wings and seduce the fire while sorrow waits like a mother
who has buried her son, the end, the reunion, inevitable. You hide the seeds
of our misery and we plant delusional forests that take root and flower as if
light is a real thing, as if wind can breathe, as if love has wings to find us.
Happiness is the halfway house with mirages stuck to the windows while woe
sits in the basement. Ask anyone who has been in pain, ask how their light
comes, blindfolded, so the scars are never seen nor the blood that wanders in
silent elliptical movements around the point of death. Happiness is the halfway
house where love comes to an end. Grief must walk under the raven sky alone
to the finish. How can you wear anguish over a corset of happiness? Who wants
to find embers concealed in the ash? No one, love, can love anyone that much.