If you loved enough

The rhythm of the sea is the incessant wondering –
not if you loved but if you loved enough. An answer

that will only come with loss. The verbs of separation
conjugate in excruciating ways. Grief is a hyphen

connecting empty mirrors. Shouldn’t absence invalidate
a mirror? How much can you love a night not defined

by a moon or stars? Should such a night, be night? You
ask if it is the fault of the sky or the limits of love or of the

imperfect lover? Enduring darkness in the hope that
morning will come, is not love, it is faith in the light.

Love asks for more. At low tide, it asks you who you
are, after taking what you do not have and cannot give.

Fewer words

the downright gall of minimalist poetry –
the universe stripped down to an
aberrant nakedness: one misplaced
mole, one tired breast, one painful navel
becoming an epic, becoming the side of a
square, the thud after the gunshot,
the apocalypse, the horizon of silence –

fewer words than the moon spoke last
night, looking down at the space between
us from its vantage point. Surely a poem
should see more than that, should say
more than that? But four audacious
lines stare at me from your page –

like tenuous shadows
evidence of light:
gods manifest by absence –
a leap of faith.

Wet Season For Writing

Emotion congeals into grey clouds that hide the
light. The poem feels ink falling like warm rain.

As if there is a wet season for writing. You used
to say only Illusions are spun from light- love

and gods and dawn and the paleness around
my finger where your ring used to be. You used

to say darkness is the primordial truth. The poem
swallows its vowels. There are things that should

not be said. After the rain, there must still be sky.
Alone wasn’t a thing, till we made it up. Till a

storm forced it into the poem. Till hyphens gave
up the things they held together. The poem lies

beside me and touches the wound of absence.
We learn to feed our solitude with consonants.

Inside Things

The fever is raging inside me, somewhere near other
inside things- denial, maybe, or broken pride, all coursing
through swollen veins, breaking down resistance, not seeing the
external manifestation. What does blood know of what it
does to the eyes? What does throbbing know of yellowed wounds?
The darkness is all around, unable to soothe my brow, my
legs, parts seemingly disconnected, devolving into separate
spirals of pain, but darkness cannot find its own hands, even
to pass me a plate of cold sorrow. Only your absence sits still at
the foot of my bed, unwilling to look at me. I feel its presence
like a steel handrail, unyielding, telling me why I cannot get up
and leave. An unsighted fever, a blindfolded night and a phantom
hope in a triangle of hopelessness… three blind rodents waiting for
morning. Why are sheets on hospital beds so white? Why is
tomorrow always farther away than yesterday. Even at night.
Especially at night.

Bird Angels

The birds used to come to the square then. No one knew where
they lived, but they arrived by the dozen with the first stripe of

dusk, ate from our hands as we crumbled hours that had turned
brittle with waiting, minutes baked into bread with the salt of tears,

pieces of us, dark, dark from wanting the light. When birds consume
our fears, our memories, when our shadows slip down their throats,

their feet turn white, their wings grow wide, they turn into angels
that deny the night. When pain is scattered like seeds, they flutter

down, impatient moons in rapid descent, eager for stories, that can
never be told. Last night I saw you alone by the fountain, more

silhouette than man, your fist full of broken dreams, the sky above
you empty. I knew that you had heard the silence. Birds fed on angst

and agony and sin, that learn about love and eyes and separation,
birds of our dusk can become white angels but they never sing again.

Absence

Your absence speaks words you cannot, pressing
against my back, as if it was always there, before

the beginning, before you, a starlight ghazal, a
friend , a lover, a thumb print before there was a

name, a mirage before the first sand, a certainty
before wonderment. This is not a void wearing

the mantle of pain, this has the skin of naked sky,
slips between my clothes like fingers of the afternoon

sun, not waiting, not asking, a shadow without
the form, alone, yet connected. This absence was

the prayer before the first moon, the promise of
always, the reverberation before the first summer

rain, this absence that lies in my bed, holds me till
I fall asleep, becomes a dream in the darkest hour,

becomes my oblation, becomes breath and salt and
blood, as if nothing, not even you, can ever be again.

The Sycophancy of Absence

no, you cannot think
solitude is your friend,
look at her stretched on your bed,
a powdered courtesan with melting eyes,
worshipping at the altar of your gangrenous wounds,
serving pleasure and pain at your slightest whim,
she is fan and foe and fork-tongued destiny,
autumn leaf and snowflake and variegated sun,
why yearn for the spring of togetherness,
for a master, for a bloom,
for a promise of a moon that cannot survive the night,
when you can conjure in her scented breath,
the sycophancy of absence,
the servitude of aloneness,
what travesty can you divine,
in the soliloquy of the single,
in the homily of the harlot,
no, no, you cannot think,
that love is a fair friend,
that forever is the waiting beloved
with the enigmatic smile,
reach for the emptiness by your pillow,
feel her beating heart,
she is the enslaved soul of want,
she is the paramour of the moment,
she is what you lost
and what you have found again,
no, solitude is not your friend.

The Trouble with Tanka-8

pacing
up and down the garden
the moon and I-
sometimes your absence follows us
sometimes it watches from the bench

*

look through the mist
the dark shapes lined up
on that fallen branch-
are they the crows we saw yesterday
or shadows left behind by the sun

*

the first raindrops-
is the sky ashen with wanting
is the earth dark with promise
did we breathe harder, did our steps quicken,
did your hand grow warmer around mine

 

Fujiwara no Teika’s Tanka Technique 8: Novel treatment – hitofushi aru tei-Using an unusual or original poetic conception.
The Trouble with Tanka-7

Twisted Ribbons

your absence
is entwined emotion,
a nebulous tangle
of staccato starlight
caught in crisscrossed karmic threads,
not tumbleweed probed constantly
by cold fingers of the morning wind,
but twisted ribbons of silver water
hurtling confused,
down the throat
of a thirsty whirlpool,
which one lost its way first?

that old woman said the unravelling
is in the sleight of eye and touch,
I watch her wizened hands
string jasmine flowers
with wet fibre pulled from plantain stems,
two buds, heads turned away,
and a knot,
two buds, looking astray
and a knot,
she was singing about a lone heron
lost in a lush paddy field,
shackled petals
rocking in her warm breath;

which one lost its way first?
your absence coils
around the bare walls,
two lives and a knot,
two lies and a knot,
tumbling in the thirsty chaos,
it has a sweet sound now
and a heady scent.

For the midweek prompt at Poets United: “Absence”.

Predator

i was crawling on the dirt floor,
over misshapen droppings
of impotent time
that had foraged, gluttonous,
on the shrivelled roots of its misspent youth,
measuring life in regrets,
in long cubits of absence;

but sometimes, i think,
joy studies me
from the shadows,
a predator,
i feel her burning, amber gaze
as she runs her tongue
over broken, sharp edged teeth;

she rumples the heavy canopy,
to let bands of fluorescent sunrise
creep over my bloodless skin,
shivering as they cross over
to your unslept chill;

she collects rain
in striped palm buckets,
to ensnare for me,  the freckled moon,
its inverted lament
drowning in your rippled shallows;

she tries again,
plucks her one stringed lute,
but sorrow blossoms in this song-less night,
simpatico,
inventing new games
for impenitent thorns
to break through still raw scabs;

joy waits,
nervous feet twitching against
obsidian doors,
a new manoeuvre beating,
arrhythmic tunes,
in her hollow breast;

the dark pastiness,
smiles slowly,
a murder of crows
salivating on the salty crust
of grief’s unbound hair;

joy stretches,
still in the hunt,
her serrated fangs
glistening,
in the silent shadows,
a predator,
i feel her breath,
warm and wet,
heaving against
my broken spine.

Linked to  Poets United where the midweek prompt is “Joy”.