It is war

It is war
and the unarmed cower in living rooms —
trenches that are not safe
from the unseen enemy.

But we’ve won before.
It will take more than a virus.
We will take down more than a virus.
We’ve won before.
We have a recurring tryst with destiny,
even in a world askew,
even where there is no time to grieve
even when there is too much grief
We’ve won before.
We know how to gather our loss,
know how to console our hearts,
know when the next dawn will come.

Yesterday an old woman almost died,
it took thirty-seven people
it took two hundred and fourteen messages
to get her to a hospital bed.
But she will be home in a week.
It will start with her.
We know.
We’ve won before.
It always starts with one person.
It always starts with one battle.
It always starts with one victory.
It always starts when the first person says no.

Because February 2021

because the existential subtraction of the past year laid bare the excesses of my carefully contrived alignments,

because the new minimalist right angles of being are putting to shame the cursive blooms of February after a summer, a monsoon, a winter, of letting go,

because so much was so unnecessary, so exhausting, so mindless that turning away was turning inward, hearing myself, allowing the words to come when they were ready — like rain, like a storm, like the night — filling the spaces between here and sky, between me and myself, becoming a bridge that leads to another chance,

because when this stillness has passed, the chaos will come rushing back but there will be a memory of this time when so much nothing happened that it was still a little something,

because sometimes, something is more than enough

then the sky looked down
at the sea, and asked—
what is that strange colour?

A poet asks if we should keep writing poetry

It’s hard. Not all of 2020 can be kneaded into grief-
shaped poems, most parts are so silent and so

alone – pages filled with punctuation marks that
have lost their words: forlorn ellipses going nowhere,

commas waiting between space and space and question
marks that know answers have been quarantined.

Not all of 2020 can be shaped into light, darkness
shifts in unexpected places, strange, defiant. On a mid-

November Diwali morning, in a year that broke in
March, I wonder what poetry is – anymore? Stepping six

feet away from a stranger, I look into his indifferent
eyes. I pretend he is smiling behind his cotton mask.

 

A flash of inspiration from Khaya’s post.  Happy Diwali! Wish you love and light and – a vaccine!

Like an ache, like a fervent prayer

Come quickly then, familiar stranger, familiar
touch, familiar taste — love waits to flower in

the cold sun of November. We will moult the
skins of the months of separation and find that

our snake souls are chameleons: changing colour
to match the unslept sheets. Nothing learnt,

nothing gained in the static months, racing into
familiar fields to reap what we never thought to

sow. How long, how long before we remember
these times of distance again, fondly, like a

memory, like an ache, like a fervent prayer?
Winter will come, with its lantern light and

unfeeling skies, winter will come like a train
on a moonless night, as if nothing ever happened.

You think the moon knows

The pandemic has settled like protracted fog on the asphalt,
a needy god wanders the empty streets, faith like a cold stone

in his pocket. Here, at the traffic light, where the push carts
sold biryani and men jostled outside the tiny paan stall,

there are only insomniac shadows of dreamless sleepers.
You think the moon knows, or the birds? That something is

amiss? You think the heart now understands the birds and
the moon? Distance, the incongruity of touch, curvature,

the texture of skin as a nameless want? There is gossip in
estranged doorways about the lover who waited too long.

About a love that waited too long. We breathe in the spectre
of death. Who knows about the alchemy of absence? Between

us, this city expands. It’s funny how the jacarandas blossom
and fall and blossom and fall as if none of this really matters.

This blog is six years old today. I want to thank all my readers for their support and encouragement and the shared love for poetry. Stay safe, everyone.

Curfew: Day 47

Sixteen migrant workers (were run over by a freight train
as they tried to make their way home)

No matter which way our world falls, only
one side is soiled, only one side is wounded,

only one side bleeds. This inequity is favoured
by a sky that cannot tell day from night. The

illusion of a silver moon is only in eyes forced
to look up. Hands that built our cities, walk

away from them, empty handed. But death is neither
random nor foretold. We formulate methods that

compute the value of lives. Zero or one. From that
we derive the rate at which they will be forgotten.

to know darkness –
the sun must first
understand its light

For the millions of migrant workers making their way back to villages and towns in the hinterland, thousands on foot,walking hundreds of kilometres, as livelihoods are destroyed during the lockdown and hunger becomes a greater threat than disease.

 

 

Also read:
Curfew: Day 46

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

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
the wind

Also read:
Curfew: Day 42