No way back

transformed matter
still ripe with unbelief,
whenever this ends, wherever thereafter begins,
we became ocean, seed, star, poem,
the dark still pumping through our veins —
no way back
no answer yet
everything, yet nothing, left behind,
nothing, yet everything, carried inside

it was convenient, even pleasant,
for a while,
till we learnt reality was the mirage,
and the mirage too real,
what about the years then?
what about being?
being and belonging?
what about moonlight and skin
and the void and the rain,
especially the rain?
what about wetness?

maybe it was only about
that moment of knowing, enduring,
of that certainty of surrender —
knowing the sun would melt our wings
knowing that falling was another
becoming,
remembering that within the clouds
we too smell of unborn lake —
but that wasn’t the plan, was it?

we rose upward on the saddest wave
and even the sky couldn’t tell
what was awake and what surely
was dreaming,
what was manifest and what
was disappearing,
what was true — this hand, that promise —
and what was just a feeling.

The opposite of death

Again and again, I want this life to return, like
a haunting. Until my bones can recite antonyms

in the night. What is the shadow of breath? What
is the inverse of moonlight? What is the antithesis

of the hours you wedged under one leg of the wobbly
earth? The gate to dawn, so long shut, is creaking.

Every mistake wants to be resurrected. Repeated.
Consequences wait at the old places. The traps have

bared their primal teeth. The body knows where
it should burn, where it should wound. Touch is

habit. Desire is the prophesy that can be read only
in a mirror. What is normal if dystopia is an obvious

palindrome? What would be, if not this life? What
do we do with love that is not the opposite of death?

 

While I try to compile them into a more readable format, the 55 posts from the lockdown series will also be accessible through a widget on the sidebar. Check it out!

Afterthought

I was a cat then
and now I am this
nine births removed —

beside me, the tree,
that is still a tree,
watches a fragrant
jasmine creeper
climb up its roots to
seduce the decrepit
moon. It knows —

a single bee
hangs in the
unmoving air
like an unpleasant
truth —

trying to be human
damages the soul so
it can no longer be
recycled, washing up
on a faraway shore,
killing the fish
that ignorantly
race to feed upon
its unbroken bits —

a single flower
falls on the earth
where we lie,
the cat and I
together, nine deaths
removed —

Water to Water – on Amazon

 

She collects

broken tea cups, rescuing them all,
chipped, without handles, cracked
on the sides, at the bottom, one
split open like a skull, its eyes no
longer seeing the emptiness —

everything cannot die in a landfill,
become unrecognizable matter,
reincarnate into other utensils,
useless, freshly coloured, waiting
for a touch on a sterile shelf —

some objects have stories – of lips
they kissed, of leaves that were
picked on the low mountains, of
a song she hummed as the water
boiled, of a truth he spoke after
the second sip, that shattered
one, more than one universe —

Print/e-book on Amazon

 

Like Fish Do

There will be no headstone,
no grave,
where will you go to grieve at sunset?
I want to be there to read your thoughts,
they say we remember things differently.
Will you forget in an ungodly sequence,
hear me speak in another’s voice?
Will remaining be so arbitrary?
Will you go to a place we went together,
some other quietness that lets you fall gently,
a public square where crowds fester and
we can be strangers again in unseeing eyes?
Will you come on days like this
when it rains in dots and dashes
like the sky has a message to send,
after all I too am now of the water.
Maybe I will leave you a note,
like fish do, stuck on the wetness,
remind you to bring cigarettes and cake,
oh, and daisies.
That August monsoon.
Weren’t they yellow daisies?

 

 

Published on Life in 10 Minutes: Oct 9, 2018

There Are Mirrors Everywhere

Thirty six degrees in the late morning, the sun acrid as mother
squints into the sky, as if expecting Lord Yama* himself to descend

on his black buffalo. Surely, there would be death, already, the hot
air was reeking of burning flesh. Yesterday, a mirror broke, fell from

my hands and multiplied its shiny self. An omen so evil, mother,
while ironing her silken mourning clothes, planned atonement and

appeasement, the priest was summoned and people and bovines,
known and unknown, were fed. Look, I showed her, I did not splinter, I

have eleven heads now and twenty two breasts, I have been reborn
from eleven wombs, my navel unbloodied. Later, breaking bread and

vows and lines, I saw myself reflected in another’s eyes. There are mirrors
everywhere, mother, waiting to blink, mirrors black as a buffalo’s back,

that can shatter your being, mirrors that trade fragments for a truth,
barter eleven promises for one unblemished soul. That night, we

gathered arms and lips and thighs and omens from walls and floors,
making ourselves whole, the hot air already reeking of burning flesh.

 

 

 

*The Lord of Death often depicted with his mount, the buffalo.

Ritual of Departure

I walk this dying year slowly down to the edge. You laugh, tell
me I am holding his shrivelled arm too tight, he totters now, his

voice feeble, not that he has anything left to say. I wait for him
to crumble to ashes so I can hand him back to ocean that birthed

him, how many times have we done this here, how many times
have we stood at this door, me empty hearted, this silent Bay

of Bengal, waiting in seeming nonchalance, wave after wave,
counting down the seconds. Remember the time he was broken

before the winter solstice, I brought him in pieces, in black plastic
bags, parts missing, and once, long ago, when I did not want to

let him go- all that crusted angst has turned blue wine to salt, yet
this sea burns the fire of a new day in her belly, our ancient ritual

of departure coloured with the blood of arrival. I turn back,
cleansed, eviscerated, clutching the arm of the wind, already

filling with fragments of sunshine and sand. You laugh, tell me
I am holding on too tight, even hollowness has to let go, to fly.

Micropoetry Month: Nov 2017: #30

Micropoetry MonthOn this last day of the first edition of Micropoetry Month, I thought we’d take a look at the Jisei, the Japanese Death Poem. The Jisei, written about death in general or about one’s own imminent death, reflects the poet’s contemplation of his mortality, of what was and what comes next both in the context of self and universe.

One translation of Basho’s famous Jisei goes like this:

On a journey, ill—
And my dreams on withered fields
Are wandering still.

I attempted a jisei a couple of years ago, here’s another shot at it. Share your micropoem, about death or maybe about life, using comments or Mister Linky.

And when I realize
there was no now,
that life, like time, was a linear illusion.
Like death.
What then?

A cherita as well in the same tone:

she wrote her jisei in six lines

one line about
the fickle, waning moon

two about a persistent mist,
and three about a hobbled dream
waiting for a perfect night

 

A very warm note of thanks to everyone who was part of Micropoetry Month – as reader, participant, inspiration or supporter. Thank you for your poems, your likes, your comments. I enjoyed writing. I enjoyed reading. And I hope we can do this, or something like this, again soon. Meanwhile, I will continue to post micropoetry and other poems on this blog and haibun on my other blog Phantom Road.  You can find me on twitter @tp_poetry. See you on the trail! 

What Colour?

What colour is a fallen leaf in the dark? I watched him measure
libations of water and sesame seeds, chanting under his

breath. It was Amavasya, the period of the dark moon, the time
for sacred rituals for the dead. The silver spoon trembled in his

wrinkled hand. How many times had he sat there at the appointed
hour, remembering grandpa, and great-grandpa who wasn’t even a

photograph, just a pixelated memory of a twirled moustache and
great coat, a man who had predicted that the British would not

last the summer. His son met my eyes from a row of framed pictures,
an almost frown, disapproving of my slouched incongruence. The oil

lamp spilt its liquid fire on brass bowls of vermillion and turmeric,
stark against his snow white hair. When had he aged so much? When

had the carmine and gamboge hues of his fleeing autumn become so
cold to my touch. What colour exactly is death in the morning?