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!

Come October

October is not the season for your poetry. The monsoon
declaims its final verse, festivals are lined up, darkness is
punctuated by sesame oil lamps. Diwali is a refrain of ghee
and gold and expectation. Poets are interrupted by semicolons
of human interlude – the annual enjambment of limbs and
sweets and curiosity. Muse after muse is muzzled by the
syntax of pyrotechnics and prayer. It is tradition. October
is not the season for your poetry. The swish of Kanjeevaram
silk is folk song. The crunch of adhirasams is the meter
of piety. Incantation is the line break for the people absent
each year – gone, dead, disappointed. October is the phone
call that breaks a year of end-rhymed silence. October is not
the season for your poetry. October is the unwritten poem.

 

 

September First

It is that crease in the crumpled paper of
time folded inside the envelope of listless

improbability, everything before it unreal, thereafter
a breathless race to the end of the year

through festive lamps and fireworks and the
sensuous rustle of woven silk, everyday reminders

that we are still packing rectangular burfis in oval
cardboard boxes. Now damp memories begin to

leech into skies freshly wiped of the grey monsoon,
remembrances tied up like fat goats in impromptu

markets, primed for sacrifice, of Dussheras when
truth was pink and green and yellow and the

clouds were the colour of spilt burgundy and words
were heavy with sighs, of that Diwali when doors

slammed louder than crackers the kids set off
inside old Bournvita tins and neighbours peered

through the window with eyes lit up like burning
flowerpots. Everything is reset on September first,

the sun is hanging out to dry on the line, her mellow-
mellow light with its sound of breaking boundaries and

shattering smiles paints the air with a strange
sanctity as if every molecule of the universe is visible and

quivering and even you and I know that without the
rain, we can no longer pretend to be waiting.

Late September

Late September,
her eyes still a solemn slate,
the last of the monsoon strung
in reluctant beads down her long, damp hair,
she is a song, a tune in another language,
playing on the radio
as you drive by,
two strange words and a hum
stuck firmly in your swaying head;

this city is listless, drifting,
as she dreams of the faraway,
stories the wind tells her, of leaves
that are turning brown and gold,
that fall like tears of the cooling sun,
only the gulmohars like drops of blood
against a dissolving sigh,
whisper the fervent promise
of an exiled lover;

she undrapes her saree
and lets the fragrant oils
seep under her skin,
as the woodsmoke swirls,
they will want her to be beautiful,
anointed in sandal paste and
attar of roses,
the sightless skies
bowing low
to inhale her scent;

somewhere it is already dawn,
and dead leaves
are curling into the growing cold,
here she waits
like a veiled bride
in her nuptial chamber,
soon the celebrations will begin,
good will vanquish evil
all over again,
in the lick of oil lamps and fireworks,
it is late September;

she lays her head down
on a bed of soft, whispering leaves,
silk rustling on the tenuous edge
of night and day,
the wind is talking again,
the taste of fire in its nuzzling breath,
she turns away, her frown
creasing the gathering dark,
there was a song, faraway,
about the naked trees,
a tune, a hum
and two unfamilar fallen words.

When all poetry seems filled with the hues of autumn, here, far away from that transition, it is almost the end of the monsoon and the festive season will bring with it next month, the colours of Dusshera and Diwali.

Darkness of light

Indolent tongues of yellow light, peering from tired clay lamps, flicked the smooth curtain of darkness, feeling its inky texture, curious, wanting to burn a little hole in its opaque folds to unravel the mangled debris of thirty six years, that she had carefully concealed behind it.

While the fireworks floated down from the sky into her kohl tipped eyes, while the ghee from the gold flecked sweets glistened on her open lips, while the rustle of her Benaras silk fanned the shimmering dance of the seductive Diwali night, she smiled.

The truth could wait till morning.

alone on the grass
in the grey dawn rain
the crow doesn’t know it is crying