(life as a game of snakes and ladders)

As you roll the dice, you wonder if you can
train a snake to uncoil slowly, so you descend
in stages, arriving gently at the bottom. The

snake is an excuse to cancel the light. To return
to the womb. To become a root, seeking
water, having never seen a leaf, a flower in full

bloom. You feel the ladder, made of mist and
hope, always two rungs short of home. But a
goal is a function of desire and luck as much as

laboured ascent. The ladder serves the myth
that elevation is a need. Because stars and gods
live in the sky. Because the higher you go, the

further it still is. You move seven squares forward,
dodging a venomous fang, not quite at the
lowest step. It has been raining for days. If

there was a sky, it has collapsed into the ground.
You wonder how things would work, upside-down.
You turn the board around, count down from the end.


Finding a process that works, that cuts through the numb silence and translates stirrings to words is half the battle. I found my way around writer’s block by doodling my thoughts and putting them aside, letting the words come when they were ready.  It hardly matters if you can’t draw to save your life. It also doesn’t matter if the words aren’t exactly what the image intended to be. The poem is the journey! Am learning to enjoy it! 


the chaos is real
tangled inside and out
you try to iron it like a shirt
but it creases against skin
over every warp, every scar,
over the forgotten, the elapsed —
like the delusion of stretched blue sky
that turns as it comes closer,
into viscous cloud, into grimy light,
dead stars falling into unopened eyes:

the knots connect thick and deep
in the end you let them be
because to unravel one
you have to undo everything —
because a patch of garden on a sand dune
does not improve the desert,
that is not its burden,
but it keeps the thirsty traveller walking
in the hope there will be another one…

A connection between soles

All the inversions: friday night and I set a
memory on a skin of spilt beer, feet touching
feet, head two body lengths away, unseen,

suddenly truth is a connection between soles.
Every morning for twenty years, mama took
three buses to work. The radius of childhood,

measured by wheel on wheel on a clouded film
of yesterday’s rain. Which wheel is real when
we talk of the past? Later, putting me to sleep,

the night reflected in her tears: two formless
skies collapsing into one. A false singularity.
Darkness, a perfect mirror of darkness.



Image by Omid Armin (Picture prompt provided by Visual Verse)
First published on Visual Verse (Vol 07, Chapter 4)


Finally sent something out this year and am glad it found a home. Visual Verse has great picture prompts and I love ekphrastic poetry but it also pulls together a gorgeous contributor page ! Just realized I’ve had 14 poems published there!

A hoarse ripple

Sometimes a word or two would
break the surface, a hoarse ripple,
as if a frog had sighed in a dream
or a fish had stretched and yawned
and then the water would straighten
its creases, the silence separating
us, sometimes, fusing our bodies into
one, the muzzled light opening and
closing wounds like a flautist on
a distant stage. There wasn’t that
much left to say. Not that night. Not
in that place. Not with words, anyway.

Mountain Lake: Salvador Dali, 1938

Collecting blossoms

I pluck flowers from that painting every time
emptiness shapes itself into a room, into a bed,

into a voice. I hide them where you cannot see –
at the bottom of my teacup, on that window

sill where the light can’t reach even at noon, on
my shadow that never falls in this unerring

darkness, in my closed fist. Come very close,
closer, can you see a petal plotting an escape?

It has been trying for twenty five years now. And
still I pick flowers from that inexhaustible tree. She

smiles at me even as I reach for it, as if we are
sisters, dressed alike for the harvest festival. I tell

her I am collecting blossoms for my grave. She
smiles wider. Bends lower. Is this kindness or

chicanery? I dream that every time the emptiness
shapes itself into your body, another flower blooms.


Almond Blossom- Vincent Van Gogh

Used to be easier

There must be many gods up there, yours, mine, the god
of unbelievers. Used to be easier. All people wanted was

to be safe from life, from death, from gods. Now infinite
prayers litter the space between lips and stars. But

prayers are not gods. They need feathers and hollow
bones and ways to breathe. And ways to survive till they

find the right god. The skies are crowded like the
vegetable market on Sunday morning. We slithered and

jostled through curses and shoulders and sweat to find
the best mangoes. It was the lunar new year. We prayed

for twelve months of happiness. We got two. That prayer
must have broken a wing or run out of air or died in a

stampede of buoyant yearnings. Maybe you were saying
something that day. Maybe I couldn’t hear in the din.

Even gods can’t hear in the Sunday market with every
single person crying out for something. Used to be easier.



Image by NASA (Picture prompt provided by Visual Verse)
First published on Visual Verse (Vol 06, Chapter 5)

As large as a truth

we build bigger
so we can feel smaller –
somehow the small are not accountable
for their smallness, benevolence
is the burden of the unsmall – our gods
are big, straddling skies and
holding up universes,
anything as large as a truth
is more than we are
obliged to bear: lies, on the
other hand, are weightless.


The Temple by Tomasz Zaczeniuk
Used with permission.  Instagram fotowizjer


Written for a picture prompt at Real Toads that requires a 55 word response.


There are mornings, more mornings
now, when I try to separate love from
myself. I describe my face to the silence
as a stranger would, to another, after
a brief encounter. I describe my love
to the mirror as a bird would explain
light to another, in the dark. I describe
our time together as a fish would
talk of wetness to another, not knowing.
Your fingers comb through the lines,
trying to distinguish reason from craft.
But a poem is only a corollary. A
consequence that has subsumed its
cause. The glass in our window is
neither inside nor out. The sky becomes
a sky only when we look up. You
describe distance to me as a road would
to another, as a beginning or ending.

The Kiss, by Edvard Munch (Norway) 1897.


Published today in The Ekphrastic Review. Many thanks to the editor, Lorette C. Luzajic



Afterwards is the number of steps it took to
get home, afterwards is an empty home.
Afterwards is washing that has to be brought
in before sunset, dinner that has to be
cooked, bills that have to be paid, afterwards
is hearing the word ‘obituary’ as if for the
first time and wondering why words like
it – estuary and sanctuary – are about peaceful
places. Afterwards is falling asleep on the
couch because the room you slept in for 27
years is suddenly too cold, the TV still on
because silence is no longer a choice. Afterwards
is breaking the present into tolerable pain and
denial, recasting the past into unrelated
memories and denial, framing tomorrow into
impossibilities and denial. Afterwards is a
phone call you cannot make, a god you cannot
forsake. Afterwards is every moment you spend
forgetting that the blood on the officer’s uniform
came from a body you can no longer hold.