Something else in the moonlight

Tell me your god is a poet. And not because the
universe has been crafted as a perfect sonnet. Not

because love, like an ode scribbled on a brown
paper bag on a bus that’s always going away, cares

little about grammar or meter or form. Not because
random things happen like an unexpected close, a

strange foreign word that kisses your ear, a lyrical
movement that gently erodes your resolve. But

because every day what you see is different, even
the difference is like a poem that means something

else in the moonlight, a ghazal that reveals layer
after layer with each reading, until it twists and

mocks and starts undressing all over again. Who
else would conceive a constantly renewing truth

that drags your faith to the edge? Hail the poet.
Don’t we know ‘god’ is just a blessed pseudonym?


Recently the papers here carried news that the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary has added a bunch of new “Indian -English” words including hartal (a shutdown or strike), dabba (box – mostly lunch box) and shaadi (wedding). Will they find their way into poems from all over the world? We’ll wait and see!! Meanwhile, this poem came about yesterday, and as it happens with almost all of my poems, I have no idea what triggered it. Am just happy words are breaking through the fog- slowly, reluctantly, randomly – but words, nevertheless. If you’ve just written a poem, do share the link – I’d love to read it. 

The Hands of the Wind

I hold the hands of the wind and try to read its destiny, the lines
deep like the frown of dry river beds, the faint fragrance of

jasmine heating my senses. It could have been from a bride’s
nuptial bed or a funeral cortege, here the language for welcome

and departure is the same, the earth gives and takes back with moon
petals shimmering in its guts. The wind has a love line so long, it

ties every moment gone by to that evening in the coffee shop, when
you read ghazals aloud in the afternoon haze and a life line that

knew the mountains before they scattered into desert sand, the rain
when it was ripe in the throat of the fish, poems before there were

words to name flowers and silence simply went from weddings to
shallow graves smelling of nameless need. The wind shows me its circular

fate line, karma tied in a knot, what does it matter where it comes from,
if that is beginning or end. I hold the hands of the wind and we sing in

metered couplets, the words for love and life and fate are the same
and Hafez is only a fleeting swallow with a jasmine seed in his breast.


This poem was published in the Calamus Journal in December 2017. The Calamus Journal, though, shut shop in February 2018 and the original links to its website no longer work. I’m sure they had good reasons, a journal is a huge amount of work – but when I discovered that this poem was essentially homeless, I decided to bring it in from the cold.

I haven’t sent in any poems in several months and I’m wondering – do you submit poems for online publication? Why not? What has been your experience? Do share your submission stories here! 


Micropoetry Month: Nov 2017: #22

Micropoetry MonthI love the Ghazal – it is lyrical, challenging and utterly beautiful when it comes out right. The repeating end word and rhyming word of each couplet define the cadence of the ghazal and direct its mood. No one writes it better in English than Agha Shahid Ali, one of my favourite poets.

Try a ghazal or any other form of micropoetry and share via comments or Mister Linky.
My attempt today references the legendary romance of Prince Salim and Anarkali, a dancer in the court of his father, the great Emperor Akbar.


Briefly, behind harem veils, where the moon wind gently rose,
a prince sought his father’s concubine, a soft, heavenly rose.

The king burned in royal wrath, the denouement broke their hearts,
she was buried alive under the stones, where the Jamuna quickly rose.

You spoke of Salim and Anarkali, intolerable even to fate,
he died as the mighty Jahangir, she lives on, a stately rose.

I remember the sky that night, impossibility fell like rain,
wet skin grew of fatal hope, though new suns cruelly rose.

The climax of human opera, the drama of the unfulfilled,
tragedy stains god and tomb and the death-hued pearly rose.



How Truth Should Lie

we wrote a poem once, he and I, pondering how truth should lie
five and a half verses, adding up to six, computing how truth should lie

we wrote in the winter, in the heat of youth, quills dipped in twilight wells,
couplets on hunger, faith and death, questioning how truth should lie

the world lay like an old jigsaw game, half its pieces lost over time,
we stripped words to fit the empty shapes, realising how truth should lie

but the wind carried the cadaverous stench of failure from fear to fear
the unspoken held its puckered nose, decrying how truth should lie

together we sat, he, the poem and I, and a moon with its silver mask,
filling days into burlap sacks of night, accepting how truth should lie

while real tomorrows switched places with refurbished yesterdays

lies showed how to frame the truth, declaring how truth should lie.


In Ghazal form

Unbroken Night

in soft chiaroscuro the moon descends, levitating in black and white,
stars tremble on the veil of dark, embellishing in black and white.

ivory dice spill from her hands, destiny mourns in the shade,
eyes turn once more to the door, lamenting in black and white.

alone he forgets to remember, alone he remembers to forget,
wayward words wallow and wilt, alliterating in black and white.

the monochrome horizon burns, hope dissolves with the mist,
reality consumes the grey, recalibrating black and white.

this night will shroud the sleeping sun, beyond the profane reach of time,
love, broken, will sew its seams, amalgamating black and white.


Experimenting with the Ghazal form after a very long time….

Summer Sky

See the heavy pregnant clouds, blotting the summer sky.
Melting beneath eagle wings, fanning the summer sky.

I hear them call, before I hear, the footsteps of the rain.
Cupped in their palms the last sunbeam, fighting the summer sky.

With leaves and grime, those memories, drip down the sobbing roof.
Pluck dead stars out of their hair, cursing the summer sky.

They take my hand, we stumble through an ancient downpour.
Splash darkness from the puddles, staining the summer sky

Water whispers to the earth, messages from the clouds.
We eavesdrop, under the trees, mourning the summer sky.

(in Ghazal Form)

This Hour

watch how the candle burns, from the tallow of this hour
clocks stand with folded arms, how will time follow this hour

clouds and stars shut their eyes, bombs rain down on naked fear
who will count heads and limbs, red rivers overflow this hour

death cries into trembling hands, its lifeline smudged by tears
humanity twists up in smoke, charred souls bellow this hour

shredded screams like fireworks, streak across the swollen sky
one last child, one last wail, who will bear sorrow this hour

somewhere the world sleeps in peace, somewhere the flowers bloom
someone checks one more box, in a screen’s blue glow this hour

(In Ghazal format)
April:#32- 21/30