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.

Perhaps, that’s all there is to living

Can’t write that story because who would believe
it, I wonder, myself, how much of it is true, pain is

surreal even as it throbs, a Dali-esque landscape with
no sign posts. Perhaps, that’s all there is to living:

running faster than memory, so it falters, flattens,
fattens as it pursues my reluctance, becomes a

disconnected shadow that has no locus, no umbilical
cord. No mother. I want to write of the day that came

unstuck from that storyboard of same-same mornings
and self-devouring nights. Something changed then. Or

maybe I only noticed it in that moment. Or maybe I
made it up. You can’t return to what you left behind

except as a stranger. What was the colour of the moon’s
unseeing eye? To remember, to remember is to lie.

For things we know

Once upon a time, a tree grew at the edge of the highway
from a seed dropped by a careless bird. And every day he

missed the garden, the warmth of roots, the touch of other
leaves, even the song of birds. There must be words in

some languages for such yearning, for things we know
without knowing the words for them. Just points on an arc

of rightness. An infinite horizon that separates the
manifest from the improbable. Isn’t that why the universe

keeps expanding? Isn’t that why spring keeps returning,
why a tree keeps growing, alone, in a garden of moving

cars? Isn’t that why a tree gives up and walks away with its
roots and the moon triangulates that emptiness and sighs?

If you loved enough

The rhythm of the sea is the incessant wondering –
not if you loved but if you loved enough. An answer

that will only come with loss. The verbs of separation
conjugate in excruciating ways. Grief is a hyphen

connecting empty mirrors. Shouldn’t absence invalidate
a mirror? How much can you love a night not defined

by a moon or stars? Should such a night, be night? You
ask if it is the fault of the sky or the limits of love or of the

imperfect lover? Enduring darkness in the hope that
morning will come, is not love, it is faith in the light.

Love asks for more. At low tide, it asks you who you
are, after taking what you do not have and cannot give.

Act One.

and that scene, over and over: you can be anyone
you like in your own drama, but you choose the

girl spreadeagled on the ground, life slipping
away from her, one truth at a time. Or the one

with wings, hovering above — they look at each
other, with the same eyes, incredulity awash in

fake moonlight, both saying at the same time, “I
know you.” When the curtain drops, there is

silence, or a lone shout, or a nervous whisper, never
the same, never different, and you tell yourself,

that is their drama, they are playing to another
audience. For them, their act may have just begun.

 

 

Closer than fear

Is there a way to hold a question? Not as close
as lust, closer than fear, arms closed to the

answer? Or is that the way the question holds
you? In this monsoon, as evening turns to night,

without drama, I try to write a love poem, without
tropes, without the moon, objectively — without

love. But too much is made of love which, like life,
is passion in passing, matter in transformational

happenstance: only this thought, born of thought,
nameless, formless, can last unchanged forever —

love like a question will outgrow your hands, learn
to walk, yearn to walk away: only this thought will

stay — that, for a while, love felt warm, like it
belonged, as if, for a while, it was the closest answer.

Some things just are.

The transformation of is to was — like an overcast
morning, the inevitability of sunshine and the

possibility of rain are not equal, there are all kinds
of ways to foretell all kinds of things — yet, an

umbrella bears consideration. Some things just are.
Like seeing you now across the street and not

stopping, not slowing down, not wondering where
you’re going, not remembering an hour later, all

the times it rained and words got wet — some words
that were quiet, cold, running down heated skin,

some warm, dissolving in light tapered on window
sills — not thinking at night that some things should

not be together, like sunshine and morning rain:
rainbows too are surely errors of judgement.

One leaf.

One leaf. One leaf falling from bough to mud. So many
considerations. Height. Gravity. Size. The side the wind

woke up this morning. One leaf. Not in the sky. Not on
earth. Both still and moving. Both alive and dead. Both

watcher and watched. Both character and story. Life, at
best, is only this bleeding wound: falling, is a necessary

ritual. You only have to ask the rain. On a night like this,
when the heart is stubborn, when skin aches for skin,

when night itself is only a silhouette cast upon a distant
moon – on a night like this, you only have to ask love.

at 3 AM

But the earth unrolled is wider than this patch of
sky – what is the point of an infinite universe that

won’t fit in your eyes? See, the moon is only peering
through a window — what a lot of fuss over a curious

voyeur. What we cannot do, gods will. What we
should not do, gods must. There are things you can

debate with the gods at 3 AM — the density of
darkness, the subtraction of life, why the physics that

keeps the moon afloat cannot balance a heart. Gods
are loose-tongued at that hour, they will confess light is

trickery, that what you see, you don’t. But talk quickly,
at the stroke of dawn, the last god turns into a sun.

The tether of want

I walk faster than my solitude. But only as far as
the tether of want. Then I wait, in its overhang

for silence to catch up. Want like a bitter salt rubs
slowly over broken skin. Pain seduces with its

mouth, speaking, always speaking. You learn its
words by walking with the full moon. Who knows

what the moon does when your head is lowered.
What kind of love requires you to lift your face in the

darkness? Aloneness, however, is mute – a friend
that crawls under you so it can look you in the eye.