I fail poetry and poetry gives up on me. This is the machination
of muses and fates. The present is a documentary playing on the
back of a cloud. These Bangalore nights. The uncensored underbelly.
The filth, the loneliness, the lies, the insomniac buildings that
follow the sun, the bikes tripping on empty roads past midnight,
the feet stumbling out of overpriced pubs and seedy bars, all
dreaming the same dream, all reaching for the same exit, a
one-way street jammed from this red light to the next. An
arthouse film in monochrome. Around the haunting cliché
of a poet at her desk staring at an empty page. Writing a poem
that has no intention of being written. Ninety minutes later,
she crumples the paper and lets it fall to the floor. The floor
that falls with it. The silence that breaks with it. The poet who
flies through the window and rips up the yellow moon. The end.
What if you found a one-rupee coin lying in the dust on market street? Is it yours to keep?
What if you wanted to give it away? Is it yours to do what you will?
What if no one cares these days about a rupee more or a rupee less? Is it not something still?
What if the laws of belonging don’t apply to the little things, what if the theorems of loss cannot prove what doesn’t matter? How do their stories end?
And what if I forgot your lips and your eyes and the pain, what if that time fell soundlessly into a timeless sea? Not mine, not yours, whose is that night instead?
sixth cup of tea —
is neither here nor there
Come quickly then, familiar stranger, familiar
touch, familiar taste — love waits to flower in
the cold sun of November. We will moult the
skins of the months of separation and find that
our snake souls are chameleons: changing colour
to match the unslept sheets. Nothing learnt,
nothing gained in the static months, racing into
familiar fields to reap what we never thought to
sow. How long, how long before we remember
these times of distance again, fondly, like a
memory, like an ache, like a fervent prayer?
Winter will come, with its lantern light and
unfeeling skies, winter will come like a train
on a moonless night, as if nothing ever happened.
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.
This blog is six years old today. I want to thank all my readers for their support and encouragement and the shared love for poetry. Stay safe, everyone.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 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.