Waiting for this year to end

Waiting for this year to end like waiting
for the second line of a poem — the first,
a recursive imperative that keeps looping
back to an undefinable beginning. The

days have to be rolled uphill, a Sisyphean
production in which the movement of time
is a measure of naked ineptitude. We wake
together at midnight, this is when the

gradient sharpens and darkness needs to be
pushed with two hands— sweaty, grimy hands
that have touched skin and broken promises—
with dawn the stone will slip again, past lips

and waists and lies and feet. All this in the
space of a day, in the space of an empty
second line, this year that should end like
a poem, but is always one damn word away.

Writing Obituaries

Will this night not be night if it wears a sun? Another sun that we
dare not look in the eye? This silver-lit emptiness is complicit,

conjuring a deceptive goodness , stealing eyes that would
have scratched the rough scab of unhealed flaws. How many

words have been wasted on the moon, how much love, how
many lovers? Even spilt like mercury from an alchemist’s flask,

she quivers in the lake, the wind a soft moan in the ear of her
bedevilment. It is December, the year is sinking quickly into its

grave. There are things to forget. Things the moon wants me
to remember. That is her prism, the window through which

she becomes beautiful, makes the darkness a burn of want.
I write obituaries in the moonlight. Even a two-inch horizon

presents a linearity I must refuse. Nothing is perfect. A
moment can stumble. A moment can be a waxing moon. A

moment between this year and the next could be longer than
forever. The way, once, a forever love was a waning moment.

 

 

 

As you read this

As you read this (that’s right, set a timer, how
long will it take you to get to the end?), things

are happening, things you’d rather not know
about. Some will make it to the morning paper,

some will instantly appear online – things that will
make you gasp, make you rage, make you turn

away, make you draw safe boundaries around
yourself. We are little moving parts of an

inconsistent whole, moving because staying still
is not an option – little life particles, little human

particles, little nation particles, little quanta of
giant paradoxes that shift and struggle. How long

has it been? A moment? Two? Because things have
changed. One more particle trampled underfoot

as a stampede of littleness hurtled, inevitably,
towards another non-existent doorway.

 

Poetry Tuesday #1 – Old

The subject today is “Old” – an eventuality I considered at length in my chapbook “On Turning Fifty” – there’s something about a milestone birthday that makes you want to stop, look right, left and right again, before going forward. Today’s poem, however, comes from a divergent thought about reality, about time and by extension, all things existential.

One more bean

The line from me to myself arches across the southern
sky, plummeting through a cloud of stardust, or maybe it

scours the bottom of the ocean, dragged up, wet and
heavy: either way, both lines pause at the threshold of

this argument? On one side, worn, wrinkled fingers shell
hyacinth beans, dropping them into a wire basket —

79, 80, 81… the toothless smile is capitulation and
resigned acceptance. The beans will be skinned and

cooked in powdered spices at dawn. On the other side
is the moon, watching with one eye. Languishing. She

too will be peeled and colourless once the kitchen fires
are lit. See how both parties offer their transience in self-

defence. One more bean. One more hour. One more
meaningless night. As if time is just a farcical construct, a

peg on which to hang our last excuse for being here. As
if every clock face is a pulsing confession of age old guilt.

 

Do share your poems, exploring any aspect of the prompt(age, history, evolution, geology, childhood, yesterday, nostalgia, rust, wisdom – whatever it means to you), using the Mister Linky widget, or leave the link in the comments section below. Even if you don’t have a poem to share, stop and say hello! Next Tuesday’s prompt (12th November) will be “New“!

 

 

Or does darkness?

A wall to the right of the empty bed, concrete
blocks and wood that feel the first desperation
of night. To the left a window where dawn’s
seduction begins. Does light pick a side first
or does darkness? As usual, evening is the
arbiter of arguments over illumination. It was
evening when you left. It is evening while I
wait. Evening that is neither light nor dark.
Evening that pronounces: the moon is neither
empty nor full, neither real nor imagined, the
moon both is and isn’t. Is such a moon not
borne? Is such a moon not a chant? Is the
moon first light or first dark? Why then can’t
you bear absence? When can’t you speak
of love? Are they not moon crust? Why then
can’t you forgive this infidel flicker of love?

 

To all you poets:  Am going to be writing theme-based poetry every Tuesday starting 5th November. Do let me know if you’d like to share your poems (spoken or written), discuss and critique all things poetry.  More details soon! 

 

Act VI

Life had not snuck silently past. It had been a slow, deliberate, high-octane drama played out in five acts, with staccato dialogue and questionable direction, hysteria and inept expression, banal music and imagined climaxes, its protagonists as naked from the back rows as from the front, its predilection towards a trite end evident in the rank imperfection of its beginning.

The books in her vast mahogany shelves were the changing backdrop as one set disappeared into the darkness and another was arranged with more tired fonts, more worn clichés and more minimalist emptiness. The rectangular void of those gone filled with more benign contradictions, carefully curated so the new bore no resemblance to the old. Tolstoy, Gibran, Eliot, Marx, Gandhi, Whitman, Tao, Baldwin, Tagore, Aurelius, Nietzsche – the coming and going of the books like konnakol beats, vocalized percussion rhythms, that traced her every movement— faster, slower, towards, away, louder, softer, year after year, feet dancing, feet dragging— the scenery changing, until that moment in the darkened theatre, the sounds deafening, watching herself, a book clutched on her lap, turning, as if compelled by the tempo, catching the eye that caught hers, moving through time, feet dancing, feet dragging, even while she was spot lit on the stage, even while her head turned back from the fourth row, watching the seventh, naked, clothed, pulses in timeless meter, time stranded in the aisle, the book clutched harder, the book that had not fled, the book that had not replaced the one that had not fled.

The music cracks— a cough, a snigger, one beat too many, two beats too less, the mridangam drummer overcome with horror, the unseeing audience not seeing as phones twinkled between pockets and skin in arrhythmic insolence, the rustle of silken dhotis and sarees as the knowing knew and shifted uncomfortably, calves and eyebrows raised in arched judgement. The scene pauses till eyes shift and the spell is broken and the book falls and curtain falls and the backdrop is gone forever.

Life had not snuck silently past. She pushes her hair away from her face, still young, still old, still ageless, her heart loud in the forced interlude, the drama of her life drifting into act six without her on stage, without her in the fourth row, the empty seat in the seventh watching intently the empty circle under the spotlight, a slow violin sliding into the quiet, the book climbing into the seat in the fourth row, the empty seat three rows behind it burning through the back cover, still young, still old, still ageless. The drumbeats gone forever.

this mulberry tree, this worm, this untouched skin,
this silken shroud —
everything in lockstep

Notes from Warsaw – 5

Tadeusz Gajcy was 22 years old when he secretly published a second volume of poetry.
Tadeusz Gajcy was 22 years old when he was editor of an underground Polish resistance journal – during the Second World War.
Tadeusz Gajcy was 22 years old when he was defending his city with his pen and his weapon.

Walking towards the big B-24 Liberator on display at the Warsaw Rising Museum, I stopped to read his poems. Not that I knew who he was. Not that I had ever heard his name. But I knew I would go back and find out. I knew I had to.

I scoured the net for translations. They are hard to come by. What I did find was fragment after fragment of searing verse.

He wrote of war and country:

Do you know that land beneath the icicles of blackened
flaming candlemas candles
which formerly creaked with resin but creaks today with
membranes
of huge bats’ wings?
Do you know that land
where along paths of sighs
float dead
charred flowers and the bones of meadow and forest beasts?
(from The Polish Review )

He wrote of grief:

It is too stifling for the words on one’s lips
hewn from the glow of fires and from grief as heavy as
stone…
You thought: it will be simpler.
But one must change words, musical words
to make them as hitting as a spear
(from The Polish Review)

He wrote of love:

Though I might say: I will love you, I will stay,
though I might nail together words as I would a coffin,
don’t trust me and wrest memory away from me.
(from The Sarmation Review)

Tadeusz Gajcy was 22 years old when he was killed in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944.

Crack open your soul, dig out the words,
as if this is your first poem
as if this is your last poem

 

Also in this series:
Notes from Warsaw – 4
Notes from Warsaw – 3
Notes from Warsaw – 2
Notes from Warsaw –