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.
just to say that
this was meant to be,
I had to believe —
in the foretelling,
in the inevitable,
in the algorithm,
in the universe,
just believing in
you and me,
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.
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.
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.
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.
Then you make lists of those you loved (some true) and
those who loved you back and suddenly you understand
distance and space and curvature, the bigness of small
things and how to solve for x. Doesn’t a lifetime only
get you to the edge of what you don’t know and cannot
feel? God, for instance, is a mango tree, flowering in
season, interrupted by pests or a lot of sunshine or a
little rain. Four years ago, a couple made crazy adulterous
love under one tree and it refused to fruit all summer (this,
entirely, is true). There is a reason why broken parts
together weigh more than the whole (this too, is true,
because to know grief is to know heaviness, to know how
to trap air in your open fist). But all this, because I was
sitting under a mango tree, praying it would not rain (not
true for clouds are clouds), because so much comes apart
when you have to run, mid-thought, to where it all began.
We look for formless visions of ourselves in the
distance. But we haven’t found ourselves, not
even lost ourselves. Not yet. Between us is the
desert of halves. Is love more memorable when
it fails? More likely to last forever? I am told to
find bigger things to be grateful for: sperm,
geometry, the blue probability of a kingfisher. I
thank pain that fills fissures like wet cement so I can
wake up whole in the morning. It was happiness
that broke us when we weren’t looking. The
moon is what it is — a fiction of movement and
light. It is the sky that is unfaithful. Or the mind.
I make lists of small things, unclaimed things,
unproclaimed things: Quarter past two in the
afternoon, steamed rice, my name, uncertain,
sitting like a wingless crow upon a stranger’s lip.
In other February news, am delighted to be one of ten poets named by The Ekphrastic Review in their annual awards list. Very grateful to the editor, Lorette C. Luzajic. Do check out this brilliant platform if you read/write poetry in this genre. This award is for my poem, Corollary, which is on their site as well as in my book, Water to Water.
And if you haven’t read my first flash fiction piece yet, here’s the link. Let me know what you think. Better yet, share your flash fiction as well!
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.
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.