It is not a tryst, not a beginning, not a confession. Definitely not a conversation. Don’t say anything.
If, in a moment of strange alignment, I make the uneven journey from within myself to what you see, what you think you see; if, in that moment of random foolishness, I peel away the façade, the armour, the wall after wall of defence; if, in that moment of irrational truth, I let you in on something real, then, don’t say anything. Let me have that moment. Let me step into the light. Let me cast my shadow. Let me happen. Let me come free.
You see that moon, alone, adrift in the pitch-dark sky, the moon that doesn’t know it shines, the moon that bears its scars alone, the moon too far to hear a word, the moon that came in through my window once to say it has the darker side…
…that moon used to be my friend.
just one night without an impending dawn just one night
It is okay to have stories that you will never tell anyone.
It is okay to have trees grow inside you that fall when no one is around. It is okay if it is an entire forest.
It is okay if that forest burns one night and turns to desert.
It is okay if in that desert an ugly flower blooms. And you don’t know its name. And you don’t tell anyone.
It is okay because a stranger will see you from a moving bus and think to himself that there must be a big desert inside your heart because your eyes see nothing that they see and there must be in that desert a single flower blooming because you still cast a light.
It is okay if you never meet that stranger and he forgets your face. It is okay that the stranger has no light. It is okay even if that was the best version of yourself and the only one who saw it and mistook it has forgotten about it.
It is okay that it is pointless right up to the end, that no one knows the pain, no one shares the surging joy, that no one sees the suffering. It is okay that it is all for nothing, that the erasure will be swift, will be surgical, the space you occupied will fill quickly, easily, as if it never was, as if you never were. It is okay that your existence is not validated by someone else.
That someone too has stories they are never going to tell.
stopping suddenly, midway, this too is a destination
They say in the far reaches of the universe where the light draws no shadows, a little planet, bigger than a dream, smaller than a smile, was inhabited entirely by flowers. Flowers, some bigger than magic, some smaller than a sigh, lived together, talking, laughing, reaching out with their little leaf-hands to caress a neighbour’s face.
They say when a flower finally dropped, roots murmured to it, for days, for weeks, until it returned to the light. No one else visited the planet, it never grew dark, a gentle wind meandered in soft arcs and twice a day a grey cloud arrived in the sky above to shower the flowers with sweet water.
They say that life of fragrance and colour and a kind of joy that did not want a name continued for a time bigger than a beginning, smaller than an end, until one quiet afternoon, when a newly blossomed flower, bigger than a moment, smaller than faith, opened its little eyes and fell in love with the grey cloud.
You ask me if I am happy. I hesitate, wait for words you will understand. I have nothing to validate this moment against. What is it?
There is no moon, the monsoon sky has swallowed all the light. There is no particular thought inside my head. I can feel the damp cold of the stillness, the empty corners, the echoes rushing back when I call your name. There is no great love. Look at us, so tiny against the giant canvas of being. Two little creatures. How big shall we pretend our love is?
It is pleasant, this moment. This moment that has no past and no future. We are just here, trying to be, trying to be in the way the no-moon sky just is, in the way the quiet inside us just is, in the way being together without some great love, just is.
Words that you will understand. I am happy, I say. You smile. The moon shifts gently, unseen. The silence ricochets off a far wall. The answer fills this moment. This moment with no past and no future.
the wind that knocks on the door doesn’t wait to be let in
Outside framing ourselves in cliched tropes of beginnings and endings, of chance and consequence, of pleasure and despair; outside the boxes in which we locked ourselves; outside being and belonging…how do I salvage the sky that has fallen as rain? The sky I see when that freshly scrubbed sunshine appears again is not the same sky. One sky cannot remember. Cannot know. One sky is trapped in the puddle that was once, sky. One of them is real.
I am not sure when reality disintegrated and became an inkblot. Maybe it was imagination that was reset. Maybe it depends on the locus. Maybe the premise itself is wrong. Things are clearer in the night. If you look. If you know. One emotion is the protagonist. Another is the perfect foil. One of them is real.
But our lies were soft. The contrived made it bearable. Filled the emptiness. The blatant untruths wrapped themselves around hard line-breaks and ingrown grammar to birth the poem. The ink-stained aftermath, the inevitable becoming, the way a poem splits into consonants and commas inside your eyes, the music disappearing from its spaces, even that, even that wants you to make a choice. One verse is real. One verse is still unwritten. One of them is real.
cold moon, cold night: shall we wane till we disappear like the moon, like the night?
Of all the ways to encounter loss, I picked the one in which it arrives as a stranger. A stranger who emerges from the bowels of a subway station, into the sunlight, as I hurtle down the steps into the darkness, directly in his path, looking away, refusing to meet his gaze, only a strong musky scent of an unborn morning , staining the air as we pass.
It returns sometimes, that fragrance, like a wind from a faraway place, come to moult its memory skin . Or like a pigeon that flew into a room that it doesn’t know how to escape, thrashing against the glass pane, screaming at the walls in low, gurgling sounds, rising and falling, rising and falling, trapped, afraid…alone.
On some nights, the stranger stops and calls my name. A name he should not know. A voice I should not recognize. A longing that should not be. For a morning, yet to come.
what should we call it, the sky that does not know it is the sky?
Temporary bridges. Retractable bridges. Bridges that will bring us back. Bridges made of dreams. Bridges made of fear. Bridges made of want.
But bridges don’t unite realities. They become an alternative. A sacred middle. Not belonging. Not owning. Distorting space. Distorting distance. I stood for long on a bridge that night, below a restless moon, above an endless landfill of broken bridges. Here the questions change. The premise changes. The headwinds scatter, directionless. Silence erodes into a roar. Time starts and stops. Starts and stops. Like the staccato hymn of a universe, spinning into itself.
At that point between truths, even then, the answers remain the same.
no road no destination but what if we had continued walking?
I think it is the simplest thing I have to say, but it must negotiate a labyrinth of pride and bile with nothing to light its way. Last night, I studied its paradoxes through the evening’s strawberry haze. How does it begin? Wasn’t failure the first consciousness, wasn’t death the first precept. We know these things like the taste of our own mouths. Not as a taste, not as knowing. Still, we elevate their antonyms — a god, a love, a lover, a time — we embellish them with the infinite, the eternal, one thing containing the other, with victory. How else should we process our own defeat? How does it begin? Always, always with a desire for how it should end. And then we are working our way backwards while trying to move forward. How then, does it not get trapped in the middle? The simplest thing I have to say wants the complexity of your understanding. The first suggestions of darkness appear like clues across the sky.
a different wind a different night why would silence be the same?
(1)around the military cantonment
the way this city has grown:
a camouflage truck, a school bus,
wait together for a green light(2)past Danang and Huea few miles from the DMZthe guide pulls out two cans of coke —one day soon, he says, he will move to California(3)origami cranesone, two… a thousand —waiting at the Hiroshima memorial:things fallthings rise(4)the invisible wars:the invisible dead:“what big eyes you have,” she cried,“the better to see you with, my dear,”the wolf replied(5)on a quiet streetin Luang Prabangthe unexploded ordnance centre —a grandmother coversa little girl’s eyes(6)downtown Berlin:in a dozen languagesthey ask for directions —to the topography of terrorto the palace of tears(7)at the bottom of every seaa ship, a plane, a soldierasking evolution
the same question:
“why?”(8)on large bannersin the Warsaw museumbits of resistance poetry —outside, a man dozesin a rush-hour busheading to the new old town(9)folding a world mapwar zone collapsing into war zonesomeone will diefrom something that will fallfrom someone else’s sky(10)late March in Londona fog-laden skygoes from pewter to troubled blacksomewhere the sun has setsomewhere the sun has to set(11)space and time morphat yet another border crossing —she bows under the weightof an entire lifetimestuffed into an old backpack(12)Kanchanaburi war cemeteryso many peopleso far from home:here lie so many storiesunheard/ untold(13)adrift, afraid,on a refugee boat:home, alreadya memorylimp from cold sea-spray(14)ringing in the desert airchildren reciting the alphabetA for anti-aircraft gunsB for bombs, big, bad, bombsC for compassion that still hasn't come
2. I read ‘Hello Earth’ – a compilation of prose-poems in the earthhello form, by Rosemary Nissen-Wade. These are personal reflections on self and surroundings written during the lockdown. Grab a free copy from the Smashwords site. You will find raw, engaging, healing poetry inside!
3. My detours into flash fiction continue, especially since poetry seems to wax and wane with the moon. If you haven’t read my piece from December, do give it a shot.
4. Meanwhile, weekend curfews and night curfews are back with Omicron going nuts all over the city. Perhaps the weirdest part is how normal it all seems.
once more voices slink into the dark once more, quiet keeps vigil