It is war
and the unarmed cower in living rooms —
trenches that are not safe
from the unseen enemy.
But we’ve won before.
It will take more than a virus.
We will take down more than a virus.
We’ve won before.
We have a recurring tryst with destiny,
even in a world askew,
even where there is no time to grieve
even when there is too much grief
We’ve won before.
We know how to gather our loss,
know how to console our hearts,
know when the next dawn will come.
Yesterday an old woman almost died,
it took thirty-seven people
it took two hundred and fourteen messages
to get her to a hospital bed.
But she will be home in a week.
It will start with her.
We’ve won before.
It always starts with one person.
It always starts with one battle.
It always starts with one victory.
It always starts when the first person says no.
On the Rough Road is a collection of haiku that I first put together in 2016 following a series of prompts on ‘Carpe Diem Haiku Kai’ based on Matsuo Basho’s ‘Oku no hosimichi’ (Narrow road to the Deep North)
Recently, I redesigned and edited the chapbook and though it seemed to take forever, it was a nostalgic walk through old haiku and haibun I had written, giving me fresh insight into my state of mind and writing style, then – and now.
Over the years, I’ve surely learnt a thing or two, but also lost something. I don’t entirely know what that is, but I believe some of my best haiku are in this little chapbook. For more details, check this link.
In August 2017, I had six poems published onThe Cherita. I couldn’t share the poems immediately because of the rules of the journal and then the display format. Later, ‘The Cherita’ released several anthologies, collecting all the poems published by them. I recently managed to get myself the kindle version of one of the books titled ‘Where the river bends‘ and can finally, have all my poems up on my blog. Cherita is a form, as you might know, created by Ai Li who is the editor of the online journal and the curator of the anthologies. (If you’ve already seen a few of them on my Instagram page, well, this is the backstory)
(1) the horizon thickens
the sea separates from the curdled sky
we rise like wet birds from the water into emptiness, into nothing
(This Cherita also appears in my book ‘Water to Water‘) (2) origami bird
I fold and refold our love
hoping one day it will fly (3) the after-rain
a moon trembles in every puddle
sleep leaves the window and slips into my empty bed (4) a door slammed
a dog barked softly once, twice
she woke up when she heard the wind tiptoe into the garden (5) afternoon quiet
the cat sleeps in sunshine squares
the light and I argue about shadows and god (6) the sound of temple bells
No one knows how to heal our broken world,
barely held together by twisted concertina
wire. We made enough to circle the night.
Several times. How else will we protect us
from ourselves? How will we decide which
side is free? Truth burns blue on the pyre,
it’s final act of resistance is to choose if
it should turn into smoke or ash. Then why
does the air still reek of toxic optimism?
Aren’t bright eyes and unbidden cheer
frightening in the dark? I push his hand away. Hope, I tell him, is just another four-letter
word. He laughs, his breath oddly warm,
frankly, what other option do you have?
Poetry is dead. Long live the poems.
Does the poet still bears the burden of dissent,
of finding new words for a retro revolution,
when there are none left?
Let the seas rise, the cities fall. Let the snow melt.
Let the last of the evil fly one-winged, out of that box.
Let the chasms widen until
there are no more rivers to run through them.
Let people be divided over and over and over again
till they fit in tiny spreadsheet cells.
Let me be gathered as a data point by a factory of
algorithms that build a bubble around me.
Wasn’t it the scriptures that said that the world is just
perception. (And that was before Facebook.)
What do you want to resist most, today?
What outrage fills your coffee cup this morning?
How many odd tweets does it take to draw an even breath.
Because I have no poem for you to declaim.
No verse for you to hang your mask on.
No couplet. (What rhymes with orange or against?)
Go stand upon your upturned crate and say to the
three-and-a-half people around you that
poetry is long dead. Gone. RIP.
Now kneel for a minute in silence.
Rain is louder than thoughts, but only in the first four three minutes.
Our Your shadow is still stuck to my wall, where it was cast, without care, that last weekend before the first lockdown.
At some point, I turned this year into a convenient excuse. Like you did.
Probability is inversely proportionate to the length of silence. Words however cannot change the outcome.
If so much pain seems senseless, a little little happiness, by extension, is senseless too.
Every existential equation is solved in the songs the birds made up when humans emptied the streets.
The thing is, phone calls end. Like life. Like time.
It doesn’t take that long for “every day felt like a year” to become “a year that felt like a day”. (It takes a day. Or a year.)
Isolation is terrifying without a secret preoccupation. (Unless you are secretly preoccupied with the terrors of isolation, in which case the preoccupation is terrifyingly isolating.) (Why secret?)
Being a poet during a pandemic is a test of brevity. How best can the endless void, the featureless grey wrapped sky, the road that bends into the horizon, the distance that is measured in everything other than distance — how best can the infinite be compressed into neat lines that in the seventh reading still make some sense.
Size has swapped meaning. Big has turned small. Little is too much. Consider. The Universe. One word. Forever. Now.
Mostly, just #11.
Truly, just #4. But concise is always a verse, thirteen verses too long.