You think the moon knows

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.

Perhaps, that’s all there is to living

Can’t write that story because who would believe
it, I wonder, myself, how much of it is true, pain is

surreal even as it throbs, a Dali-esque landscape with
no sign posts. Perhaps, that’s all there is to living:

running faster than memory, so it falters, flattens,
fattens as it pursues my reluctance, becomes a

disconnected shadow that has no locus, no umbilical
cord. No mother. I want to write of the day that came

unstuck from that storyboard of same-same mornings
and self-devouring nights. Something changed then. Or

maybe I only noticed it in that moment. Or maybe I
made it up. You can’t return to what you left behind

except as a stranger. What was the colour of the moon’s
unseeing eye? To remember, to remember is to lie.

Beyond this wall of grey

Beyond this wall of grey, what if there is another
sky, in which a lone bird rises and the light, the

enduring light, refuses to cast its shadow. You erase
the bird, you deny the light, you mock the sky. But

can you feel the wings breaking through your skin?
That pain is relief, is proof of life. See the blood pooling

around your feet, look again, look up, whatever held
you to this ground has left your arms a long time ago.

The sentence has shrunk into a word at the tip of your
tongue. Say it, drain the sorrow from your bones. Fly.

All September

All September, this city swathed in rain, sorrow has
prospered in the damp air and all the things we have

broken, we cannot put back: not like this monsoon
sky that will reset itself, no scratch, no seam, leaving

us to wonder — if we imagined all the grey mornings
after all the stormy nights, if touch, too, was a dream,

if water was an affliction, if detachment came from
the separation, or fastened itself to the silence (tiny

spores of colourless indifference, growing on a forever
bed of contoured waiting) — if in the molten dark, we

reached to wipe the washed light from the face of the
moon, skin brushing skin, strangers, in the silvery wet?

 

**

I was writing a set of “City Poems” last year that was supposed to organically grow into a chapbook of some sort. Of course, 2020 effectively destroyed all creative mind space and everything seems to be on some kind of endless pause. Somehow, from that muscle memory or from a sense of foreboding, this poem has emerged into the light. From comments and discussions, I can tell several poets are struggling to write. One left a message on my blog today that she hoped to be inspired to write again. This is probably the best thing we can do for each other – hope someone finds some words and hope those words will help us find ourselves.

Break open a poem

Break open a poem and time spills out, not
quite like sand from a fist, too small, too tight;

not quite like rain from a cloud that has drifted
too long — break open a moment within a word,

within a line, and all the moments before it spill
out, not quite like the blur from a speeding train:

the contained is rarely smaller than its container –
possession is only a manner of being. Break open

this night, hold its screams apart, see, all the things I
thought I could bear, can no longer bear themselves.

The whole poem you wrote

As if there are words that actually mean what we
think, what we feel: the keyboard is an absurd

compromise, an approximation, the discord between
manifest alphabet and mind is the dark sky of day.

To listen, to read, is to dress the naked body,
impale an ill-fitting soul upon its breast, to tell it

your secret, give it a name. The reader declares
possession, the listener misappropriates pronouns.

Didn’t you say goodbye like an onomatopoeic verb
with nine syllables for retreating footsteps? Wasn’t it

the whole poem you wrote — while all you wanted
was for the moon to interrupt, just one more time?

Just…

just to say that
this was meant to be,
I had to believe —
in time,
in the foretelling,
in the inevitable,
in distance,
in the algorithm,
in the universe,
in pain,
in karma,
in sin,
in god

just believing in
you and me,
was never
enough

The morning after the poem

at first light, on a
single sheet of paper, I found
a poem that does not want to be
read, a sky that will not know its
end, a cloud that realized it cannot
resist the wind, and a moon that
longs to scream over and over and over
again that all it can ever see,
is darkness —

the poet, as always,
did not
show up
at the
reading

Hello Earth

Hello Earth,

Here we are again, strangers in familiar positions. A bottle and a half of cheap local wine, you and I and the rain just randomly filling spaces – you, in a helpless orbital crawl, me following you, the rain following us – nowhere to go but back where we started.

Earth, I’m never going so far that I can see you in your entirety. You’re never getting close enough to know what I think. A strange entanglement, this. Different parts of me were different states of matter. Some parts might even have mattered. Yet, the chaotic history of that transformation, the burden of that memory is yours to bear. I can choose to be a flower for the length of a flutter. Or a thorn. Finis. Someday, we must discuss your choices.

Leaning in, I confess your moon has more going for it than you do. Perspective matters. And lighting. The art of distance. The science of inconstancy. The histrionics of a late night show. I wonder if you know how you look from afar, through the darkness. You see, more than the ground beneath our feet, what we need is the probability of flight. That is the thing about love – no, something as real as you, wouldn’t understand love. Magic happens elsewhere. Above both of us.

Listing gratitudes, I see you smile. You think I kneel in your desert, weep in your forest, breathe to the rhythm of your waves, but I still don’t understand you. Then I read someone else’s story about the first snow on the mountain and I cannot sleep for a week. You know I tried writing a poem once, about you. It was you that hid the words.

Offering you this deal: let’s stop for a moment, you and I. Let’s talk in the stillness. They say we are made of the same stardust. Lovers. Soulmates. Sisters. Without names and labels we feign incomprehension. We get lost. So, let’s start there. With names. I’ll tell you mine. Look me in the eye. Hold my hand. As creator, as mother, as life. Who are you, earth? Let’s start there.

 

Finally! This piece follows the earthhello format, that was introduced to me by Rosemary. Her earthhello prose-poems can be found on her blog and on Instagram

 

For things we know

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?