The shape of hope

Bush fires, an almost-war, an impeachment trial, more hate, more weird weather, more inaction – could this year have got off to a worse start? Here in India, led by the young, people are out on the streets protesting a divisive, communal citizenship law. They tell us, in no uncertain terms, that however bad it gets, there will be people who will resist, who will dissent and who will fight for what is right and just and beautiful. They are our shape of hope.

Poetry is another matter altogether. 2019 was a great year, personally – I was lucky to publish a collection and to get a pushcart nomination. They were the shape of my hope. But January brought the cold and thick grey walls that words cannot penetrate. Instead, I have been working on a new chapbook. The compilation plays grave tricks on my mind – screaming at the pointlessness of the effort, even as I soullessly move words around the page. But that’s the thing- it has to be whipped into a shape that even hope will acquiesce to wear. Right now, it is all formless and uphill.

So, it is with no surprise that I found that another publication that carried my work, shut shop at the end of 2019. Haibun Today, that published a little Tanka prose I wrote has gone off the air and am only glad its archives are still accessible. Here’s the piece they carried:

Inevitable

Perhaps your leaving was meant to be. One day there was the crunch of our footsteps on splashes of colour and the next the white expanse of a winter that mandates a quick indrawn breath even though the snow had been foretold. Even though the emptiness had been sung. Even though the last chinar leaf had danced through the space between us as if farewell is not a broken word but a private ritual of bough and dusk and wind that we watch from the bedroom window. Safe. Warm. For a while.

drop by drop
a hesitant light
fills the monk’s bowl—
night withers
into a small shadow

 

 

If you remember, a few weeks ago, I told you that another publication, Calamus Journal, had wound down as well. How many more, I wonder. Now, I hope your year has had a better start. If you have inspiration to share in the form of a new poem you wrote or just kind words to cajole the muse, bring them here, they are much needed and very welcome.

 

Our skies are empty

More often now, the hollowed out
husk of the afternoon light is overlaid
with images of impending dystopia:
an earth that will not forget, a culling
that will not be kind, an aftermath
that will frighten its oracle. How long
does it take for a glacier to turn to
grass, for a forest to return to dust, for
life to exhaust all possibilities? Already
our skies are empty, our gods have
moved, telling stories of the ghosts
of the sixth extinction. The universe
shakes its head in amused disbelief.

 

For earthweal.com – be sure to visit and share your #climateemergency poetry.

This year is already singed

Not even a week old, this year already questions
my blood, my loyalty, the bastard smell of my

poems. Like a feral cat, this year is licking itself on
my porch, asking if I will steal a saucer of milk from

the neighbour whose pet parrot it has just
devoured. Whose fault is the asymmetry of clouds,

of puddles, of rage, when the rain keeps coming
down in neat vertical lines? I ask you if the last

monsoon was any different. But this year is already
wet, see how some months are drowning. The

inferno is discerning only in the depths of hell.
When hellfire reigns on earth, all skin burns the same,

all tongues taste the same, all cries are oblations
poured on the same pyre. I ask you if the last

world was any different. This year is already singed,
see how life is charred and curling at one end.

 

For earthweal.com – be sure to visit and share your #climateemergency poetry.

Once more around the sun

once more around the sun
this earth that marks neither
beginning nor end —

while, we, crossing an
artificial border of time,
raise fists and voices —

to save the earth from
us, to save us from
ourselves —

strange, this word, movement
its only option, returning to
where it began —

this word without time, without
place, this word without choices, this
world without choices: revolution

a fist that wraps a fist,
a voice that echoes a voice: revolution,
once more around the sun —

 

For the year that ended, for the year that has begun, for revolutions that have ended, for revolutions that have just begun. And for Earth Weal – Brendan’s brand new portal for “The poetry of a changing earth”. Be sure to check it out and participate. Have a wonderful new year, poets and readers. May the new year bring a lot more poetry to our lives.

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.

The skin of resistance

The air is the texture of rebellion. The sun smells of
afterbirth. Cries for freedom knock on the horizon,

over and over like hammer-song. This resurrection
demands its price — bones and blood and an endless

river with neither face nor limb. You write without
words or ink. Metaphors flatten. The sky wants to

eviscerate language. When you write about people,
their souls disappear into the spaces between lines.

When you write about souls, death watches, already
a period at the end of an inert sentence. When you

write about death, freedom holds your wrist, asking
if you dare voice the truth. Truth is the rough skin of

resistance. When you write about resistance, truth
is already mouthing your poems from street corners.

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.