The way the days pass…

Hunkered down. The inexorable wait. How does a
killer virus ask for directions? There are two of us.

One waits. One watches. Both are me. Both must
be real. The world has already contracted into a

page that updates the toll. The dead are marked in
yellow. Already, so much has been forgotten. So

much has been erased. A forsaken god has been
woken from his bed. How do you wait for peace

while you wait for death? How do you wait for love
when waiting overflows with dread? This is a silent

war – no explosions, no guns, no song, no words
that hold up the sky. The subtraction slips into the

quiet, into the dark, the way it was foretold. We
wait, we watch, one real, one masked, as the

world we know ends with a whimper, the world
we know leaves suddenly without saying goodbye.

 

On not belonging

In the semantics between bird
and sky,
what is cloud?

In the adhesion between word
and poem,
what is empty space?

I can feel, still, your fingers on
my face, pushing back my hair, eyes
glazed by impossible tomorrows —

In the shadow between time
and place,
what is truth?

In the paradox between illusion
and skin,
what is love,
what isn’t,
what matters?

 

Sharing this poem from my chapbook On Turning Fifty that I released earlier this year. If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, the pdf is available free through my blog. Check here for details.

A connection between soles

All the inversions: friday night and I set a
memory on a skin of spilt beer, feet touching
feet, head two body lengths away, unseen,

suddenly truth is a connection between soles.
Every morning for twenty years, mama took
three buses to work. The radius of childhood,

measured by wheel on wheel on a clouded film
of yesterday’s rain. Which wheel is real when
we talk of the past? Later, putting me to sleep,

the night reflected in her tears: two formless
skies collapsing into one. A false singularity.
Darkness, a perfect mirror of darkness.

 

VV-Feb-2020-Omid-Armin

Image by Omid Armin (Picture prompt provided by Visual Verse)
First published on Visual Verse (Vol 07, Chapter 4)

 

Finally sent something out this year and am glad it found a home. Visual Verse has great picture prompts and I love ekphrastic poetry but it also pulls together a gorgeous contributor page ! Just realized I’ve had 14 poems published there!

Flash fiction and such…

February has been a writing experiment. If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know I’ve been trying my hand at flash fiction (500-1000 words).  So, if you are part of blog groups that share flash fiction or if you write some yourself or have anything to do with flash fiction at all, do give me a shout. I’d love to read your work and link mine as well.

Meanwhile, a cherita (which is also a storytelling form):

morning crossword

every face on the train
a clue

every story
expecting
an empty white square

The moon is what it is

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!

 

Something else in the moonlight

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. 

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.