As you read this

As you read this (that’s right, set a timer, how
long will it take you to get to the end?), things

are happening, things you’d rather not know
about. Some will make it to the morning paper,

some will instantly appear online – things that will
make you gasp, make you rage, make you turn

away, make you draw safe boundaries around
yourself. We are little moving parts of an

inconsistent whole, moving because staying still
is not an option – little life particles, little human

particles, little nation particles, little quanta of
giant paradoxes that shift and struggle. How long

has it been? A moment? Two? Because things have
changed. One more particle trampled underfoot

as a stampede of littleness hurtled, inevitably,
towards another non-existent doorway.

 

Best of 2019

I just saw this ‘best-of-2019’ list (is it December already?) in The Guardian and, well, I put these books into my ‘must-read’ for 2020. The best poetry of a year that has almost gone, some from poets I have never heard of, hitting the high spots against ‘racism, authoritarianism and masculinity’.

It is a message that good poetry, the best poetry, has to stand for something. Or against something. And there is a lot going on, that should not go on, that perhaps needs poetry to be its record keeper. There’s a lovely literary journal called ‘Poets reading the News’ that does this in real time. They call it ‘Journalism in Verse’.

But there is brilliant, visceral poetry that is written with the ooze from raw wounds – demanding, pleading, crying for the world to be a better place. There is also poetry filled with the raw materials of moonlight and dawn sky, whispering, whistling, dancing the world into a more beautiful state. That poetry too, is often birthed from pain.

Do you wonder how your poetry fits into the real world? If it does? Slotting in like the missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle or just waiting like too many consonants in a scrabble play hoping someone will open up a few vowels on the board?

the more I show you
a mirror –
the more I see my own face

 

And why a haibun (not a haibun, just haibun-esque let’s say) came about today will remain a subject for a later post.

The Hands of the Wind

I hold the hands of the wind and try to read its destiny, the lines
deep like the frown of dry river beds, the faint fragrance of

jasmine heating my senses. It could have been from a bride’s
nuptial bed or a funeral cortege, here the language for welcome

and departure is the same, the earth gives and takes back with moon
petals shimmering in its guts. The wind has a love line so long, it

ties every moment gone by to that evening in the coffee shop, when
you read ghazals aloud in the afternoon haze and a life line that

knew the mountains before they scattered into desert sand, the rain
when it was ripe in the throat of the fish, poems before there were

words to name flowers and silence simply went from weddings to
shallow graves smelling of nameless need. The wind shows me its circular

fate line, karma tied in a knot, what does it matter where it comes from,
if that is beginning or end. I hold the hands of the wind and we sing in

metered couplets, the words for love and life and fate are the same
and Hafez is only a fleeting swallow with a jasmine seed in his breast.

 

This poem was published in the Calamus Journal in December 2017. The Calamus Journal, though, shut shop in February 2018 and the original links to its website no longer work. I’m sure they had good reasons, a journal is a huge amount of work – but when I discovered that this poem was essentially homeless, I decided to bring it in from the cold.

I haven’t sent in any poems in several months and I’m wondering – do you submit poems for online publication? Why not? What has been your experience? Do share your submission stories here! 

 

Poetry Tuesday #4 – Blue

And for the last Poetry Tuesday offering this November, the prompt is ‘Blue’ – sky, sea, mood, music, sapphires, ink – blue is where poems begin! Blue was also the soul of my first poetry collection ‘Water to Water

Here’s my poem for the prompt today. Share yours using the Mister Linky widget below. Thanks to all those who’ve been part of this series with their thoughts and poems. Maybe we’ll do another one sometime soon!

 

 

On the other side of rain

The rain comes first and then the darkness,
then the fear, then the silence – louder than
the rain on glass and tile, darker than the
night, afraid of itself, holding me like a long
lost lover. If you were here, I would tell you
there are sixteen types of quiet. In fifteen of
them, I talk to you without saying a word. A
yellow chrysanthemum describing itself to
a moonless sky. Tonight, you speak and I
point to my ear and shake my hand, you are
too far away – on the other side of rain, at the
beginning of a protracted monsoon. Silence
breathes hard, holding my face in its hands.
Isn’t conversation easier when someone is
actually talking? The blue sky explaining to
the blue lake why they are both colourless.

Fewer words

the downright gall of minimalist poetry –
the universe stripped down to an
aberrant nakedness: one misplaced
mole, one tired breast, one painful navel
becoming an epic, becoming the side of a
square, the thud after the gunshot,
the apocalypse, the horizon of silence –

fewer words than the moon spoke last
night, looking down at the space between
us from its vantage point. Surely a poem
should see more than that, should say
more than that? But four audacious
lines stare at me from your page –

like tenuous shadows
evidence of light:
gods manifest by absence –
a leap of faith.

Poetry Tuesday #3 – Borrowed

When French Violinist Philippe Honoré performed in Bangalore last month, I learnt he had inspired Vikram Seth to write his splendid little book ‘An Equal Music’. I brought the book home from the library and found that Seth’s dedication was an acrostic poem, intriguing and elegant. Perhaps, the symbiosis of poetry and love is so successful only because it works despite love and despite poetry!

But here is Vikram Seth’s poem.

And here is what it led me to write:

Eden Unclaimed

What of love that falls like a tree in the deep
forest? That falls like rain on the open sea?
Is it still love if no one knows? That night,
the deluge came to Eden. Promises sank,
the apple orchard was left kneeling in bare-
boughed prayer, the rain, like unconsummated
sin, was swallowed in aching gulps by the
disconsolate dark. That night we lay unmoving,

skin against skin, dream against dream,
breath against breath. Was that not love? Can
love not let paradise fall? Can love not bear
the wound of exile? What will you call love that
has misplaced its word? That night, in Eden, I lost
a love that didn’t know how to become a poem.

 

 

The prompt today is “Borrowed” and it asks you to borrow some magic from a poem that inspires you. Share your poems using the Mister Linky widget and tell us about the poem that became your muse!