Then you make lists of those you loved (some true) and
those who loved you back and suddenly you understand
distance and space and curvature, the bigness of small
things and how to solve for x. Doesn’t a lifetime only
get you to the edge of what you don’t know and cannot
feel? God, for instance, is a mango tree, flowering in
season, interrupted by pests or a lot of sunshine or a
little rain. Four years ago, a couple made crazy adulterous
love under one tree and it refused to fruit all summer (this,
entirely, is true). There is a reason why broken parts
together weigh more than the whole (this too, is true,
because to know grief is to know heaviness, to know how
to trap air in your open fist). But all this, because I was
sitting under a mango tree, praying it would not rain (not
true for clouds are clouds), because so much comes apart
when you have to run, mid-thought, to where it all began.
Dusty bougainvillea — the pink of rotting beetroot peel —
necks craned over the fence, hibiscus heads nodding,
somehow white petals staying white, an advertisement for
peace or surrender, even though war is in perennial bloom.
From skin to earth to sky, the premise for battle is made
holy. We have perfected want so it resurrects itself out of
reason. Reason that keeps us safe. Reason that makes gods
make us make gods. In a scratched pan, over an open fire, we
fry fish, fresh from the lake, poisonous, perhaps, from
effluents and humans, but we have scrubbed it with so
much turmeric, countered the bitterness of chemicals with
garlic and spices, this scrap of makeshift Eden, its back against
this city – we act like the air is fresh here, act like the stars
are visible, act like it’s fine, us being here, us drinking wine, us
being where we cannot see the bodies, us eating dead fish,
their eyes white, staying white, the colour of burnt fear.
a crow flies backwards
over the house
in which a young man took his life
the old shaman says everything
must go back to that moment
when hope abandoned his heart
the earth must kneel
and surrender that time
to the universe —
but resurrection is not enough,
doesn’t that kind of death
shouldn’t the cosmos fold itself
into the darkness
where pain turned to harm?
the crow lands back on a bough
and swallows its song,
there is the weighted silence of dread
eternity bows low, a sun
repurposes the sky — who will ask,
who will grant forgiveness now?
Through the cracks in the asphalt, new grass rises—
this city has been silent for too long, disquiet has
settled in its bones. The scab of history was scratched
open by asymmetric tears but how can it be war when
one side always wins? When the falsehood of few
becomes the truth of many? The skill of perception, the
eye peering through the prism doesn’t see the other
looking back at it. A battle with no front line, no
rhythm, no rules — in human versus human, faith
cannot be the arbiter. Consider the evidence, death
needs a path to be meaningful, so it can become
the end. Life needs pain to know that it is still alive.
And yet this city is numb, an uncertain mist shrouds
every exit. Here, now, why are the odds still skewed?
Again and again, I want this life to return, like
a haunting. Until my bones can recite antonyms
in the night. What is the shadow of breath? What
is the inverse of moonlight? What is the antithesis
of the hours you wedged under one leg of the wobbly
earth? The gate to dawn, so long shut, is creaking.
Every mistake wants to be resurrected. Repeated.
Consequences wait at the old places. The traps have
bared their primal teeth. The body knows where
it should burn, where it should wound. Touch is
habit. Desire is the prophesy that can be read only
in a mirror. What is normal if dystopia is an obvious
palindrome? What would be, if not this life? What
do we do with love that is not the opposite of death?
While I try to compile them into a more readable format, the 55 posts from the lockdown series will also be accessible through a widget on the sidebar. Check it out!
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.
In the semantics between bird
what is cloud?
In the adhesion between word
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
what is truth?
In the paradox between illusion
what is love,
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.
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.
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!
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):
every face on the train
an empty white square
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!