Act VI

Life had not snuck silently past. It had been a slow, deliberate, high-octane drama played out in five acts, with staccato dialogue and questionable direction, hysteria and inept expression, banal music and imagined climaxes, its protagonists as naked from the back rows as from the front, its predilection towards a trite end evident in the rank imperfection of its beginning.

The books in her vast mahogany shelves were the changing backdrop as one set disappeared into the darkness and another was arranged with more tired fonts, more worn clichés and more minimalist emptiness. The rectangular void of those gone filled with more benign contradictions, carefully curated so the new bore no resemblance to the old. Tolstoy, Gibran, Eliot, Marx, Gandhi, Whitman, Tao, Baldwin, Tagore, Aurelius, Nietzsche – the coming and going of the books like konnakol beats, vocalized percussion rhythms, that traced her every movement— faster, slower, towards, away, louder, softer, year after year, feet dancing, feet dragging— the scenery changing, until that moment in the darkened theatre, the sounds deafening, watching herself, a book clutched on her lap, turning, as if compelled by the tempo, catching the eye that caught hers, moving through time, feet dancing, feet dragging, even while she was spot lit on the stage, even while her head turned back from the fourth row, watching the seventh, naked, clothed, pulses in timeless meter, time stranded in the aisle, the book clutched harder, the book that had not fled, the book that had not replaced the one that had not fled.

The music cracks— a cough, a snigger, one beat too many, two beats too less, the mridangam drummer overcome with horror, the unseeing audience not seeing as phones twinkled between pockets and skin in arrhythmic insolence, the rustle of silken dhotis and sarees as the knowing knew and shifted uncomfortably, calves and eyebrows raised in arched judgement. The scene pauses till eyes shift and the spell is broken and the book falls and curtain falls and the backdrop is gone forever.

Life had not snuck silently past. She pushes her hair away from her face, still young, still old, still ageless, her heart loud in the forced interlude, the drama of her life drifting into act six without her on stage, without her in the fourth row, the empty seat in the seventh watching intently the empty circle under the spotlight, a slow violin sliding into the quiet, the book climbing into the seat in the fourth row, the empty seat three rows behind it burning through the back cover, still young, still old, still ageless. The drumbeats gone forever.

this mulberry tree, this worm, this untouched skin,
this silken shroud —
everything in lockstep


A little chat with Khaya!

Had a little chat with fellow-poet, Khaya Ronkainen, about my book ‘Water to Water’ and about life and all things poetry! Thank you, Khaya, that was a lot of fun!

Khaya lives in Finland and Amazon being Amazon and international shipping being, well, international shipping, I mailed her a copy from the closest point I could reach – a tiny little post office in the middle of Old Town, Tallin, Estonia, which has the friendliest post-office-person in the world! From there the book could have caught the two-hour fast ferry to Helsinki, if it wanted to! Poetry crosses boundaries in ways we cannot imagine!

Here’s the link to the post on her blog.

Also, with Diwali round the corner, I’d like to give away a copy of ‘Water to Water’ to one interested poetry blogger in India. (Indian mailing addresses only!) So drop me an email at before 27th October 2019 if you would like a copy  and I’ll pick one name by lot.  Please include the name of your blog in the email.


Mock That Muse

Is poetry blogging dead? Are we scratching the final poems on its virtual tombstone? Or has it always been this way, a few flashes of lightning, the occasional rumble of thunder, but essentially dense, opaque late-monsoon sky? Or perhaps an unequal firmament, bright in parts – by intelligent design?

And yet, we are in the glorious renaissance of poetry (they say). More books are being sold (they say) and more people are writing than ever before (they say). Maybe they take poetic licence with those facts. Or with that which they label ‘poetry’.

RIP long form. RIP the garrulous rambler. RIP poems that cannot swipe themselves into recognition. RIP mystery and metaphor. RIP magic. What is the Instagram version of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock?


But it is that kind of morning, the air
unsure if it wears the scent of rain
or the yellow odour of a sun-drenched
day. The kind of morning when teacups
are bottomless and poems long and
winding, running their hands down your
spine, over your lips, lifting your face so
you can look the light in the eye and ask
yourself if you dare to undress the words,
further, touch the soft skin, the run of bone,
feel the blood pausing at the end of the line,
waiting for you to draw breath. If you dare.
It is that kind of morning. Let the cursor
blink on the blog. Let the spaces gather. Let
the eloquent poets of old watch over your
empty page. Deny the pond for the river. Deny
the river for the sea. Deny the sea for the
deluge that is to come. The muse sits on a
branch, passing the universe like a rubber
ball from hand to hand, the stars like dew in
her hair. The first word has been spoken.
The first word has been written. The
primordial sound echoes inside your
consciousness. Mock that muse. Gather
infinity in your fingertips. Your poem
wants to fill the void between worlds.
It is that kind of morning. If you dare.

How far is the temple?

What makes a poem come alive? Do you prefer reading it in the silence of your being or reading it aloud to yourself or having it whispered to you?

Here’s a recording of ‘How far is the temple?’ a poem that appears in my book Water to Water.

I’m still trying to find my way through the – audacity/soundcloud/ mixing/ wav vs mp3/complete chaos – maze. But here’s a little something.



Water to Water is available in digital and print formats on Amazon.

Come October

October is not the season for your poetry. The monsoon
declaims its final verse, festivals are lined up, darkness is
punctuated by sesame oil lamps. Diwali is a refrain of ghee
and gold and expectation. Poets are interrupted by semicolons
of human interlude – the annual enjambment of limbs and
sweets and curiosity. Muse after muse is muzzled by the
syntax of pyrotechnics and prayer. It is tradition. October
is not the season for your poetry. The swish of Kanjeevaram
silk is folk song. The crunch of adhirasams is the meter
of piety. Incantation is the line break for the people absent
each year – gone, dead, disappointed. October is the phone
call that breaks a year of end-rhymed silence. October is not
the season for your poetry. October is the unwritten poem.



Notes from Warsaw – 5

Tadeusz Gajcy was 22 years old when he secretly published a second volume of poetry.
Tadeusz Gajcy was 22 years old when he was editor of an underground Polish resistance journal – during the Second World War.
Tadeusz Gajcy was 22 years old when he was defending his city with his pen and his weapon.

Walking towards the big B-24 Liberator on display at the Warsaw Rising Museum, I stopped to read his poems. Not that I knew who he was. Not that I had ever heard his name. But I knew I would go back and find out. I knew I had to.

I scoured the net for translations. They are hard to come by. What I did find was fragment after fragment of searing verse.

He wrote of war and country:

Do you know that land beneath the icicles of blackened
flaming candlemas candles
which formerly creaked with resin but creaks today with
of huge bats’ wings?
Do you know that land
where along paths of sighs
float dead
charred flowers and the bones of meadow and forest beasts?
(from The Polish Review )

He wrote of grief:

It is too stifling for the words on one’s lips
hewn from the glow of fires and from grief as heavy as
You thought: it will be simpler.
But one must change words, musical words
to make them as hitting as a spear
(from The Polish Review)

He wrote of love:

Though I might say: I will love you, I will stay,
though I might nail together words as I would a coffin,
don’t trust me and wrest memory away from me.
(from The Sarmation Review)

Tadeusz Gajcy was 22 years old when he was killed in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944.

Crack open your soul, dig out the words,
as if this is your first poem
as if this is your last poem


Also in this series:
Notes from Warsaw – 4
Notes from Warsaw – 3
Notes from Warsaw – 2
Notes from Warsaw –