Thirteen ways of looking at the abyss

I flip into the dark
eyes buried in my pillow:
when we dream
face down
which way is up


water and burn and bones
something determines
everything –
how long it takes to fall
how long it will take to rise


what if
where I was
was the mountain top
and the bottom is level ground
where I belong, you belong


notes soar
notes fall
in music as in dissonance:
some birds, they say,
can fly upside down


still in my bed
the sun still in the sky
the abyss is a room with no windows
breaking is building
building is breaking


only one me
descended into the dark
what if the rest of me
is still suspended from
that light beam


there are others down there
there are nine shades of night
slowly, slowly,
my eyes adjust
to the dark


again they say this is the abyss
again and again I disagree
it cannot swallow me
I contain this abyss
every abyss


the rabbit hole has rules:
some things will make me grow
some things will make me shrink
do I have to go back
the same way I came


what you call climbing
I call ‘not falling’
will you understand
how staying still
is also a victory


the blood in my veins
isn’t green-blue —
nothing is what it seems
even in the light
even right under my skin


what can I leave behind
in the abyss:
what is mine
what will be mine when I return
who will I be if I return


the morning is a paper cut
night wraps itself around my finger,
blood turns black, the night turns red
colour of beginnings
colour of endings

(Salute to the eternal inspiration:‘Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird’ by Wallace Stevens)

Theorems of loss

What if you found a one-rupee coin lying in the dust on market street? Is it yours to keep?

What if you wanted to give it away? Is it yours to do what you will?

What if no one cares these days about a rupee more or a rupee less? Is it not something still?

What if the laws of belonging don’t apply to the little things, what if the theorems of loss cannot prove what doesn’t matter? How do their stories end?

And what if I forgot your lips and your eyes and the pain, what if that time fell soundlessly into a timeless sea?  Not mine, not yours, whose is that night instead?

sixth cup of tea —
this morning
is neither here nor there

Because February 2021

because the existential subtraction of the past year laid bare the excesses of my carefully contrived alignments,

because the new minimalist right angles of being are putting to shame the cursive blooms of February after a summer, a monsoon, a winter, of letting go,

because so much was so unnecessary, so exhausting, so mindless that turning away was turning inward, hearing myself, allowing the words to come when they were ready — like rain, like a storm, like the night — filling the spaces between here and sky, between me and myself, becoming a bridge that leads to another chance,

because when this stillness has passed, the chaos will come rushing back but there will be a memory of this time when so much nothing happened that it was still a little something,

because sometimes, something is more than enough

then the sky looked down
at the sea, and asked—
what is that strange colour?

Beyond this wall of grey

Beyond this wall of grey, what if there is another
sky, in which a lone bird rises and the light, the

enduring light, refuses to cast its shadow. You erase
the bird, you deny the light, you mock the sky. But

can you feel the wings breaking through your skin?
That pain is relief, is proof of life. See the blood pooling

around your feet, look again, look up, whatever held
you to this ground has left your arms a long time ago.

The sentence has shrunk into a word at the tip of your
tongue. Say it, drain the sorrow from your bones. Fly.


just to say that
this was meant to be,
I had to believe —
in time,
in the foretelling,
in the inevitable,
in distance,
in the algorithm,
in the universe,
in pain,
in karma,
in sin,
in god

just believing in
you and me,
was never

If you loved enough

The rhythm of the sea is the incessant wondering –
not if you loved but if you loved enough. An answer

that will only come with loss. The verbs of separation
conjugate in excruciating ways. Grief is a hyphen

connecting empty mirrors. Shouldn’t absence invalidate
a mirror? How much can you love a night not defined

by a moon or stars? Should such a night, be night? You
ask if it is the fault of the sky or the limits of love or of the

imperfect lover? Enduring darkness in the hope that
morning will come, is not love, it is faith in the light.

Love asks for more. At low tide, it asks you who you
are, after taking what you do not have and cannot give.

Act One.

and that scene, over and over: you can be anyone
you like in your own drama, but you choose the

girl spreadeagled on the ground, life slipping
away from her, one truth at a time. Or the one

with wings, hovering above — they look at each
other, with the same eyes, incredulity awash in

fake moonlight, both saying at the same time, “I
know you.” When the curtain drops, there is

silence, or a lone shout, or a nervous whisper, never
the same, never different, and you tell yourself,

that is their drama, they are playing to another
audience. For them, their act may have just begun.



Closer than fear

Is there a way to hold a question? Not as close
as lust, closer than fear, arms closed to the

answer? Or is that the way the question holds
you? In this monsoon, as evening turns to night,

without drama, I try to write a love poem, without
tropes, without the moon, objectively — without

love. But too much is made of love which, like life,
is passion in passing, matter in transformational

happenstance: only this thought, born of thought,
nameless, formless, can last unchanged forever —

love like a question will outgrow your hands, learn
to walk, yearn to walk away: only this thought will

stay — that, for a while, love felt warm, like it
belonged, as if, for a while, it was the closest answer.

One leaf.

One leaf. One leaf falling from bough to mud. So many
considerations. Height. Gravity. Size. The side the wind

woke up this morning. One leaf. Not in the sky. Not on
earth. Both still and moving. Both alive and dead. Both

watcher and watched. Both character and story. Life, at
best, is only this bleeding wound: falling, is a necessary

ritual. You only have to ask the rain. On a night like this,
when the heart is stubborn, when skin aches for skin,

when night itself is only a silhouette cast upon a distant
moon – on a night like this, you only have to ask love.

at 3 AM

But the earth unrolled is wider than this patch of
sky – what is the point of an infinite universe that

won’t fit in your eyes? See, the moon is only peering
through a window — what a lot of fuss over a curious

voyeur. What we cannot do, gods will. What we
should not do, gods must. There are things you can

debate with the gods at 3 AM — the density of
darkness, the subtraction of life, why the physics that

keeps the moon afloat cannot balance a heart. Gods
are loose-tongued at that hour, they will confess light is

trickery, that what you see, you don’t. But talk quickly,
at the stroke of dawn, the last god turns into a sun.