All or Nothing

It is not the way.

People lie.

The universe has no empirical data. Forgiveness
is not a primal urge. The natural order demands
unconditional submission to its rules. Oceans
bury their troubles deep, what the mountains
do not tell the clouds is debatable. But dawn
returns, over and over, despite the night. That
is neither mercy nor vengeance. I must have
forgiven you, a long time ago. But writing it
down like this makes it real. Like a confirmation
of rebellion. Not that it is useful.

Nothing goes away.

People lie.

The debris swirls around until it is sucked into
an unforgiving vortex. Forgiveness is not
divisible. You cannot forgive in instalments. All
or nothing. One gets all. The other, nothing. Yet,
this must be done. So we can return to the laws.
Stay in our orbits. Not confuse gravity with
want. Light with love. We will pass each other
sometimes. You will cast a dark shadow. They
will call it an eclipse. I will forgive you. It will
not matter. This much is allowed.

It doesn’t get better, anyway.

People lie.

The arbiter of all sorrow

How do you lose something you never had? That
perceived loss contains an imagined belonging that
contains an unacknowledged loss that is premised
upon a right to belong and the circles get narrower
and narrower until it reaches a point where both
grief and denial exist. Grief that there is denial and
denial of that grief. Is that how the earth drifts
through seasons? How the sky needs a dark cloud?
The ocean is the arbiter of all sorrow. Who owns
the shore that it leaves again and again? A bird
that loves the rain not knowing when it will come,
not knowing how long it will stay, learns twenty ways
to say the word drought. It sings of a remembered
rain. It sings of a forgotten rain. Birdsong, if you can
translate it, is the original dictionary of contradiction.

I say nothing

I say nothing. But nothing is not a vacuum.
Think of a very small number. A very big
zero. There are degrees of nothing, decimal
places with codes and guides. The sum of
several somethings, big little things, things
that cancel each other out. An empty theatre
is nothing. A moonless sky is nothing. You
see the equations slipping into the fault lines?
A poet dies. This too is nothing. A liberation
of being, negated by the poems that will
forever be shackled to an open window.
Waiting. For nothing. You ask if I am alright.
I say nothing. There are big things and little
things duelling for air. I make a list. I cancel a
list. Flutter. Fall. Say nothing. How are you, you
ask again. Maybe you are just being polite.

At this hour

Poems don’t rise like firebirds here, kindling hope
and faith and new dimensions. They waddle, lazy,
awkward, with nothing much to say. Redemption

from mediocrity must be sought from other sources.
But at this hour, she steps out of that house, still
warm with desire, a koel nibbles on the moon-mouth

trapped in the neem tree, a street light, dew-diffused,
slips between her skirt and skin, a gulmohar branch
scrapes the top of a milk truck, red flowers scattering

everywhere, a petal sticks to the bottom of her shoe,
like evidence, as if someone is watching, strays whimper
in the grammar of dawn, early sunbeams arch along

her curves as she turns into the bend — at this hour, just
common longing, an unremarkable crow gathering the
dark, awkward, lazy, poems with nothing much to say.