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.

Broken Beginnings

How long will you deny
those silhouettes
teetering on the edge?
Broken beginnings
stories barely held together with
chewing gum and stolen tape:
broken beginnings mistaking
survival for choice
existing for life
‘moving on’ for dragging
one shackled foot
in front of the other
in front of the other…

What is more corrupt than
the false idiom of success?
When the finish-line is static
no matter where you start,
no matter how you start
there is still a race, still judgement
from the bleachers, still a winner?

The abyss is endless, terrifying.
I toss a little rock and watch it
disappear, face first.
What is the velocity of a falling dream?
How long will it fall before it finds wings
and floats away into the vacuum?
Winning is not relative.
Where is that dubious podium?
Where is my victory parade?

How long will you deny it?
At the very edge, you will
find detritus: gum, tape,
wing, impossibility, a shiny
medal no one
ever won…

Friend

It is not a tryst, not a beginning, not a confession. Definitely not a conversation. Don’t say anything.

If, in a moment of strange alignment, I make the uneven journey from within myself to what you see, what you think you see; if, in that moment of random foolishness, I peel away the façade, the armour, the wall after wall of defence; if, in that moment of irrational truth, I let you in on something real, then, don’t say anything. Let me have that moment. Let me step into the light. Let me cast my shadow. Let me happen. Let me come free.

You see that moon, alone, adrift in the pitch-dark sky, the moon that doesn’t know it shines, the moon that bears its scars alone, the moon too far to hear a word, the moon that came in through my window once to say it has the darker side…

…that moon used to be my friend.

just one night
without an impending dawn
just one night

Untold forest

It is okay to have stories that you will never tell anyone.

It is okay to have trees grow inside you that fall when no one is around. It is okay if it is an entire forest.

It is okay if that forest burns one night and turns to desert.

It is okay if in that desert an ugly flower blooms. And you don’t know its name. And you don’t tell anyone.

It is okay because a stranger will see you from a moving bus and think to himself that there must be a big desert inside your heart because your eyes see nothing that they see and there must be in that desert a single flower blooming because you still cast a light.

It is okay if you never meet that stranger and he forgets your face. It is okay that the stranger has no light. It is okay even if that was the best version of yourself and the only one who saw it and mistook it has forgotten about it.

It is okay that it is pointless right up to the end, that no one knows the pain, no one shares the surging joy, that no one sees the suffering. It is okay that it is all for nothing, that the erasure will be swift, will be surgical, the space you occupied will fill quickly, easily, as if it never was, as if you never were. It is okay that your existence is not validated by someone else.

That someone too has stories they are never going to tell.

stopping
suddenly, midway,
this too is a destination

Where the light draws no shadows

They say in the far reaches of the universe where the light draws no shadows, a little planet, bigger than a dream, smaller than a smile, was inhabited entirely by flowers. Flowers, some bigger than magic, some smaller than a sigh, lived together, talking, laughing, reaching out with their little leaf-hands to caress a neighbour’s face.

They say when a flower finally dropped, roots murmured to it, for days, for weeks, until it returned to the light. No one else visited the planet, it never grew dark, a gentle wind meandered in soft arcs and twice a day a grey cloud arrived in the sky above to shower the flowers with sweet water.

They say that life of fragrance and colour and a kind of joy that did not want a name continued for a time bigger than a beginning, smaller than an end, until one quiet afternoon, when a newly blossomed flower, bigger than a moment, smaller than faith, opened its little eyes and fell in love with the grey cloud.

so many birds
so much sky
what is happiness?

Just enough distance

The worst. The worst I was, the worst I did, the worst that happened. The worst wants to find a safe space in which to moult, to grow new skin, or to just feel its scars and wonder if they will ever heal. They said that a safe space would be fiercely gentle, would be strangely familiar, would be there but then would not.

I see the sky on this warm June night. That thing, so luminous, is it Venus? Or is it just the pole star? Where are my bearings? What if it is something still unnamed? Something lost? Somebody else’s sun? Its light has travelled such a distance to fall into my eyes. What happened to it along the way, that tonight it shines so bright? Or is this just a flicker of its burn?

Everything I want to say sits in a bucket of darkness. But when there is just enough distance so we don’t have to talk, just enough light so we don’t have to see, just enough want that we cannot sleep, just enough trust that memories would be but would not, maybe I can tell you one little secret.

just sitting
by the lake all night —
me and a moon and a moon

Left to ourselves

How strange this being, this being together, this moment in curious parentheses, this momentary construct of skin and word — its randomness makes it bearable, a chance event as if the universe rolled a die on a mega-board of compulsive physical forces.

It cannot be that this was choreographed. Preordained. Not you, not me, not this space that contains us, not the space that is still between us… the magic is entirely in how arbitrary this is. How insignificant we are. How vast this space is.

There are far too many variables. Each moment is a revolving door. Different entrances, different exits. Only the moment. Pressed against the sky. Pressed between us. Only the point of crossing. And still you believe this is destiny. Surely then, you wonder if this was the best the big universe could do? Left to ourselves, would we have chosen somewhere, someone, some moment, better?

face to face
with the setting sun —
and then darkness

Two little creatures

You ask me if I am happy. I hesitate, wait for words you will understand. I have nothing to validate this moment against. What is it?

There is no moon, the monsoon sky has swallowed all the light. There is no particular thought inside my head. I can feel the damp cold of the stillness, the empty corners, the echoes rushing back when I call your name. There is no great love. Look at us, so tiny against the giant canvas of being. Two little creatures. How big shall we pretend our love is?

It is pleasant, this moment. This moment that has no past and no future. We are just here, trying to be, trying to be in the way the no-moon sky just is, in the way the quiet inside us just is, in the way being together without some great love, just is.

Words that you will understand. I am happy, I say. You smile. The moon shifts gently, unseen. The silence ricochets off a far wall. The answer fills this moment. This moment with no past and no future.

the wind that
knocks on the door
doesn’t wait to be let in

One of them is real

Outside framing ourselves in cliched tropes of beginnings and endings, of chance and consequence, of pleasure and despair; outside the boxes in which we locked ourselves; outside being and belonging…how do I salvage the sky that has fallen as rain? The sky I see when that freshly scrubbed sunshine appears again is not the same sky. One sky cannot remember. Cannot know. One sky is trapped in the puddle that was once, sky. One of them is real.

I am not sure when reality disintegrated and became an inkblot. Maybe it was imagination that was reset. Maybe it depends on the locus. Maybe the premise itself is wrong. Things are clearer in the night. If you look. If you know. One emotion is the protagonist. Another is the perfect foil. One of them is real.

But our lies were soft. The contrived made it bearable. Filled the emptiness. The blatant untruths wrapped themselves around hard line-breaks and ingrown grammar to birth the poem. The ink-stained aftermath, the inevitable becoming, the way a poem splits into consonants and commas inside your eyes, the music disappearing from its spaces, even that, even that wants you to make a choice. One verse is real. One verse is still unwritten. One of them is real.

cold moon, cold night:
shall we wane till we disappear
like the moon, like the night?

A name he should not know

Of all the ways to encounter loss, I picked the one in which it arrives as a stranger. A stranger who emerges from the bowels of a subway station, into the sunlight, as I hurtle down the steps into the darkness, directly in his path, looking away, refusing to meet his gaze, only a strong musky scent of an unborn morning , staining the air as we pass.

It returns sometimes, that fragrance, like a wind from a faraway place, come to moult its memory skin . Or like a pigeon that flew into a room that it doesn’t know how to escape, thrashing against the glass pane, screaming at the walls in low, gurgling sounds, rising and falling, rising and falling, trapped, afraid…alone.

On some nights, the stranger stops and calls my name. A name he should not know. A voice I should not recognize. A longing that should not be. For a morning, yet to come.

what should we call it,
the sky that does not know
it is the sky?