At the Corner Café

my god is afraid of lighting,
or so he says over irani chai and bun maska
at the corner café,
I fear the unknown, I tell him,
as I stare at peeling paint,
the dark that is to come,
the now that shows no symptom of the disease,
everything has an innate propensity for horror,
for gore, for ending;

he thinks I’ve lost my sense of adventure,
what happened to the seduction of a good mystery,
the promise of discovery,
but he doesn’t know about loss,
his math is built on averages and progression,
now the clock ticks louder and the unfinished,
the incomplete, looms large over an ever
approaching horizon;

and what on earth is fearful about lightning,
as if he is all alone in the open,
likely to be struck down by an infernal mess
of his own making,
he smiled then,
like the blue of the after-storm;

quickly turning over a newspaper
with the picture of a child
in front of a burning building,
his eyes shifting away from mine,
his hands shaking just a little as he
picked up the plastic menu,
maybe I imagined it, maybe I was afraid
of what I would never know;

will you try the kheema pav, he asked,
if I promise it will be good?

The first poem in the “monologues with a minor god” series, published on The Lake is here.

 

Calling it Dawn

shame breeds virulent
in the unctuous air, heavy,
a metallic bitterness at the back of the mouth,
as if something is giving way,
as if something is being pulled apart,
as if the vapid smiles of bystanders
have come unstuck
and filled the sky, covering the stars,
as if light is being reeled in
by a heavy sigh,
as if we lie bare with an uncertain moon
making distant love,
and talking afterwards,
changing the names of things,
twisting ends and beginning,
turning happy inside out to cry,
sweaty hands of the night
leaving wet prints on words
that remain in the corners,
stubbornly trapped between fingers, under nails,
later, scrubbing the shame
off the sky,
pointing to the last of the light
caught in the treetops,
laughing, calling it dawn.

The Exhalation of Uncertainty

for truth is the colour of frozen sunshine,
flowing in a whisper,
in the decrescendo of a hymn,
still hands tremble inside its drift,
words spilling from paper, from lips,
blank spaces like awkward silences,
like the fluttering,
of the edge of a monk’s unwashed robe,
of the forgotten end of a faraway song,
of fingers disentangled from an embrace,
we are the infinitesimal dust, dancing
in the exhalation of uncertainty,
we are the spinning universes, orbiting
a dubious eternity,
what is proven,
what is clear,
is the unambiguous at perigee,
is what you seek what I seek,
what does the mystic sing, sitting cross-legged
alone in the emptiness,
leaves spilling from trees, from limbs,
stars shining like broken promises,
like the reckoning,
is what you see what I see.

Maya

It rained then,
the land lurching upward
to grab the first answer
from a reluctant heaven.

‘Maya’ you called it.
Our limited senses gathering bits of the universe,
crafting a false reality.
A cocoon of complex sanity.
The subtle truth altogether too large and too simple
for our life-sodden minds.

Like love, I asked.
The beloved coloured by the eyes of the lover.
Interpreting word and touch,
weaving safety nets.
Gossamer veracity.

No absolutes, you said.
Your seeing changes the seen.
Your seeing amplifies the unseen.
Align the nested microcosms,
find the smallest integrity.
Quantum uncertainty.

A symphony beat uncaring
on the brick red Malabar tiles.
I stuck my hand out of the window
to collect the candour of the billowing storm.
A single raindrop ran down my finger,
containing the entire sky.
contained in the entire sky.

‘Maya’ you called it.
Uncertain truth.
The illusion of sanity.