Welcome to my A-Z 2018, for which I am revisiting Africa, the continent of my childhood and my dreams. The posts are, as always, infoheavy and opinionated, but they are sectioned off - some music, the day’s topic, couple writers, a slideshow from the safaris – plenty ways to cherry-pick. So you may consume just as much, or as little, as you're cool with. Zero obligation to agree with any of my views either, feel free to air yours :)

Saturday, 31 December 2011

Welcome 2012


It doesn’t seem too good -
A cyclone rounds off the year
Laying waste a certain neighbourhood.
It feels like mine, though it’s quite clear
That I am connected through
Only the most tenuous of ties.
Only because I happen to know you,
Whose faraway life now lies
Ruined over there. And no connection otherwise.
Nothing at all familiar.



The year has stood me along its edges
And in a minute will push what's left,
Regardless of the personal damages
Into the year that’s coming next.
And there are many neighbourhoods
That became flotsam on the tide
And losses of great magnitudes
Taken calmly  into stride
By distant lives on different sides
Of the world.  Not mine, nor even yours, derelict.



A feeling that won't be described, won't be reasoned
Away, its white width flagged
By the clenched fist of conviction
And joyfully dragged
Alongside me, its motifs blurred.
And tattered, but still brave
Enough to confidently stir
Hope, like a slogan-scribbled banner waves
High above the crushed debris, the edges, the graves.
The year’s going to be better, though it has lagged.

Monday, 26 December 2011

The same sameness


The pieces of my life collected quick and warm
Jerky slippery snatches from the floor to sweaty palms
To battered bags swinging-swerving on taxi heads
Like balanced pitchers of water that some women fetch
Hard-won from some hellish hole. Their feet mists of silver bells
That ring the distance in jingles, unnerving small but shrill.


My palate lined with the parchment tastes of dust
And insidious industrial discharges, car exhausts,
Effluvia from open-drain borders of slums
Passively smoked into my life and its shiny flotsam.
Preserved for eternities the entire shapes of smells
Sucked into them. Likewise the jingles of silver anklet bells.


Into some narrow alley, brick and debris strewn,
Complex curves and double bends of totally unknown
But well thumbed cities unfathomed like a page
Of foreign literature. Into the alleys of some language
That takes my broken pieces and then redesigns
The sameness of the same life in its secret signs.


Burrowing into the wide sweep of fields and parks
And parking lots. Into the clench of steely perks
Thrown down at the rootless folk of spotless lives
Gripped and squeezed to check which broken part survives
And rides the taxi head again, leftover tough,
And again the silvery shrill jingles to see it off.


From wavy windsock to wavy clouds, from strips of sea
To strips of land and landmarks.   Toting the debris
And within each speck the preserved tastes and smells
Drawn up from some hellish well, each speck repels
The others, like magnet poles. And yet separated
Each one slots into place. The same life replicated.


From continent to continent, from town to town
It’s gone around but it never came around.
Still the broken shards strain apart, rigidly swerve
In the trunks of cars, holds of planes, in loops and curves
Of strange alphabets and the haunting poems created
From them. The tautness beyond grasp and complicated.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

I was just going to tell you


Between the furrows of ordinary conversation
Ploughed into the field of the entire day
I tried to tell you what was in my mind -
The sudden miraculous twist of elation
At the lift of an elbow or eyebrow, at the slow tear-away
Syllables from your mouth, a little  blurred, ill-defined....
The prolonged poignance of your shadow being shadowed
As it broadened first and then slowly narrowed....



But you just said,” Let’s keep that sharp, that edge,”
And asked me to pass this or that tool
So I kept quiet and pondered if it breaks a rule
If I pluck that twist and set it into language.
I was going to tell you between the mundane workday talk
Of hours furrowed into bliss, but never spoke.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Emulsion


I.


There’s a lightpoint behind each stark bridge of despair
As though  a blinkered sun, unmoving, unmoved, lives there.
Steel girders thrown into sharp silhouettes show up
Transmissions of wave-like movements that heave and stop.
Cautious caterpillar trails of faint hopes and crippling fears
Etching their own slow ways in metal over the years.
The sharp recoil of flesh, the sudden dives and swoops
Of organs swept off their feet or left out of the loops.

There’s a darkpoint beyond every  bridge wherever I turn
And every bridge leads up to the places of no return
Unnerving that there are no clashes, no terrible conflicts
Between the lightpoints and the dark ones that seem to exist
Emulsified into each other at the ends of bridges.   Love and despair. 
Immiscible dark. Mixed up so that I can’t quite see the layers.


II.

Things that I didn’t know existed, and without that knowledge
One step after another led to the mouth of the bridge
And even then I didn’t know, I didn’t realise
All dark and light, all love and despair emulsifies
Drip into each other on bridges, over rifts, everywhere
Even when we don’t know that we love, or think we don’t despair.
The loves I didn’t know I had, didn’t know I’d loved, even then
They oozed into the dark and despair and a blinkered sun.
So here I was, and there was the bridge, and there the ooze
The slow furry creep along the slats, those diffuse
Trails that petered out when the dark dripped into the sun
And also when the lightpoints jiggled the emulsion
The seep of love into my days, the creep of despair
The drip of light into the dark.  Mixed-up immiscible pairs.


III.

A darkpoint slowly made dilute with the steady drip
Of an amorphous light and an amorphous love and friendship
The bridges built with girders of grace and then wrecked
To make way for some other far less lofty project
Each lightpoint dribbles inevitably into darkness
And yet the light and dark are themselves, not a bit less.
Nudging each other at the ends of bridges, over great rifts
Playfully serene, without any significant conflicts.
Without my knowing, without my being remotely aware
All my loving has come to dilute every despair
Each time I’ve loved, a little of my self has slowly bled
From me  into the being or thing I’ve loved instead.
And I am still me, and they are still they, no more no less
Immiscible all, but emulsified. Love  and despair and us.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Comfort in the chasm

I could say the things other people say
When loved ones happen to go away,
But mine is a different fear somehow.
Yes, it’s partly that they’ll never return;
But that’s  not exactly what I’m feeling now-
The yawning chasm of being alone.
It’s that one could come to learn
To be comfortable with its yawn.
There’s no telling what thoughts will do
When they’re not held and steadied by you.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Tally

"All you who sleep tonight
Far from the ones you love
No hand to left or right
And emptiness above -

Know that you aren't alone

The whole world shares your tears
Some for two nights or one
And some for all their years." ~ Vikram Seth




How many nights I’ve slept alone
Far from home, or on my own
I haven’t kept count of those nights.
From the curled-spine foetus in the womb
To the plushly-furnished hotel room
And the hospital beds, germ-free, gaunt white.

There haven’t been many, in all truth.
The comfort of elders in my youth
Child smells on my pillows in adulthood.
And the steady warmth of constant calm
In a partner’s eyes, and strong palms
Smoothing down my sheets.  It’s all been good.

But still.  On nights the moon hangs out low,
I’ve switched off the news on the radio
And this my whole world has spun out of touch.
I’ve tried to tally up those nights
And each time the totals didn’t feel right
They were either too little, or just too much.

Monday, 14 November 2011

The poems of suspicious men





Some nomadic idea storms in, rushes out,
Pitches its tent with small mesh windows
On the splayed open books, the meanings sucked off
From fruit segment blanks, words rounded like mangoes.
Every hour, on the hour, the news pours into the room
In thin trickles of blood, sometimes a red torrent
Splashes the dark outside, makes the roof
Sag and cave in, beaten and bent.

I’ve been reading the poems of suspicious men
First aloud, and then in headless whispers.
A small pebble of loneliness rattles around
A tin-can of silence gripped by uneasy fingers.
I can’t call any of them my brothers or my sons
Because I don’t really know how their body fluids compare
With the thickness of water.  Just that an arterial sheen
Pours into my spaces everywhere.

I’ve been listening to the delirious murmurs
The senseless shredded silence within walls of prisons
Sometimes a crisp sound stops the feverish memoirs
And smoothly eddies around ideals of freedom.
A tin-can jail and the high-shiny walls of suspicion.
Thickened trickles of fluids. A few pebbles of poems.
The thickened trickles of voices of those men
Clattering in the deep emptiness within them.

Some speck of an ideal jerks like a mote of dust
Trapped in a sunbeam slanting in through doors.
Bangs the high-shiny light-walls with its balled fists
Touches the pock marked table and the pitted floors.
The news comes in bursts of staccato fire
In the sounds of torture, the twists and turns of mayhem.
Small flares of defiance stamped out everywhere.
The sheen of fluid on a pebbly poem.





Linked to : Poetics @ dVerse 




 

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Within my audible range

Language shall not matter, I will come to you
Without words, without even the first torn layer of silence.
I’ll come with my consciousness pinned back flat against my skull
Each nerve alert to catch the slightest nuance.
Every tune that plays wordless just beyond the range
Of my hearing, at inaudible frequencies -
I will tear my life open along its perforated line
To receive all the rhythms, and all of the melodies.

Your notice of my half lives flapping in the wind
Spilling over my hands shall not matter, or whether you note
My fingers straining to keep their hold intact,
Or the stifled rings of songs deep inside my throat.
Nothing of these will matter, only the consuming effort
The slow rendering of a life into a listening organ.
I will figure out your lyrics, language will not matter,
Only that when you start, it shouldn’t escape my attention.

You may set lyrics to your tunes, you may strum them voiceless
Or put aside your curved guitar, and your taut drum.
You may choose to look at the forest and hold its colours in your eyes
And swollen whispers under your tongue, and I’ll still get the sum -
What it is that you wish to sing, with or without lyrics.
And language will not matter, nor silence, nor a word;
And my paltry human abilities, my senses and their limits
And the weird definitions of what can, or cannot, be heard.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Rewrite

Have you tried rewriting any of your old poems of late?
And found that the words were one size much too small
The mood too, now seems to sag at a different place
Nothing of it can be tweaked to fit this current state
The rhymes gone flat, nothing adds up to a complete whole.

Does the past add up in neat columns every time
The totals tight, reconciled, no blanks, no gaps?
Every memory doesn’t march in step, perfectly align
To this life now being written in imperfect rhyme
In dribs and drabs, where the past and future overlap.

An odd drape of the river on rocks, strangely clouded faces
Caught once between two firm words, now have escaped.
All of it now in my hands, empty roach egg cases
Parchment fragile, minutely ribbed emptinesses.
Cases of life from which all life’s been scraped.

Some mildly ugly smell, decayed flowers on the bank
Mixes in with the mud, yet still feels pleasant
Because these eyes had seen them bloom on the branch
They were shapes of petals before they drooped and stank
Their corpses strewn on the waves, carried into the present.

Why rewrite, I can hear you say, write things afresh
Why busy yourself with smells of pasts, why retrofit
Poems into discarded cases and emptinesses
Only... as things are written their scooped out flesh
Their pips and pulp fall into the past minute by minute.

The end is reached but the start is outdated
The shapes of cases, drapes of rivers, landscapes of time
Before the present can be plucked clear, segregated
It’s tugged both ways, each word is lost before it’s mated
Before it can hold its sense and find a rhyme.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Happy Diwali 2011!

Let’s not think about how impermanent things are
How nerve-wracking and precarious, how bizarre
That a star with its silent bright glow
Doesn’t burn now, but burnt years ago
What’s behind that starshine for all we know
Maybe just the blackened mass of a stone-dead star.

Even the simplest moment is wrought so complex.
Living starpoints in my eyes, but up in space the wrecks,
The parts and dust of bodies that shone once
With a silent and a complicated radiance.
The light that takes an age to bridge this distance
And in so doing loses it source, which dies or disconnects.

If you insist I’ll reluctantly fall into that spiral.
Lead my thoughts that way, forget about keeping it simple
I’ll try and remember the lights that I see
A million stars in the sky, a lamp lit for Diwali
Most far beyond my grasp, wherever they may be.
Each beam lives while the source may be dead.  Each one a miracle.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Easily missed seasons

I live in places where the seasons and their signs
Are not so marked.  They come and leave on quiet tip-toes.
Perhaps the thorn-tree straightens a little when spring’s declared
The scrub bush droops a bit when winter’s fangs are bared
And when autumn comes the purple-flowered, wild growing vines
Curl their leaves and learn to throw some different shadows.

It’s easy to miss the changing slant of the light
The poignant outburst of twilight is easily missed.
The shortening or the lengthening of the daylight hours
Autumn winking at me on the merry faces of small grassflowers
And it’s easy to forget the birds overhead on their long flight
Their chevrons woven into the clouds passing unnoticed.

I live in places where each thing comes and goes
Its footfalls muffled by loose sands or short grasses
Its soundless tracks might bend the blades for a minute or two
And then they spring back, as grasses will always do
The wind casually musses the sands back into the hollows,
Back to pristine like nothing has passed.  Or ever passes.

And it’s easy to miss all those who pass with a step that’s light
The cricket leaps and lizard feet are easy to miss.
And who’d want to track reptile moves on midsummer sand
When there are other, more flamboyant feet to understand?
Much easier to follow the eagle, forget the beetle’s flight
Too ungainly and irksome to merit a minute’s analysis.

I live in places where each thing knows to slink,
Flash past me fast and quiet, out of my range
Way out of my line of vision or attention span.
They leave it totally up to me to look when I can
And in that split second make up my mind, not stop to think
If I’ll let it pass, or run out and just feel the change.

Monday, 10 October 2011

I'm only saying

A climax in a couplet, or a miraculous moral
Was never mine to give, you can take what you take.
I only saw skies like broken hearts of toddy palms
Carelessly framed by a tattered fringe of rose and coral,
I only saw white jasmine waves advance and break
Over sandbars stretched out like yearning arms.

When the deserts dance across on their dainty tip-toes
And the sandy wind swirls its veil and pirouettes
I’ve watched as though there can be no other miracle.
No other wide breasted river where the pointed boat goes
Upstream and across.  One gets what one gets.
A half-and-half life can also be magical.

I’m only saying what I’ve seen, I’m not here to make
A fuss of cherry coloured words, you can take what you take.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Triad

I.

This is not a poem.  It doesn’t declaim anything, recite
Candy floss words melting on the heat of the tongue,
Chewy bubble gum ballooning on the faces of the young
Ground to a happily nonsense pulp from pink to filmy white.
Poems are different.  They aren’t the spittle of fright
Collected in blind corners of lips, and then whistled and sung
As though it had meaning, as though it inevitably hung
Together in one grave, luminous arc of meaningful insight.

Someday I’ll be able to explain. Explain the hows, and whys,
What is, and what is not a poem.  The lime-wash of a few
Rhymes on a life, a bit of fear and love, an element of surprise;
A torn page of loneliness held a little gingerly askew
Can’t be crumpled into sonnets with a few haphazard tries.
This is not a poem.  It isn’t.  But it’ll have to do.


II.

It isn’t about any one single thing, monumental yet delicate
A distinct spasm of a great narrative convulsed into a ballad
No patterns in the veins of moods, nor some trace of blood
Clapped into the chanting rhythm of fourteen years of sonnets.
Mostly it just sits there alone, lumpy, inarticulate
At one with its surroundings, digging its toes into the mud
Unaware of the lilting moves of the Ramayana and the Iliad.
But lifts its head to search for a thing that it thinks isn’t here yet.

This is not a poem, nor does it think it can be one.
A lift of eyelids towards a cloud as toes fondle wet clay
A sudden lurch of heart towards a bamboo-skewered horizon
Abruptly  lyrical in silhouette at the two endpoints of the day,
This can’t be stabbed into a verse, there is no choice of weapon.
This isn’t a poem, but it’s all there is.  To recite. Or brush away.

III.

Many are not quite poems, though I like to think they’ll be
If I try hard and long enough.  If I am laboriously sincere
Stuff will arrange itself into patterns pleasant enough to hear.
But poetry isn’t a function of the depths of sincerity.
It’s true the same symbols repeat, the migrant birds, the naked tree
Come back in the same formats to haunt me year on year.
The peacock-feather oceans swill to transparent turquoise and clear.
But some of it just passes me by, without the poetry splashing me.

So this is not a poem, this waiting by the white foam line
Where the gentle palms wave at the winds playing hide and seek
Where the tide recedes to film the sands with the last sunshine
And it coats the ocean with highlights of a fluorescent mystique
This waiting, wandering, resting, in the woods of whistling pine
This doesn’t make a poem.  But it’s all there is. To whisper or to speak.