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 :)

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Is that a rose?










Full many a flow'r is born to blush unseen
and waste its sweetness on the desert air. 


                        ~  Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. Thomas Gray.






In the front yard, a plain hibiscus blooms;
the rose’s glamour is on show at the back.
The gardener does not enter my rooms
he knocks, and I open the door a crack.


The guests wipe their feet on the front door mat
but the hibiscus twists shut by then;
it’s a simple short-lived, no-perfume format
rather like a pebble in the garden;


a pebble splashes only when it drops
a few ripples and the surface is blanked;
the rose meanwhile preens its bushy red mop
the closed hibiscus lies wholly outranked.


But just the gardener and I see the shows
if no-one sees it bloom, is it still a rose?







Tuesday, 25 February 2014

The Teacher's Fee : Excerpt







Eklavya’s not quite a hero, a bit player
many like him in that ancient epic
a one-off conflict, a scene here or there
and promptly dismissed in a casual flick.
How does that justify writing long odes
the complex crafted lyrics, line by line
moving glass beads of sounds on an abacus?
all praise’s for demigods
why should anyone carefully realign
the praise towards a mere man with so much fuss?



The quality of steadfastness is rare
rare indeed the mind which has the intrinsic
strings in place to wing it on a prayer
with a statue overseeing his technique
his aim and skills, all arrows straight, all lines toed
and stand fast at payback time and not decline
the cruel fee: his weapon arm made useless.
Admit it. It was odd -
that a Master should spot the statue at the shrine
and gauge the pupil with an eye this ruthless.












Monday, 24 February 2014

Ghazal 25







Pour a glass with those hands of yours, my love
Pour it and let things take their course, my love


The muezzin has just given the midnight call
But few men prostrate on the floors, my love


Some turn east, some west, some look to the stars
but my compass is at your doors, my love


Whatever’s poured gets a rim of froth and foams
even when the best of them pours my love


So you too will fill the glass with emptiness
half headiness and half remorse, my love


The night’s a barbed flash of long blue lightning
and the earth burns its bridges and mores, my love







Friday, 21 February 2014

Not one properly teardrop-shaped














Perhaps the matches were damp, steadfast flames
didn’t burn in teardrop shapes, the ones I lit
sputtered, went out, and I never could claim
perfect mastery over fire, or matchsticks.


There was no moving warmth, except the burn –
fierce in my pot,  but that was more like acid,
salt sharp, shrivelling – it took years to learn
that only certain fires warm relationships.


The ones I struck fluttered the wrong colour
saffron and not crimson, blue and not brick
if they caught at all, burnt lower and duller
the spectrum just not mainstream attractive.


But they’re also fine. This salt being a misfit.
Flames that burn short. Alone. And damp matchsticks.








Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Recipe







Do this now, with a great amount of care,
split the pod of this body and expose
the nuclei that have passed for my mind -
(I’m not so sure of the immortal soul)
flick a nail down the line of join and tear
the kernels like plump peas into a bowl
prop the shell against a surface, because
all said and done, no pea is quite designed


to be without its shell, dangling from - what?
so keep the cover handy, though aside;
press the plumpness between index and thumb
or spin it in a tunnel in deep earth
centrifuge it, then see what you can spot.
I’ll bet the shell, for whatever little it’s worth
that nothing poetry can be teased and spied
no fancy love slime dredged up from the crumbs.


Amazement does not leave a single trace
and blasé curdles nothing in the blood
it throbs or plummets once, and it is done;
split the shell and spin the nuclei
search fibres in the guts and in the face
crack straight backbones and slipped discs of the eye
and still there will be nothing, not a shred
however fast the particles are spun.


The leaves that I have turned, the paper thin
beams that vaulted over cobbles of dawns
the jewelled dew scattered on dead grasses
monsoon rain-misted roofs and mountaintops -
nothing remains under or on the skin;
a purple pulse might quicken, but then stops,
resumes its sedate beat, wonder passes,
so does boredom, both froth of pheromones.


Take the pods, unravel every helix;
and split the hair as fine as it can stand;
gaze into the bamboo hollow navel;
dissect each limb till you are satisfied;
and still you will find nothing in the mix -
how smiles and tears were made to coincide.
Deep into the subatomic level
rung by rung, climb down into the grand


atrium of the heart and the great dome
where bare-arsed, bare-fanged, famished nightmares pace
along the walls, chafe in their prison cells
and fringed dreams swish like stiff, curled mongrel tales.
Go over it all with a hound’s tooth comb
the froth and spit and fluids, each detail
and then put back the halves, close the pod, and tell
me what kind of love rhyme is in my face?








Monday, 17 February 2014

Themed in the next one







You know I tried many times to write to themes
parenting, jobs, sex, cities and such, but words
won’t be segregated – love and sorrow, dreams
defy limits, don’t agree to be bordered,


resist the lures of heavy grammage and gild,
spill across in slurps of untidy noise
billowing emotions, but still iron-willed;  
so I gave up, mustered whatever poise


I could in that messed-up meaningful wild
and wrote and left, tail between my pens, or keys
more often than not nowadays, my brain child
turned out to be less mine, scrolled memories


of verses, blown out feelings like popped balloons,
radio voices babbled over party spoons.




Friday, 14 February 2014

Loveweak III











love me as though you’ve loved and lost before -
unzip me along my backbone, undo
and smooth down the silk of flesh and sinew
love me as though you could not love me more


love me like it is your very first time
as though you’ve never loved, nor suffered loss
as if love does not fade, it only grows
untainted by grief, supreme and sublime


love me as if we’ve neither been heartsore
disrobe me of these outer skin membranes
splay me open and kiss the pulsing veins
school yourself for the scars you will ignore


or love me as if the wounds that were once mine
were meant as gifts for you, my valentine







Thursday, 13 February 2014

Write...Edit...Publish : February 2014. What's in a face?










This month the prompt at Write...Edit...Publish is “What’s in a Face?” and it has been buzzing around in my head the whole fortnight, like one of those songs you can’t stop humming no matter how hard you try.  Thanks, Denise for an amazing prompt.  I ended up writing reams - flashes and a short story, a spoof, poems; but fear not, I shall not force all of them on you :)
I am posting the flash that fits the word limit best, though there is nothing very Valentineish about it.  Not much of a VDay fan, me.  Sorry.





Sleepless




The bell has just chimed the hour, and I can almost see that dusty clock face down the corridor if I close my eyes.  Just a few hours to go till sunrise.  The dawn breaks every day and a circle of light hits the blank wall opposite me.  I have watched that for the last month.  Not tomorrow though.  Tomorrow I will be out of here, and there will be no-one to notice how a fuzzy moonlike patch coalesces into a hard, crisp disk.  A round hard face of light.


Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Loveweak II












the most loving don’t breathe a word of love
in odd lateral threads that dumbly snake
out of nostrils and back, somewhere above
the sore pinhead of years of stuck mistakes


know them by the coolness of their shadow,
by their gentle hands, and palms of leaf shapes
cupped into a mudmoon, incandescent glow
of a million lampborn miniature landscapes


the seahorse ribbons in the oceans of time
the razor coral thorns, barbed as dreamnails
tear the blooddark spaces of valentines
tear up frozen endbuds of limplove tales


the most loving don’t breathe and speak lovebuds
just smooth the disturbed nap of velvet blood








Monday, 10 February 2014

Loveweak I












did my love merit marks - commas, full stops
did it fuel business, make rhymes flow quicker
magic freedom into crystallised hope,
weekend loveshot irises, did it flicker


once in your blingflamed veins and quietly die?
or was it a recurring decimal
sung offkey though holy, strung through your “I”
candied on your tongue like a capital


pulped in your bone in the sponge of marrows?
it asked no marks from me, I can tell you
safely, nothing punctuation, no close
and no throat grabbing start, I never knew


what begun and if it’s finished with me yet
it gave no period at this close of sonnet









Thursday, 6 February 2014

Blood urge









I wonder if you know that blood urge
to knead the unformed morning into words
to indent it with three thumbprints of rhyme
and leave it alone in the bowl some time
and check its rise and fall and surge
stretch it thin and throw it into verse,
so what if it feeds into nothing?
It’s what the blood approves and craves in spring.
It’s what it wanted all through the winter
the same three marks made with cold fingers.
The yinyang summers pass, the rivers swing
the monsoons bone dry in the autumn winds
a pancake sun’s caught inside the arch
of veins and madness tucked into the heart.





Monday, 3 February 2014

Foggy lakes










Silence among the ruins, the crows -
staunch friends - sit solemn on a lintel
in ceremonial blacks and indigos
against the stone-chapped lips of winter.
Ruby dreams once sewn in tailors shops
laidback needles in the spider webbing
of satellite cables digitised dull props
delicate necks of cranes, high-stepping
giraffes and slow moving meddlemen.
narratives won’t be forced into neat queues,  
garlanded with marigolds, chillis and lemons
on chilly mornings of foggy lakeviews,
dipping and bowing to crows and humans.
There isn’t any order to a timeless world.