Monday, 20 June 2016

Old melodies

Listening non-stop to old melodies
dredged up from clogged memories of childhood,
frayed satin ribbons, pressed flowers in scrapbooks,
caught in folds of pages, in an obscure crease

of time and place. Reminiscent of things
I hardly think about now, the drizzle
of sunlight through leaves, long-tailed kites, and whistles,
wide open skies, gentle lands, and landings.

Halfway across the world, streets, towns convulse -
someone, something has fallen, crashed again,
the earth is slack jawed, crushed to smithereens
a lone armed man gloats at a feeble pulse.

Can't find a tune to match, something titled -
‘never yours, with aversion’?  Unbridled.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Fancy dress

However timid my heart, I will wear
it where I please, on my sleeve or my hat
or under linen skin, layer upon layer;
hide it within the staunchest rib, a nightmare
maze of bone and secrets, crosshatched slats,
but they’ll still find it and pick it quite bare.

The hats too shorn of every rosette, the caps,
of feathers, badges; would you know me then
for your own among this mass of passive men?
They’ll pluck it clean from the cloth, a pulse, a sob
of breath, a scrap of flesh, hardly a throb,
a drop of blood on the wires of timetraps.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Peace and bliss

I like the way your hair waves off your forehead
in a gentle tide; the way your eyes crinkle
up small as you smile wide; your ears flush red
when you’re discomfited; the unpaired dimple
on the left corner of your mouth. My delight
stems from ordinary things, from the simple
halo of your hair on my pillow, the sunlight
striking it aslant, dusting it in sprinkles.

The somewhat stale-warm morning breath of the room,
yours mingled in it, therefore heady like perfume;
your half-open palm a boon and a promise
unfurling around my days, one hallowed world
tucked in your limbs, lines of thigh and waist, back curled
under the covers. No greater peace or bliss.

Still somewhat taken up with the breaking of rules, not for art or some serious reason like that.  Just to see how it feels like, if poetry feels like poetry if it snaps a few strict ones...The word sonnet comes from 'little song' and mine is that still, quite little, littler than fourteen even :)

It's the start of the Ramadan here where I am, and one has to be in Arablands to appreciate that austerity and introspection and prayer and joyfulness and exuberance can combine so seamlessly, and in so many ways.  Peace and bliss. They do it in some style.  

If you are observing, then my greetings and best wishes to you for a serene and successful holy month, may you find what you are looking for and draw closer to your spiritual goals. 

And if you're not, like me, then just dig into the food served at iftars, wherever you are. This is my time of the year to go haleem hunting. Peace and bliss of a different order entirely! :)

Friday, 3 June 2016

One less petal

Suppose it’s only thirteen, does it stop
being a sonnet? and suppose it’s not about
unrequited love, shakily devout?
would you agree it can still do the job?
Does an extra slant rhyme completely rob
it of meaning, the whole open to doubt?
Must every poem tow a line, never drop

its guard for even a single minute? lest
it’s called unflattering names - pseudo, fake.
If the rose had one less petal, you’d contest
its right to be a rose? Then why can’t this break
away from arbitrary rules? let it rest,
be thirteen, without being called a mistake.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Pegs. Panic. Patience.


I’m back to drinking half latte, and panic
gulped down in the first moments as I wake;
because the room’s vast and far too empty,
because on the floor patches of sunlight break
into shards without a sound. I grope lyrics
like lifelines, the chords that grounded you and me;
the clock twitches, the wall behind it aches
and the universe’s just another tic.

The sonnet’s handiwork hangs a bit awry -
the peg’s loose, or maybe the fault’s in my eye.
The coffee’s a whirlpool, a muddy vortex
that, at the very start, sucks the day dry
and hides its gift somewhere under the dregs.
I drain the cup. But nothing tightens the pegs.


I also know you’ll return here in days,
the distance between us duly shortened,
the room warmed, its emptiness made richer.
All travel-sore wandering must end -
we each loop back even as we step away;
the river herself finds and lets us bridge her,
each crossing however rough, does unbend
and let us through, barring minor delays.

It’s easily written: destiny, it’s fate;
the reward will come, just be patient and wait.
Patience will somehow wrangle its rewards.
What if it doesn’t? or it comes too late?
what if it panics at the shortfall of words?
The peg’s still loose though I hammered it hard.

Monday, 23 May 2016


Everything draws to a close, all things –
words, wine, meetings with friends, evenings
pleated through with cursive laughter,
the delight of the deepest yearnings.
The flame that will choose to burn softer
before it drops down with the mothwings.
The breeze that feathers nights, after
the slow spiral of the hot mornings.
One by one the lines and the chapters
till the last, till there remains nothing.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

A thank you note

The kindness of strangers, indulgences of friends.
Someone who comes in from the very ends
of the earth, hands me a gift; and someone
else who doesn’t come in but still sends me tokens
of appreciation.  Books, and poems,
a frame, questions, an image of strings.
Grateful for all I receive, each of these things.
The intangible ways this wide universe
marks my doorstep.  I thank her with this verse.

You may think it’s nothing, a few coffee mugs,
the pile flattened in certain places on my rugs;
a badge here or there, pasted on the sidebar,
a guest’s shadow fallen on my walls, the arc
of a note straddling oceans. On my shoulder
the blessing of an unseen friend’s hand always.
The smiles of strangers threaded through my days.
The invisible ways this wide universe
wraps me tight and quiet. I thank her with this verse.

An incredible amount of happy things, small and momentous, have happened in May so far, and more is expected, which will keep me off the blog till next Monday. Thank you to those who have 'marked my doorstep', you know who you are, thank you to the ones who sent the books and badges and poems my way, and thank you to the one who's arranging the fun.  You know who you are too! My heart is on its knees, with folded hands :)

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Lie- ..Nomi-...Who, me?

Susan Brody of The Art of Not Getting Published (do you know this blog? If not, I assure you, you should! Utterly awesome!) has very kindly nominated me for the Liebster Award. Thank you, Susan! 

Anytime I get a blog award I keep looking back over my shoulder if there's anyone standing behind me people are addressing.  You sure you're speaking to me??  I have been awarded the Liebster before, and I can tell you from experience this looking-behind-over-my-left-shoulder thingy does not go away with experience.

Monday, 9 May 2016

A-OK and not Zero-sum: A-Z Reflections

(: Wah! kya party hai, boss! Pura blogosphere thumakda!* :)

Make your choice, adventurous Stranger (and/or Friend!) and read whichever you prefer :

 The short version

I had great fun this A-Z, as always. Hooked! Beyond delighted to grab my third survivor badge.  Looking forward to my fourth already!

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Mother's Day 2016

The year has earmarked days, a quota for
remembrance – fathers; soldiers from the great wars
and smaller battles; women; sisters; mothers;
all manner of ties up on the calendar
for a few hours only, and nothing more.

Your shirt’s loosened, it flutters in the breeze,
billows a farewell. I’ll take the anxieties,
the heartache and the loneliness I’ll keep,
and hand you the excitement as you leave.
It’s one of many partings, nothing more.

We’ll keep it ultra-casual, you and I
cut the drama out in each of our goodbyes
I’ll never let you see my lashes, spiked
wet in disarray, dismay in my eyes.
I’ll say it with a tighter hug, nothing more.

I know you won’t look back, but if you do
I’ll be in the doorway looking straight at you;
wait till the shirt’s a speck too small to show
and its blue vanishes into a vaster blue,
then I’ll turn and watch the phone, do nothing more.

My love’s an amulet, a verse, a charm,
a silken thread against your skin, your arm,
it binds but it also leaves you free - to come
and go, stop at my threshold, but I am
defined and changed by that one thread, nothing more.

In years from now, maybe a decade hence
will you have time to make time for remembrance?
Mark out a certain day in a certain month
and call? And we’ll speak with a wistful warmth
then go back to our days, say nothing more?

A long ago friend, an EFL teacher, taught me what first language interference was.  Only in my case I don't really know how the first language is defined, and she couldn't help me identify it either. Whatever I write in, at that moment it feels like my first language, and I can spot the other standing right there windmilling its arms and trying to get in not one, but several words, maybe even whole sentences in edgeways. It doesn't make for controlled writing.  And maybe it's not even just language but a whole swathe of cultural baggage. First culture interference, more like.

I can see for myself that the above is based loosely on the principles of the ghazal, the radif motif in the repetition at each stanza-end, but the question is what am going to do about it?  Will it get better if I fiddle around with the structure? Will I be able to tweak it even if I wanted to? Write it as it comes is less of a goal and more of a compulsion, how does one begin to change that?

Last month I heard an established senior Arab poet say of a younger poet, that he writes in English but his Arabic shows, and the senior's tone was one of regret -  as if it's a loss if a non-native speaker of English writes in a language other than his mother tongue. As if it's a loss for both Arabic and for the individual.  But people are the way they are, poets are the way they are, may be poems are the way they are too, who knows? And it's probably best to leave them like that instead of prodding them into being something else.

Happy Mother's Day to all mums here, and to those who parent even though they may not be biological ones.

Thursday, 5 May 2016


Considering the general haha party that has been going on here the whole of last month, what with all the limericking and punning and funning, it seemed a bit drastic to flip over instantly to the trademark whingey poetry, so I am easing into it with a flash.  

Earlier this year, fuel prices were raised in most of the GCC countries, giving way to what was inevitable.  There has been a cut in food subsidies here as well last year. As a fall-out, lamb of all descriptions has disappeared from the menus of the budget restaurants, which are still cheap but not so cheerful anymore. Petrol prices had remained at the same level for decades together, the increase generated a lot of heat and dust, predictably.  

And also this slightly delayed flash :)

Hop on hop off island

The screen froze as soon as he pressed the key, but Seth knew the answer anyway.  He did not need a currency converter to do the maths.  The crude oil prices were at a record low. The meat subsidy had been axed recently.  Even fuel prices, steady for more than three decades, would soar this midnight. A huge leap, no chance of looking anywhere before.  Nothing would ever be the same again, happiness, misery, money, wealth, security.

The screen had transformed into a spiral, a series of dots stalking each other in a never ending cycle, a snake trying to devour its tail.  His concerns felt the same, each stalking the other, an ongoing cycle there too.  Stripping Peter to clothe Paul, it had worked very well somehow. That would stop at midnight. The horses back to being mice, the coach turned back to being its rotund pumpkin self.  Something else would have to be figured; arranged as elaborately as the sham that was coming to an end. He had been cocooned in it, this ongoing spiral of pretence – his debts, his relationships; even the spent steam from his coffee curled in an arc, cooling next to the screen. 

Well, it had been good while it lasted.  He had the usual trappings of a Gulfie life - a cashew plantation, a slightly pretentious mansion, a somewhat distant and sour wife festooned with jewellery, and three sleekly educated, sullen children back at the permanent address.  And some not so usual ones too.  A series of ‘seasonal wives’ here, installed in a penthouse for the duration of their tenure and then seen off by his discreet manservant when they became too demanding.   

Interconnected countries and economies and relationships, global villages wirelessly, paperlessly linked.  He had made them into micro-level islands with his suave thieving skills, forced them apart – businesses, lives, wives, planes of existence.  One of them would have to be dismantled before it came crashing down.  Even so, the debts wouldn’t vanish.  Therefore, he would have to.

It was for just such an eventuality he had got the spare passport.  Option B.  He hadn’t thought the day to use it would come in this particular way.  He pressed a few keys and completed the withdrawal.  Money, an identity, a way of life.  Digital footprints and fingerprints carefully obliterated as far as possible.  A new life would begin at midnight. He heaved a sigh and shut down the computer.

Robina sauntered in and sat on his armrest, briefly peered into his mug.  ”Would you call that half full or half empty?”

Seth looked at the coffee.  There were no curls of steam anymore. “Either way, it’s undrinkable.  Gone too cold. Time to get a fresh one.”


Hope you enjoyed the flash. See you next week for the A-Z Reflections post, am still struggling to make sense of the numbers and the intangibles, which are both more than the sum of their parts, and I am happy to be confused. 

Have a great day/weekend!

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Z is for Zorba

is for Zorba

Zorba was a foreman, that’s not to say
he wasn’t a dab hand at play and foreplay -
he played the cimbalom,
asked a courtesan, “madam
which door may I use to go the whole way?"

A final shout out to Arlee Bird the creator of the challenge and a big, fat thank you especially to Ninja Captain Alex J Cavanaugh for being the exemplary co-host and personality he is, and to all the other co-hosts as well.  Also a warm vote of thanks to all visitors and commenters for their words of encouragement and laughing at the right places even when they didn't feel the least like laughing :)  

Okai. So. That's that.  A-Z.  Done. Survived. Happily exhausted. The best kind of exhaustion is when you're knackered from doing too much of what you enjoy. Got to grab that badge when I wake up.  Z is for zzz...and oh yes, nearly forgot.  Fistpump!! Yay! See you in May!

Posted for the A-Z Challenge 2016