Monday, 31 October 2011


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The end is reached but the start is outdated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



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.


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.


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.