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 :)

Monday, 30 April 2012

Did you hear the haiku when they knocked?





Dreams.  Wistful marigold petals
strewn on the holy waters
of sleep.



Men at my door, their heels
are cracked with long journeys
over dusty days;



they wash at the tap outside,
as they clean up their feet emerge,
unscarred;



turn out just ordinary men
glad of a meal, and a place
to sleep.



Think nothing of it, I’m not
searching prophets
to solve all my puzzles;



they leave, rested; and later, there are
lotus marks leading
from my door.



When you wake in the morning
you can’t know what poems
the day shrugs off;



what marigold petal, which jasmine
or lotus shred falls
by your gate.



I looked for nailscars but got
lotusprints facing away
from my door.



They knew me for what I am.
Or maybe they’re men
with oddly scarred soles.



Facts can’t be changed by poems and
no rhymes intervene in their
cadence.



I heard no haikus on the breeze
when they knocked, I hear none still,
nothing



except blankness made into
the lilt of the still lake where
no-one walks



but I now have doorsills, mud
in lotus patterns till
the next rains come



as though I too am a pilgrim,
a torn petal on holy
waters.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Along the hard crusts of love

The fragile white perfumed blossoms
collapse into the winds with a sigh
along the hard crusts of love, the crumbs
of life thrown out into the sun to dry


And shall I pick them up one by one?
- the leavings of tiny scented flowers
dried up seconds left out in the sun
and heap and pat them into hours.



I’ve breathed enough, deeply inhaled
the wind, the heat of midday light,
faint scents of dusts as they sailed
slowly into my line of sight.


I’m glad they came, but the flowers are shed;
the sun and wind have dried up things
and all that remains is half chewed bread
and petals fallen into the evenings.


I’m glad you came, but I won’t wait
somewhere on the outer fringe
of seasons, eaves-dropping on a raging debate
on the irreversibility of change.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Who moved my quays?



I.



I forget.  I forget where I started out, who was with me.
Were you there? And you? It’s only now I have noticed
That I am walking alone.  Cobbled pathways in a different city.
Sea waves out in force on rocky shores shattering the dawn mist.



There is so much comfort and warmth in a group
Friends, unfriends, the neat categories of acquaintance,
Stifling heat of laughter.  Never the chill of holding aloof,
Never walking alone with the dawn spray even once.



Every seashore, every path is precious, tender, dawn fresh
When I am alone. Hard footsteps ring on stone
Clear and solitary amidst the muted, relentless rush
Of wind or water. Undisturbed. Elements on their own.



I forget where I started out, but when I loop back again
I stand at that same spot with you, where the journey began.



II.



I’m not sure if I peeled off, or you dropped one by one
Like leaves do by the wayside and then are dribbled away
By careless feet, by the sweeping reckless walk of women -
The brush of hems and borders. Things that heave and sway.



I only noticed when the wind blew harder into my hair
When I was thrown to the silences, when the spray struck at my cheek.
As the cold crept up my exposed skin without this barrier -
The crush of bodies absorbed into the chatter of group-speak.



Every spray that stings my face, every wind that billows
Into my hair and my clothes in needle sharp profusion
Every press of step on stone, every road that goes
Winding alone into blinded corners - none of them feels foreign.



I’m not sure who left whom, who wanted to stay or quit
But wherever I stop, I find your face at every point of transit.



III.



There is cargo loaded and unloaded, points where I disembark
The chants of workday dockers like a flag waving in the breeze
Evenings of inverted daisy-fields over my head in the dark
And the beasts of boats tied up at rest alongside the quays.



I forget what colour the darkness was, the colours of sunrise
The day’s sails and engines put to work, silently unfurled
I must have seen their reflections in glistening pairs of eyes
As each of us struggled to find our places in the world.



Every vessel that parts the seas, each flight that cuts the air
Starting here over the horizons and beyond the skyline
I watch them from this quayside now but it’s like I am there
And every journey that’s been made ends up feeling mine.



I don’t know if you held my hands, whether I was held at all
Just that I am touched by you at every port of call.



IV.



There were no goodbyes said, nothing to acknowledge
That partings were partings, just a thinning of the crush
An ease in the fizz of personal space, in the swing of baggage
An absence of human noises in the wind and water’s rush.



The taxi ranks trapped some at the kerb.  Black and yellow
Stripes on broad roads echoed eerily on the metal of the cars.
The peak hour traffic drenched in profuse sodium vapour glow
Squashed flat on the roadside under a canopy of stars.



Startled to a abrupt standstill, because the vague arc
My bag cuts in the air suddenly swings open a bit.
Every angle that it makes, dumbfounded in the dark
Feels wider, deeper, though I can’t quite understand it.



I’m not sure who carried whose bags, who swung wide or tight
But each time I lift them after you, they feel a little light.



V.



The sudden stutter of engines, the slow yawn of a horn
Mixes in with the evening traffic and the thread of the mood
Is it time already to go back where I started out at dawn
Counting out the complaints of days spent in solitude.



Did we forget the complaints themselves in the headlong rush?
Fading sirens. And then silence.  No reminders there.
The pier falls quiet, the corniche empties of the returning crush
As the people hurry on home.  Or to the sunset prayer.



Every sound that pierces me, every viscous silence
That patiently stands by and quivers as I rummage
Stacks of the present and the past, every presence or absence
Crowds into this minute now at the darkening water’s edge.



I’m not sure if this step is final, if these are the last lands, last seas
From where I turn back alone.  The final movement of the quays.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Journey’s end




My journey doesn’t complete itself
because I loop around and loop
around, it needs you to fall into step
beside me.  Only that, and the rest of the group
could be forgotten, nothing missed, nothing misplaced.
There are milestones still, and pebbles, and the sudden scoop
of dug up earth - the road still sets
its own pitfalls - the soar and swoop
of hope-despair, the thin-joint two-faced
fallen coins, lying in wait for me to stop and stoop.



I am perhaps not the same as I was
many years ago – perfunctory, risk-averse;
but still as easily enraptured by the wash
of rain on leaf, by the rinse of words
on a page, by the sluice of a pause
at its turn, by the dabs and swabs of a well-turned verse;
less swift to write off as a loss
everything that’s not a gain, the way it blurs
its own edge to disguise its flaws;
I accept that much of it could’ve been worse.



You too are here somewhere in
the crowd, perhaps a little less or more
impatient, the changes somewhat hard to pin
though I know nothing can quite change that core
unshakeable and constant.  Many things remain
just the same, just as lucid as before -
the twists of roads and turns of page still beckon.
Just that our twinned prints, the sounds of your
footsteps are no longer aligned with mine, they are fallen
somewhere else, not by my side, steady and sure.



No journey is an end in itself, it’s the means
to an end, and my end is just you -
this thin wedge of a crowd in between,
the tiny gaps, the bliss and press of a few
frantic minds don’t matter, nor the sheen
of fallen coins in the mud. The arch of blue
overhead, the tumbling stones, the lick of green
the silence of condensing dew -
that’s what counts, and then within
them all, your footfall, oh close enough, and mine too.





Monday, 2 April 2012

No capitals - cairo : delhi ; you : me


Everything need not begin with a capital, there
are many small beginnings, without a flourish,
without any punctuations or a clear closure
preceding them. No evident rhythms of anguish
nor the pulsing catchy beats of pleasure
nothing at all to mark the start, or indeed the finish.



Here there are roads that ring the cities, concentric walls
pierced by ruined arches of gates now and then,
once they may have been guarded and shut, but overall
they’re useless now, too much trouble, and left open.
There is no entry point, the fringe of suburbia and industrial
estates engulf and blur the limits at which cities begin.



And I too don’t know where it starts or ends and which mindzone
is exclusively you and stops being me, though there are gates and exits
and all the walls, each one in place and shut fast, the metal and stone
of existence marked clear and etched so that no-one forgets
and here I am far away yet next to you and distinct, alone,
and I respect but cannot recall any of those limits.



At which exact point do I stop being me and blur into you?
when each of us is a different thumb-print, unique chemicals
held together behind strict walls and windows,  a strong taboo
on blur and spill of minds and matter that are individuals,
no borders between ourselves, whether it’s cities or just us two
no start or finish, no punctuations or capitals.