Sunday, 28 February 2021

Route plans

 


Every day is a journey and the journey itself is home. ~ Matsuo Basho (1644-94).


Amwaj, Bahrain.


What you thought was home turned out just a path,

and what you took to be a journey, was home,

paid little attention to the maps and maths

and now you’ve no-one but yourself to blame

now that you’re so geographically doomed.

It’s not just a casual photograph

bleached out on a whim, pared to monochrome,

and surely not a thousand and a half

attempts at so called half draft of poems -

a whole heap of things that can’t be consumed.

Neither the doors nor the compass was yours

you let them possess you more than they should,

when you turned there were no wakes left, no shores -

just a diffuse, shadowless light. And driftwood.






Sunday, 21 February 2021

Recognise

 


From the Marine Drive, Mumbai.


Some weeks are darker than others

some fortnight’s just shades of agony,

the distress of fathers and brothers

is hard to stand witness and see;

but every darkness gets over,

it's transient, temporary,

each minute it’s spinning closer -

some sort of lightfall. Clarity.

 

Not all light must be a sunrise,

all darkness doesn't cradle stars.

Sometimes the dark is a disguise,

for light’s got degrees and avatars -

lift up this face and recognise

light and darkness for what they are.






Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Write... Edit... Publish... + IWSG February 2021 : The Kiss

 


Keeping it spare for Write...Edit...Publish...  Lite as we start off year 2021. Back to fiction with a fractured something...an old write repurposed because it fit the prompt. 



The worst ever


He had stalked me for days. His lips were rubbery, too large, too wide open, hot-wet and slimy.  Gross didn’t begin to describe it.  He was taking his time too, as if he was wooing some swooning heroine in some crazy version of a Brontë romance.  The worst kiss ever. And his limbs were like bloody suckers, I pushed at him hard but he hung on like one of those tree-huggers. How could this be happening?  Why had I allowed it in the first place? I groped for the knife, found it and slashed upwards. He broke away with a repulsive sucking sound that made even my toenails curl. 

 

I sat up, my chest heaving, my heart beating a frantic tattoo against my ribs.  My head swam with a potent mix of emotions – disbelief. disgust, outrage, abject terror.  I shut my eyes and tried to get a grip.  When I opened them again, everything was quiet.  Moonlight came in through the blinds and lay in deep slices on the floor. I could see vague dark stains on the bedclothes, they were twisted around my torso in a python-coil.  The rest of the room was strangely and chillingly untouched by the upheavals I had just experienced - my clothes were still on the pegs, my books as I had left them on my desk.  Only Toddy had fallen out of the cubbyhole and lay spread-eagled on the papers. 

I untangled myself slowly from the snarled sheets.  Piled the pillows behind my back and half-lounged against them.  Not to sleep for the rest of the night felt like a sensible decision.

 

***

 

“Oh look, aren’t they cute?!” Aditi exclaimed.

“Now don’t start that again, Dits,” I was not particularly taken with the clumps of teddy bears and alligators and giraffes the vendor was hawking in the train.  She was obsessed with soft toys.

“Aw, c’mon,” she cajoled. “Just look at them.  Let me get you one, please. One for you, one for me.  Just as a souvenir. Just one last time, okay?”

“Oh, yeah? One last time?” I was skeptical. She said that every time. On every trip.

 

The vendor meanwhile had spotted a pushover and made his way to where we were sitting. He pointed out the awesomeness of his wares with exaggerated, faintly effeminate gestures, adding fuel to an already blazing fire.  I gave in, it was useless to resist.  Deal done, Aditi sat back with a sigh and a smile clutching the toys as though she were five instead of twenty-five.

 

“Oh, they’re just too cute. Don’t you love this vest?”

 “Hmm,” I really couldn’t match her enthusiasm.

  “What shall we call them?”

 “Froddy? Frodo? Freddie? Anything.  Your choice, really.”

 “Are they frogs or toads?”

 “I don’t think frogs come in that muddy colour.”

 “I know,” Aditi said with the air of someone having an epiphany, “Toddy! Let’s call this one Toddy. And this can be Muddy.” 

 

***

 

I woke abruptly.  Daylight was streaming in at the window. The clock on the night-stand read 6:16, the dots pulsing each second, like a pair of blinking evil eyes. A flock of crows had started up their raucous commotion somewhere just outside.


My mouth felt like a dozer had smashed into it.  My whole body was a disaster zone, as if it had come through a wringer.  Every bone ached. I flung the bedclothes back, there were weird dried stains on them.  There was no time to change the sheets.  If I didn’t hurry, I would be seriously late, the pick up came at half past.  I briefly wondered what kind of night Aditi had had. I pushed away the thoughts that wisped unbidden into my mind.  No, that was beyond crazy. I shuddered. Was I going out of my mind? There was little time to ponder, and the workday soon pushed the night’s events out of sight if not completely out of mind.


I saw it when I came back from work and went to lay my bag down as usual.  He wasn’t on the desk, not inside the cubbyhole, not where he had fallen on the papers last night, nor on the floor underneath.  Not anywhere visible in the room. Scrunched up on one side was the vest, slashed open in a ragged cut where the knife must have gone in and caught the seam.  There were dried bloodstains on the vest too. Mine? I swatted away the thought they could be anyone else’s.  I picked it up and smoothed it out.  The front, I had never really noticed the front. It was the back that was constantly on view as he sat low, squat and fat on all fours.  The writing glittered, still undamaged, the words gleaming in the last of the daylight.  Prince, in disguise. I read them again.  Mouthing the words like a child learning to read.  Prince. In. Disguise.


WC- 814

FCA

Read the other entries here - 

 



 

 


Sunday, 14 February 2021

Making the bed...

 



What makes a garden – the gardener or the vine,

the squirrels that dig it up, the birds that peck fruit,

the weeds which spontaneously undermine

the efforts of the cultivated to take firm root?

 

Is this still a garden? – if those weeds flower

and they’re smaller, less showy than the marigold,

if the wild grass were to wholly overpower

the careful beds and furrows marked by the household.

 

And if the bees come calling but so do the bears

what’s fertilised and grows is not quite by design,

and pests and pollinators take an unfair share

of the nectar and honey and fruits and sunshine,

 

if the yield’s not consumed by designated humans

is that just a pity? a waste? or a garden?






Directly inspired by Yolanda Renee here. Hope all goes and grows well in your garden. Happy V-day to those celebrating. 




Sunday, 7 February 2021

Recalibrate

 

Credit


One day, you know the world will restart

and all that’s slipped will itself restore

to a new order, a fresh, new heart.

The regimens of outdoor and indoor

will change again as they’ve in the past

and we’ll be free to take to the roads

without any temperatures asked

except maybe of the weather gods.


So be patient – wait for the needle

to straighten itself and to point true,

but steel aligns to the magnetic.

Some will drop but not all the people

hopefully among them me and you

ready to resume post pandemic.


Sunday, 31 January 2021

Why you won't find a poem here today

 



Sometimes a dove will sit on the railing

and swivel its head, very canny, very wise -

late afternoon and the light’s quietly failing

but something breath taking happens to the skies.

A high rigged truck will come around trailing

its discordant sounds topped by pneumatic sighs

and leave a fluorescent silence where words die

drop out defeated however hard they try.

 

Ordinary events of urban landscapes -

a flash of coloured scarf, a certain note

of moonlight and the changing shadow shapes.

The calligraphic wakes of a speedboat

mirrored by migrant flamingos as they fly.

Sometimes the words just won’t fit - that’s why.




Sunday, 24 January 2021

Because on my feed there’s an image of a foggy morning in Safdarjung

 


I once knew a tree - a long time ago –

as I walked by she used to sigh over me,

she formed the backdrop to a favourite photo,

starlight was filtered through her canopy.

 

I knew her bark, her long-tailed leaf shadows,

the sounds and textures of storms in her limbs,

the comings and goings of doves and sparrows,

the poetry of her seasons verbatim.

 

It’s been a long time since I’ve left her shade,

years since I’ve felt her sigh on my commutes.

All memories, glorious or not, must fade,

all leaves diverge away from their roots.

 

But even so. They’re made of the same sap.

And her fogged image is a happy recap.




You know how life sometimes feels like one of those painter's shade cards? - with little square patches from every shade of terrible to awful to merely bad, and yet you're still awestruck by it because it still looks all kinds of amazing overall?  Well, that's my life right now, and that image of a fogged up, eerie tree in a winter morning in Delhi was beyond feel-good.


Sunday, 17 January 2021

Recede

 

Original image by Herz Albanki


The land recedes. The earth’s mostly water.

Non-potable. Saline. Right now - serene.

So are humans - mostly made of liquid,

bubbles of fluid enclosed in a skin -

takes some time to figure what waters mean.

All lands recede. Winter days are shorter.

And the pandemic has emptied them clean.

A single parasol stands out vivid,

the boat’s moored, but ready to loosen,

to draw away through the ultramarine,

draw to the dock. Maybe less off the grid.

But home, when it gets there, feels too foreign -  

the streetscapes changed, the city lights too lurid.

Takes time to see what home and moorings mean.




I visited a (socially distant) photography exhibition recently, where three Bahraini photographer-artists were exhibiting their work - a great way to start off 2021, though now it seems to have lapsed back into 2020 mode again. Anyways. 

This image by Herz Albanki, a well known photographer-artist who exhibits regularly in Bahrain and internationally, prodded the above verse. Herz has been my art partner for the BWC annual exhibition Confluence all through, I've been majorly privileged to work with his images as prompts for my poetry there. His work always inspires, there is a 'certain slant of light' to his photography that just makes the words pour out! He showcases the land and seascapes of Bahrain, its working population, its flora and fauna in all their profound ordinariness and diverse magnificence. This particular artwork is called 'Jarada Island.' Bahrain is an archipelago of mostly natural and a few manmade islands. Isn't the planet beautiful?




Sunday, 10 January 2021

This is the thing with feathers...

 




A couple of days in and the wing feathers

are already bedraggled; the weather

is strangely warm when it should have been cold

- summer in winter.  The year is just days old.

 

Somewhere the light’s dying. Somewhere icy winds

have knifed trees. More grace than can be imagined

even in the unkempt, in the shady light -

the rims of hope and grace are seldom watertight.

 

The anglers are gone, the fishing boats are back,

sun’s in its rightful place in the zodiac.

Waiting for the bones to move a bit less smooth

the flesh to peel away and reveal the truth –

 

that feathers, shaggy or not, knifed trees and all

remain beautiful however the light falls.





Sunday, 3 January 2021

Yearning

 




I yearn to write you a poem

that when you read you don't stumble

on the raised fists and frowns of phrases

on hairpin bends and sharp angles

not even a downturn of a comma

and don't skid to a stop anywhere

blinking in too harsh a sunlight.

And as you read - those stanzas

fall like toes dipping into the river

fringed cool with low hanging branches.

Like a cocoon spun of afternoons

and pigeon throated iridescence.

Like mountain mists you breathe in

as you move through them they vanish

deep inside your membranes.

By the time you get to the end

it's bound fast to your pith

it's coursing through you gently

so easy in your channels

that you feel it was yours always

in this life and the previous

and all the unlived ones to come

for all eternity.







Sunday, 27 December 2020

Finale

 



Still my mind and teach me to hear

the absence of a stream

the sparkle of air, crystal clear

the outline of a dream

still my mind and teach me to read

the red lines behind the gauge  

give me the skillsets that I need

to deink and strip this page

open me up to the noughts hidden

in the maze of days and nights

the trees and music, tinsel, ribbons

the spectra of festive lights

teach me to grow through colours and shapes

of silence, absence and voidscapes.




So...that's the final word. It's been a relentlessly hard year, glad to see the back of it. Thank you for your support and your time, here and on the other platforms of engagement. Wishing you a joyful, peaceful and healthful New Year 2021. 




Sunday, 20 December 2020

Not a Pie

 


The heart’s not a pie, but how convenient

that it’s sliced into four, that it can hold

different concentrations of oxygen

simultaneously. Degrees untold

of love and thankfulness and resentment

together and apart, correctly controlled,

disparate, immiscible, vast oceans.

 

How fortunate that it can celebrate

and grieve at the same time. It can contain

brimming tears, and itself. Yet cascade

joy, radiate peace, friendship. Entertain

opposable thumbs of thoughts with innate

ease. It can loathe clouds but still love the rain,

petrichor, bedewed grass, the shade of shade.