Sunday, 18 July 2021

Imperfect

 




Practice does not make all things perfect –

grief; loss; and leave taking, for instance;

the emptying of rooms till nothing’s left.

A thousand times is as fraught as once.

 

Every grief has a unique thumbprint

like a sonnet’s singular context –

this verse will skill you, or so you think.

But this one’s no practice for the next.

 

There’s no template for it you can use,

no guidelines to build for reference –

keep at it but don’t you expect fruits,

and don’t count on past experience.

 

Practice cannot make perfect all things –

isolation; age; lonely evenings.




The last countdown has begun. Upsticks time, this time for good. Moving back to India now after twenty five years in the MENA, these are my last few days in Bahrain. Not sure if I'll be able to post next week - if something gets written, I will. (I do so dislike offline life interference in my online spaces :) But if not, my next post will be from Cal. See you soon. Till then, stay well. Happy summer/winter!







Monday, 12 July 2021

A case or two

 





There’s not much in this house that can be packed –

not the wall where a child’s milestones were tracked,

the books yes, but not the afternoons when

they were read. A knife, not what it’s cut open.

That’s always sliced solely to be left behind.

There’s nothing much really that can be taken

however small they’re chopped and folded compact,

however ruthlessly downsized and streamlined.

 

The fruit's consumed, the tree can't be uprooted -

taking a few cases  will not recreate

the skin, the existence you’ve moulted out of.

What’s here is here, it cannot be rerouted,

moved smoothly to a different plane and state.

All you’ll carry is faint memories of love.










Monday, 5 July 2021

Clean windows

 



The window cleaners visit and squish soap

and the foam spells out your name on the pane

but when I stop to look closer, it’s wiped off

just a few faint watery streaks remain.

 

Meanwhile, the doves have abandoned their nest

two dead eggs lie on the sill on their own

a few scattered twigs, a faint streak of dust

the cleaners brush off the rest – the doves are gone.

 

Your name’s in the birdsongs, the doves and pigeons

that perch to shelter from the midday heat

but when I lean in closer to listen

it’s just the sounds of urban homes and streets.

 

An airplane’s overhead and in its contrail

your name glimmers once, before the light fails.







Monday, 28 June 2021

The Story of a Week and Handwritten

 




Today was special. A hand written card

arrived in the post. After many years

of nothing hand written. Just a few words -

but the weight of precious friendship, unmeasured,

carried intact from a distant hemisphere.


The ones who used to send me handwritten stuff

have departed. The post is mostly ads

and bills. Hardly glanced at, paid, scrunched up.

Anyway the stack is thin. Times are tough

on letters. And this week too would have passed sad.


But then a yellow envelope slipped in

and it lifted the week, just a few words

can do that - when they are handwritten.

The universe sends exactly what's required.



Thank you!!






 

 

Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Hands in my hair

 


I can’t begin to count the times I feel

your shadow in between me and the sun,

shaped and adjusted minutely to shield

me from the scorching midday explosion

when the heat haze shimmers on asphalt and steel -

a small bubble of coolness,  just a smidgeon,

though I can’t spot anything in the distance.

 


I feel your hands braiding my childhood hair;

on my forehead, soothing away life’s migraine.

I hear you call my name, though no-one’s there

when I turn - a passing stranger, or the rain

or just an inexplicable rush of air.

Our paths will never cross again on this plane.

But knowing that makes hardly any difference.






Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Write... Edit... Publish... June 2021 : Great Wave

 



'Fractured' seems the right thing right now. So here's another one from far away and long ago - repurposed to fit the Write...Edit...Publish...Lite - 


The Hearthopper and the BusyBody


Take the heart.  The heart’s the dragonfly. It’s the grasshopper, that sings all summer and takes leaps of faith, from grass to leaf, from leaf into sky, halfway to the stars and falls back to the grass again, nonchalant.  Who vaguely knows that winter will come but will take care of itself.  Meanwhile the ant, oh god, the ant plods on.  Eat.  Sleep. Hoard.  Clean.  Eat.  Sleep.  Hoard. Clean.   The ant is the body, and her demands must be met, at all times.  Punctually.   To-everything-there-is-a-season-and-a-time-to-every-purpose-under-the-heaven kind punctually.  You know the type.  There’s one in every neighbourhood.  Earnest.   And sternest.  And lectures everybody far and wide about the importance of being both.

 

Now that winter’s almost here, she is rubbing her forelegs together in glee, waiting for the heart to turn up in her somewhat shabby but comfortable pad so that she, the ant, can tell her, the grasshopper, royally off for dereliction of proper duty.  She even tries out her lines with different inflections – you sang all summer? now go and dance all winter, and then tries it out with the emphasis on “sang” instead.  She has both of them pitch perfect.  She’s so conscientious, she doesn’t know when it’s enough.

  

But the hearthopper doesn’t turn up, she’s MIA.  Making most of the summer before it fades.  Rocking the equinox.  Living it up and down and sideways, burrowing real deep into the moment.  So the ant goes out in search of the grasshopper. Besides being the body, the ant is also a busybody.  And when she finds the grasshopper this is the conversation they have, the hopper and the ant, the heart and the body.

 

 

A:  What are you doing?  It’s going to be winter soon.

G: I know!  I have to finish this before the season flips,  this tune is for winter.  Requires some – um - fine tuning hunh?

A: What are you going to do for the winter? Have you got any food?

G (stops singing for a minute):  Food? Food?  Music is food, you illiterate nutcase, haven’t you read your thingamajig?

A: No, I mean really, what are you going to eat? How are you going to keep warm?

G: Listen, I got warmth completely sorted.  This tune? This tum ti ta tum tum ti ta? It’s to learn the shiverdrivel dance with. Dancing is going to keep me warm.

A (flustered and angry because the grasshopper keeps going off script) :  What the hell’s going on here? That’s supposed to be me telling you to dance all winter.  You’re being very irresponsible!  No food, no firewood, and dancing to keep warm. Jeez!  You’ll freeze to death!  Look at me, I’ve worked hard all summer and gathered everything, and now I am all set for the next three months.  You’d better do something fast.  Because I am not sharing any of mine.  Food. Or wood. 

G: No-o-o! You wouldn’t do that? You would? Not even wood?

A: No, certainly not.

G:  Okeydoke.  Keep it all to yourself.  But you do know that food tastes terrible when you eat it on your own alone, don’t you? Turns to ashes in your mouth.  That’s a scientifically researched fact.  Something to do with horrormoans.  Or is it pheromoans?   At any rate, some kind of moan interferes with the taste buds and messes up the entire chemistry of your oral cavity.  Tum tum  ti tum, tum tum ti tum.  Food’s in one end and out the other/memories are the thing to gather. 

A: Oh, you are incorrigible!

G:  Yup, that’s my first preference.  Corrigible is horrigible.  Not at all my cuppa. Or suppa. As you like it.


The ant finally sees she is making no headway and goes back miffed to her pad in the anthill.  In spite of being so well provisioned and warm, she doesn’t really enjoy her winter much because she has this nagging suspicion that the grasshopper is having way more fun. 


The grasshopper meanwhile learns the shiverdrivel dance and dances her way a little closer to the equator, where the grass is still green, and the trees are still in leaf; where the ocean raises great wave after great wave; and the river flows sharp and silver like the glint in a rascal’s eye; and the keenest stars hang like crazy huge fruits from the sky in the early evening even before the light has flickered completely out.

 

 

WC – 737

FCA


Read the other entries here

 


Monday, 14 June 2021

Clutching at straws

 


IV.


We spy on her constantly, lest she fly

and this too falls apart, this omen of sorts

where meanings of home and growth crystallise

in this strange space between landing and goodbye

amidst the dire pandemic news reports

and what a dove and her egg can symbolise.

The mundane can be charged with so much hope.

 

She clutches at her straws as I clutch at mine

and we’re both doing what needs to be done;

setting up a home is also dismantling

another in some other space and time,

till the final stop is given, or won

at the very end of all the travelling.

But for now the egg’s a straw and helps to cope.





Sunday, 6 June 2021

Nesting and de-nesting



I


A pair of doves has come to nest across

my window as I uproot my home here;

they’re building up theirs twig by twig by twig

as I find ways to optimise my loss.

Not just me though who’s moving out this year –

so many are – for reasons small or big.

As I move out, the doves are moving in.

 

As we move out, the birds, the beasts, the bugs

can breathe a little easy, find some room;

reclaim a bit of space for themselves

as we wrap up the picture frames and rugs.

The world, I believe, abhors a vacuum

on every level - floors and ledges and shelves,

and as we end our stint, the doves begin.


II


I will not see those fledgelings grow and fly –

these are my last few weekends behind these walls

these windows looking out on raffia palms

their spikes tethering a truncated sky

flailing between new towers and nightfalls.

I’ve wished myself elsewhere often, for the charms

of the sunset splashed vastness of a river.

 

But now the certain knowledge of leave taking

crumbs the whole with a patina, a glaze

of yearning for a few days beyond the date -

just to catch the doves finish what they’re making

to witness the mother raise what she lays.

But we always leave too early or too late -

our timings always off by a sliver.

 

III


We witness neither the new life come in nor

can hold the hands of dear ones that depart,

we’re pinned to our places in the world

by pathways, pandemics or proxy war,

mere spectators as nests empty or start - 

some lives undone as new ones are unfurled

somewhere behind us helpless, beyond our range.

 

The doves meanwhile - she sits quiet through the days,

her nest on the ledge is not too impressive -

just a loose mass, a crude bed of twigs and straw;

her partner comes and goes, he rarely stays;

they too are pinned in place, made as submissive

as we are but without our perverse flaw

of constantly chafing at, yet wishing, change.





Thank you for your patience if you've read till the end. I don't normally put up three part poems, stick to one part here, but this felt incomplete after I put in just part one.  Appreciate your feedback on the effectiveness of keeping to one or the whole, what works better for you? 


And a special thanks to Ramblin' with AM who shared last week's poem. Always great to get that endorsement and a leg up! Especially since I am not on Twitter. 


Have a peaceful and fun week. 




Sunday, 30 May 2021

What the meek inherit



 


Well, you’ve made your bed and you’ve lain on it,

now it’s time to rise, throw off the sheets

and forge a new mattress from these hardships

even if that means you’re out in the streets

in the night. Look up, there’s a skyful of stars

for you still, a full moon - there’s room to breathe,

there’s space to become who you really are.

Some future planet may be for the meek

but this earth isn’t. And a true princess

will not put up with a pebble nor a pea,

a bedframe of arbitrary injustice,

headboards of unkindness and discourtesy.

Throw off those covers, step out - the world’s broad,

there’s fairness round the corner, down the road.





For all my sisters who've suffered unspeakable injustices due to/during the pandemic. 






Sunday, 23 May 2021

Entitled


 



Some days the sill’s empty. Some days it’s full.

Sparrows perch. A pigeon. A spotted dove.

Children’s laughter splashes around the pool,

clear summer skies if you cared to look up.

 

Sometimes the sill’s empty, sometimes birds stop by -

sometimes unknown raptors after a hard kill

wipe their beaks off before taking flight

nervous others stay far, on a parallel

 

ledge. But look closer, the sill’s not empty

the moults of bugs, dried palm spikes, a feather

signal what’s been. Less romantic bird droppings

pock mark the beige concrete. It was never

 

empty, just that you’ve trained, entitled your eyes

to look for doves, pigeons, laughter, clear blue skies.







Sunday, 16 May 2021

This too will pass...right?

 

How quickly the day passes, even without you,

away from your presence, like an exile alone

the weight of memory’s the weight of your bones

as light as a flake of ash, as easily blown

off with the lightest of puffs. Outside, the curfew

is a beast poised to spring. The hours are a dark spell.

The phone won’t stop ringing. I tell them, I’m well.

 

This too will pass, right? How quickly the day passes!

You’re memory of memory - your teacup was still there

unwashed with the dregs. The comb with your tangled hair.

Life’s just a banyan with its roots probing the air.

That morning you drank tea. Nightfall, you were ashes.

They ask how? and why? how will I be? what will I do?

I tell them it’s okay. That I’ll cope. Without you.  






Sunday, 9 May 2021

Mother's Day 2021

 

মাতৃদিবসে কখনো বলিনি তোমায়

ভালোবাসি, ভালোবাসি। হয় নি প্রয়োজন

সাজানো স্তবক, আড়ম্বর।  ছোট ছোট কথায়

মাপি নি মাতৃত্বের এই অগাধ বন্ধন

প্রজন্ম প্রজন্মে গাঁথা।  পূর্ণ নিস্তব্ধতায় -

এখন আর বলার নেই উপায়, তবু মনে হয়

কিছু কথা না বলাই ভালো। সব কিছু বলবার নয়।

 

বহু কথা বলা, শোনা হলো এ জীবনে। 

ছিল যে মমতা তোমার হাতের স্পর্শে, যে আশ্রয়

তোমার আঁচলে, হঠাৎ হাসি ফোটা চোখের কোণে,

ঘুমপাড়ানি গানে সেই প্রথম ভাষা পরিচয় -

ভোরের কুয়াশার মতো ঘেরে, ছেঁড়ে কিছুক্ষণে

পড়ে থাকে নীরব  শূন্যতা। তবু মনে হয়

ও কথাটি না বলাই ভালো। সব কিছু বলবার নয়।



Automatic translation by Google,  minimally tweaked 


I never told you on Mother's Day

I love you, love you. Didn't need to

arrange stanzas/bouquets, fuss. Didn't ever measure

with tiny words this deep bond of motherhood 

carried from generation to generation. In complete silence -

now there is no way to say anything, but still  I feel 

some words are better unspoken. Everything need not be said.


Much has been said and heard in this life.

There was that compassion in the touch of your hand, that refuge

in the loose end of your sari, a sudden smile in the corner of your eye,

the first introduction to language in lullabies-

they surround me like morning mist, vanish after a while

leaving a silent emptiness. Yet it seems

those words are better left unsaid. Everything need not be spoken.





Happy Mother's Day! - to all mums who are here and those who are not.