Monday 16 April 2012

Who moved my quays?


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


  1. Your every word is so tragically romantic...
    "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."

    love your poem, It begs to be read again and again and again...

    1. Thank you, Sulekkha....and you are welcome to read it as many times as you like, but you know that already :)

  2. I think I have said this before Nilanjana - you are a magician with words and feelings! You have a way with them that is so unique and refreshing! Loved it!

    1. Thanks, Kriti...feels great to have 'refreshing' n 'magician' as word associations here!