Friday 28 March 2014

Smoke shadow

There’s no movement, except a thread
of smoke throws a feathered shadow
on the far wall, electric’s gone dead,
the candle stands stock still, only its burning head
trembles a little within its diffuse halo.

The props for small talk, tables, chairs, party hats;
elbows off please, smiles on, preoccupied -
even smoke has shadows! how to trump that?
entire months fallen domino-flat
as the years windmill from side to side.

Wednesday 26 March 2014

Diving into the A-Z

This year I have finally screwed up enough courage for the A-Z, and managed to find the sticking place, too. But I haven’t got it all down; it's unscheduled and mostly imperfect still, my p’s and q’s are not sorted, never mind the x’s and z’s.   

But I’ll cross those bridges when I come to them and chance a theme. And my theme is fixed verse forms. Totally predictable,  I know. I don't believe in nasty surprises. I have some favourite forms that I write to often, and there are others that I don’t really know anything about. Well, it's time to find out! 26 letters, 26 forms, 26 poems.  

No guarantees on rules and metres and feet remaining unbroken, of course. That iambic pentathingy particularly gives me butterflies in the tummy, except mine are never butterflies but more like caterpillars with that slithery-shuddery mode of locomotion. All I'll say about rules is  - will observe as far as able.

The time has come - the Walrus said -
to sniff out many things
offshoots - and tips – clogged fountainheads
and why the bulbul sings
if one can fly from A-Z
blind, and with batwings.

My sources are many and multifarious; the most important online ones are here and here. And last but not the least, dVerse where I have learnt and continue to learn many things about form.

Posted for the A-Z Challenge 2014, originally started by Arlee Bird at Tossing It Out.

Monday 24 March 2014

Write....Edit...Publish...March 2014 : Through the Eyes of a Child

Hello everyone,

Time to head back to Write...Edit...Publish... the monthly bloghop hosted by Denise Covey, where the prompt this month is "Through the eyes of a child". Another prompt with myriad possibilities.  

Here is my entry, more a reaction to the words than the image; and in a vague, roundabout way a tribute to my first language teacher, and to Denise and the teaching profession generally.  

Girl interrupted at her blog

March 1st

Something is going on between Mama and Steppes, and I can bet that it is nothing good.  Just because I am young doesn’t mean I have no sense.  I can figure things out for myself.

I wish my father was here.  He would know exactly what I should do.  That is an insane thing to write of course.  If Papa were really here, Steppes would not have been part of all this.  I don’t remember Papa very well.  Sometimes I wish I had been younger when he died, so that I would have no memories at all.    Or older, so I’d have more complete ones.  Just not the age I was and stuck with half-memories.

Steppes does not like me, but he has recently come up with the notion of adopting me.  Weird or what?  I am not supposed to know that, but I overheard.  There was the mother of all rows.  Steppes goes ballistic over the strangest of things.  Both of them were extra polite to each other at the dinner table tonight.  Anybody would know that something was up, even if they hadn’t heard them quarrelling.  I mean, the way they talked the food practically froze on the plates. 

March 3rd

Mrs Osmond says I must write a journal, but nothing ever happens to write about.   The idea of pen and paper diaries is ridiculous, who writes those nowadays?  Just suppose some moron came snooping and found it?  A blog is so much more interesting.  And safer.

Mama is strict, she doesn’t let me join the usual rounds of parties and picnics with the school crowd.  Not that I particularly want to.  But even if I did, she wouldn’t allow me. 

There’s just a high wall at the end of the garden to look out onto.  I can hear the cars on the road, but none of them stop at our gate.  I go to school and come back. Spend the afternoon on the little balcony off my room. Sometimes, when I can’t sleep, I sit there at night too.  Take my laptop there, it’s pleasanter than indoors.

No-one can see me there if I sit down; the railing is a a thin slab with little star-shaped holes in it.  Like fancy peepholes.  Mama is rather keen on privacy.  Can’t imagine why.  Not as if there is anyone looking.  The nearest neighbours are half a mile away.  Like I said, nothing ever happens.  It’s really hard doing up posts with the shitty life I lead.  

I don’t expect Mrs Osmond will understand though.  Adults are so over-the-top demanding.  She will go ballistic at how often I don’t write.


March 7th

Maybe I am from a noble family?!  Today Mama quite casually mentioned that I have money coming to me when I grow up. I asked her if I was an heiress and she laughed and said not quite that rich, and not to get strange ideas into my head.  I asked why we lived in this old rundown house miles away from anywhere, and she said because the money was tied up and we don’t really have much cash. Yeah, right. 

She rambled on about trusts and banks and all that, half of which I couldn’t be bothered to follow.  Actually, I just switch off when she speaks like that.

But she is quite different when Steppes is away, she laughs more, and she sits with me on my balcony.  She said something about being careful with money and responsibility and not trust everybody which made my antenna go ting and I did understand.  But I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t heard them quarrel.

March 15th

Steppes is back.  And Mama’s back to her non-smiley self.  I heard them from the balcony.  Squabbling again in the kitchen.  The kitchen door’s right beneath and it was wide open.

March 25th

Mama’s dead.  I can’t believe I just wrote that.  I am not sure what’s going to happen to me.  I am really scared. The place is crawling with policemen.  I have to be careful.  I don’t really know if I have been legally adopted or not.  I don’t know if that can happen without my agreeing to it, I mean I wasn’t even asked?  How crazy is that?  So is my stepfather my legal guardian now?  Will anyone believe someone who is not legally of age?  Are under-age people allowed to testify?  Where do I go?  I have to be careful. 

March 26th

I couldn’t figure out a way to tell them without everyone getting to know.  But I will.  It was a full-moon night on the 20th. I was on the balcony.  I saw her die.  Through the star-shaped peepholes.

26th April

The Asst Commissioner of Police
Crime Branch/Homicide
Uttarakhand Police

Dear Sir/Madam,

Sub: The Monica Salve/Natalie Pereira Case

I am a teacher of English at the Pinegrove School, and taught Natalie Pereira.  Natalie was away for several days after her mother was murdered, and returned to school on 31st March.  I had asked her class to keep a journal earlier in the term, and she had started blogging in compliance.  She passed on the link in one of her workbooks without my alluding to the journalling assignment, on 1st April just before she went missing.

Unfortunately, I was involved in a serious car accident on that afternoon, and therefore did not go through her workbook immediately after.  The news of Natalie’s terrible death did not reach me in hospital, not till the police arrived for my statement.  At that time, I was still unaware of her blog, the information therein and its implications.  I saw her link and checked it only on my return.  

I cannot but feel deeply saddened at the time lost, though inadvertently.  I attach prints of her entries through March, with the hope that they will help bring clarity and justice.

Mrs M Osmond.

WC - 991
All feedback welcome

Read the other entries here and/or join in with your own.    


Sunday 23 March 2014

One true thing about islands

Can’t escape the ocean on an island
its daylong skyblue lovesong; serenades
trailed all night over the tired beachfront;
the nagging tales of princes and mermaids

palled now, tattered like fingers of seaweed
washed up dark in lagoons of foreboding,
in rockpools where earth and water meet
under a plastic, pleated dome of batwings.

How many lives lie wrecked on its soft bed
drawn headlong in stunning meteor falls?
beneath its smiley faced top sheets, what debts
are allowed to slowlapse beyond recall?

Can’t escape the oceans, the sounds at hand;
each man crumbles, each man is an island.

Friday 21 March 2014

I sometimes think of Delhi

You too are not my mother
yet there is on my body
a second navel, a mark,
a closed, healed mouth of a scar
where the pulsing cord was severed
between us finally.

I don’t look at navels often.
I’ve travelled perhaps too far;
sometimes I spot a rampart,
an alien ringed boulevard,
the glint of foreign waters.
And I think of you then.

Of course there is no return;
no-one knows that better than me.
Each spring new flowers, new shoots;
brisk autumns of foreign fruit.
But somewhere a jamun tree
still dances in its crushed-fruit skirt.

Mother's Day is being celebrated here in Egypt today. Yasmin deshe yadachar. I am greatly fortunate in that I have more than one mother. Remembering and honouring all the women who grew me up and the places they grew me up in. Happy Mother's Day!

Wednesday 19 March 2014

Ordinary palm-hearts

There is really no need for you to know
my ways of loving; the ways I have loved you
destitute, desperate, hungry, hollow
but incandescent, a candle whose flame glows
inside a wax canopy, delicately see-through.

You can look at the wax, think what you do,
think my ways are ordinary ways
and that ordinary bit would be as true
there’s nothing to misconstrue
about a candle – wax, wick, a flick of flame;
not even original, just the same
old cliché to keep the darkness ablaze.

The wax the colour of toddy palm-hearts and truth
but you may as well stop at the crust of the fruit.

Sunday 16 March 2014

Colours everywhere

The sudden splashes in bowls; and beads strung
in an old shop; bushy headed carrots flung
into a bin, crumpled candy wrappers;
and someone’s rainbow load of laundry hung

out far across the road; small, flapping hands
of winds on the red silk cotton blooms; brands
stacked on store shelves; slippers outside a door.
I’ve travelled far in search of foreign lands.

Happy Holi/spring, whichever you are celebrating today!

Thursday 13 March 2014


Much comes undercover in darkness, not
just the knives of knowledge splitting hard spines
open to bone white; a lifeless life still plots
its course, joins dots, fills in blanks, realigns

the needles when due, minutely adjusts
to grains of paper, grains of feelings, slopes
of steep time, the slow build up of threats, dust
storms of hope and hopelessness, it still gropes

thin lightlines, turns its fingers back to pinch
itself, its open, oozing flesh, dabs at pus
and blood, congealed velvet that makes it cringe
and turns back and goes on, hungry, listless.

Much comes in darkness, but it still goes on
presuming epiphany somehow equals dawn.

Tuesday 11 March 2014

In packets of dark

Knowledge comes to me in packets of dark
always in wraps of blood, in clots of hearts,
enveloped pangs that force strange question marks
into ramrod straight, aligned like broken parts
from a meteor-flight, erased slow mo sparks,

pixel blooms of a darker black on black.
In the lightning lunge of a knife sharp truth
unseen because it comes in at the back
unfelt till it strikes skin in one smooth
movement and falls into a million cracks

the shattered baked-earth idol of a god
a minor deity in many-petalled mess
both worshipper and worshipped fractured, flawed
split in zigzag fissures of a marbled darkness.

Sunday 9 March 2014


Yellow the dried leaf in fall
yellow the hibiscus blooms in spring
golden serene the sun this dawn
and serene again at the ending

nothing serene when your come in
I have just learnt better control
the wild pulses of heart and skin
in all seasons: both spring and fall.

Friday 7 March 2014

Draupadi now


Anguish burning behind skins
like flames behind colours of
see-through stone. Burning love,
exploding sparks of bush fires in
forlorn grasslands. Proud edifices of travertine
laid to desolate waste, utter ruin,
stripped to nakedness, still
dignified, untouched, tranquil.

They can set the spark
to burn my anguish, work
at trafficking every body part
fine tune rape into a performing art
strip me of every love, and each caress
they will not be able to undress
either my bodies or my souls. 
I spin my own yards of fabric rolls -
sheer, translucent pleasure, and thick pile wool
blankets of independence, shaded tulle
in colours both frivolous and grave
hopeful and despairing, timid and brave.
Every thread a fine point weapon.
They can’t have me bared, or broken.

Rage burning in leaping tongues
of a saffron flameball.  Like the young
sun shrugs off the restraining horizon,
somersaults into a wide blue freedom.
The slow burning of trust
quietly guarded small flames suddenly crushed
between callous fingers, wicks nipped
stand wisping smoke, still red tipped.

They can use their fingers, steel-cold, cruel
to nip my wicks, siphon away every fuel
that I have for happiness, pinch
off every source of joy, lay bare every inch
of flesh and bone, claw and snatch
at every covering. Still I’ll detach
from their grasp, no hand hold,
no firm grip on my bodies or souls.
I spin my own endless fabrics
in colours of alabaster and marble, jade and onyx.
In textures of silk and steel, of resolve and grief,
weaves of milky mercy, intricate loving motifs.
I spin my own immeasurable veil
the borders dark, the rest shimmering pale,
confident and free, the way it drapes
around my core and around its outer shapes.
I don’t wait for saviours, I call upon no prophets.
I am clothed in my own humanity, I cannot be stripped.

Draupadi is a character in the Indian epic Mahabharata, her husbands' enemies' attempt to publicly disrobe her is foiled by Krishna who answers her call for help. He makes her garment endless, and her attacker tires of trying to pull it off her.  This event is one of the triggers leading into the climax of the Kurukshetra war.