Sunday 29 June 2014

Déjà Vu?

You know that blue of uniforms, the rough warm grain
of your chair, the whiteness of cups, the monochrome
pictures of celebrities on the wall, their fez and form
like portraits of dead ancestors you’ve never known
but familiar through mirrors the nose and plane
of forehead and vaguely the angle of jawbone;
and the clientèle now, greybeard political tone:
you know that.  Though neither they nor you can explain.

Of course you’ve never stepped here before, these dark wood
panelled walls, that frame of a young Umm Kulsoom!
Discussions mongrel chasing their own tail, what good
has come of all this?  a couple across the room
in a romance; smoky drapes of perhaps and could.
A hundred years; and you the conduit and continuum.

Friday 27 June 2014

Disengage for victory

"The pioneer's of a warless world are the young men (and women) who refuse military service."  - Albert Einstein

The victory’s in staying home, where unsung

won’t be juxtaposed with hero and young;

the quiet of unwarlike tasks and boredom

and no empty coats with flapping sleeves hung

up in hushed closets for years. In upfront

flash of a different courage, the blunt

slam of refusal, and no engagement.

Let the lad choose what he does and doesn’t

for goodness’ sake, glory can be clawed and won

in nothing raised, not raging arms, nor weapon

just keen shoulderblades and clean, cleft burdens -

much glory but no fame in that being done.

The power’s out, so I’ve no torches to lob

take this my staunch yes and no and do the job. 

Saw that quote from Einstein floating around on social media a few days ago, and so this is a response poem.  

Tuesday 24 June 2014

Write...Edit...Publish...June 2014 : Romance

I am posting another re-worked excerpt from Moonlit Waters for this month's prompt at
hosted by 

(Read my earlier post from MW)

There is a prize this time for the most creative entry, so do click over. Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, artwork, photographs, anything - your take on the prompt "Romance".  

I am dipping into MW again because, well, I would like to FINISH the edits, the unfinished-ness is beginning to bug me :)  And because my offline life is just a little crazy right now.  We are in the middle of yet another wedding and a relocation.  I will semi-pack up here and travel to India in a couple days, attend the wedding, then return and wait for our papers to be processed and move to our new home as they come through. All I can say for certain is that my summer/monsoon promises to be far from dull. Access to a connection might be patchy, not that I was/am going to let something like that interfere with blogging, ha.  Will catch up with you soonest I can. Happy summer/July to you all. 

Moonlit Waters II

Abeer was back again at Fayoum; this time there was no discomfort, no weighing of words to say or not to say, just an easing into a place which felt long familiar, as though he had grown up looking at this grey-blue water right from childhood.  Waded into it knee-deep many times, splashed in it and sputtered at its saltiness and fished in it on winter afternoons.  There were places like this, he came upon them suddenly without any signs or warning, strange places but intimately part of him, of who he was, or had been at some point of time, and his memories looped back and touched their own beginnings in one huge arch, silent and comforting in a sweep of timelessness.

He worked quickly, trying to get the colours fixed in his mind, the outlines fixed before the light changed and shifted the shadows around.  A cluster of children watched, their eyes boring into him. It was irksome, but he could not come up with an effective deterrent.  Eyes following his every move, they reminded him of another pair of eyes, glistening sometimes with reproach, sometimes with wonder.  They reminded him also of another vendor, with arms like  cassia branches weighed down with blossoms, but she was nowhere to be seen. The children soon got bored, at the initial stages his sketch looked nothing like the scene before them, neither the lake nor the sky, it was just one jumble of lines and only he could see the final outcome rising sharp and clear.

The afternoon passed swiftly, the light changed and he gave up trying to finish, instead captured the lake with his small camera.   As he turned he felt a fresh pair of eyes on his back, and knew that she was here.  The jewellery seller approached him a little dubiously since he was again obviously alone.

“Good afternoon, Mister.”

He returned the greeting, but waved his hands dismissively, he did not want to buy more jewellery.  The woman did not take the hint, “I have a matching necklace, Mister.  It would make the set complete.”

She held out a string of purple coloured shells, lurid enough to rub off on the skin of the wearer at the slightest opportunity.  Her face was fair and delicate, though her eyes had a resolute gleam to them that sat oddly on her.  She looked less than her age because of the extreme slenderness of her hands and wrists, her cheekbones absurdly young and beautiful. 

It was suddenly very important to him that she knew the truth, he was fed up of pretending. It seemed wrong to keep buying her stuff under a false premise.  Wrong to buy her cheap jewellery, and then to model them on a recreated, imaginary version of herself.  He was suddenly stabbed by guilt, as though there had been a breach of trust somewhere and he must put things right. 

The hesitant smile which had flared on her lips, crumpled instantly in shock when he told her; her face was flung open in a horrified agony  that seemed extreme, unwarranted.   He was a complete stranger after all, just a foreigner who had bought a few cheap trinkets from her a few times.  He was nonplussed at her reaction.

“I am sorry, Mister -. So  very sorry.  God will give you happiness again.  Both of you,” she was panting, breathless, sobbing almost.

He was annoyed, partly at her, and partly at himself.  Trust women always to be melodramatic, whether they used their eyes or their tongues; family or complete strangers, they were all the same.  He was minus a wife, so how was that her problem? He was a fool, he should have kept quiet and sent her packing like the rest without any explanations, why should he feel any obligation towards her?  An unnecessary interruption spoiling the tone of a perfect day.  His fault entirely, if he had only known when to keep his mouth shut and did not feel these inexplicable pangs of accountability towards people in whose life he had no part to play. 

But she kept standing there as if turned to stone, and when he finally looked at her again, he could see uncontrollable tears pouring down her face.  He was further unnerved, contrite, she must be very tender-hearted indeed if it had affected her so. 

“She is happy, and I am not unhappy also,” he said apologetically, gentler than before.   “It was her choice, not mine.  You shouldn’t be so upset.  I am sorry I had to tell you, but I don’t want to keep buying things for her, she does not need me to, anymore.”

She shook her head, “No Mister, no woman chooses that willingly.  So beautiful, too, she sighed and finally started to move off. “May God give you happiness soon.”

He wanted to call her back and give her something, money, food, anything, in lieu of the necklace.  He was sorry now he had not bought it, that would have been far less trouble.  He wanted to restore her composure and smooth down his own ruffled one, but knew that to call her back and offer her a substitute would be a mistake compounding the one already made.  He did not quite know what to do.  Anyway, it was over now, and hopefully he would not be approached again.  She had made a good model though, last time.  He would have liked to paint her face, but that of course would not do at all. 

The owner approached him, “Anything the matter, Sir?”

“No, everything’s okay, thanks. I need to start back, could I please have the check?”

“Certainly.  Just thought I saw one of the women here - .” The manager let the end trail off.

“She doesn't bother me. Is she your family?”

“No, she doesn’t have any family.  She’s alone, husband's divorced her. Comes and helps in the kitchen sometimes, and sells souvenirs to the customers.  Unfortunate girl.  I'll send your check.”

WC - 1000
All feedback welcome.

Read the other entries and join in with your own over here

Sunday 22 June 2014

Flip the leaf and find out

Hope moves across the sheet glass of clear minds
like leaf shadows on a speeding windscreen,
only that the trees are left way behind
what’s unfurled and passes is nothing green

some of the leaves are known – olive and fig
the others are faintly ominous, grim
their edges, sharp saw teeth, the stems and sticks
yellow fingered tattoos on the rim

of insight; the endings dawn even before
twilit beginnings can start to coalesce
the harder the panicked foot presses, the more
the shapes rush by in films of shapelessness

maybe it’s not hope, and if the glass flips
it would show the fear in the leaves’ midribs.

Wednesday 18 June 2014

The spice-seller

In some birth nested into eternity
I was a woman, and I like to think -
of noble birth, but that’s perhaps conceit;
I only know that a handsome gypsy
beckoned, and I crossed a placid sea
and sailed to a lavish stone built city
the colours of golden dust and ashen pink
and sat in a dim shop in the midday heat.
Cumin, cinnamon, saffron piled high,
the perfumes gently suffused the entire lane
and drew peasants and men from rich households.
“Eyes deceive, but the nose cannot lie,”
I called out to each passer-by to buy
the best spices that money could obtain
and they gladly gave their gold for my gold.

Deep within some dusty memory archive,
that voice still echoes as if she were alive.

A dear friend told me a beautiful story, and this verse kind of grew from there.

Sunday 15 June 2014

Meet my fathers

My fathers are those who wrote me 
ten-page letters
all printed in painstaking capitals 
when I hadn't learnt 
to read grown up cursive;
those who cooked me long, 
rich-yellow dals before 
having to rush out to work.

They are all those who 
strode into my spaces
and taught me that writing 
begins with circles, 
with an  “o” not an  “a”; 
and those who stood 
with their feet planted
squarely on soft soil 
and pushed me down 
green-dappled scary pathways 
because unknown is also 
a thrill in the blood.

They are those who bought 
a rupee worth of reel 
and taught me to hold a kite, 
to ride a bike; 
to know which mountains 
to stop at and climb,
and which to let pass;
and how to wash shiny-clean 
nylon doll-hair and 
dress it up bride-style.

They are those who stood by 
with smiles on their lips 
and panic in their hearts, 
as I swung from figs 
beneath which moulted snake-skins 
had been spotted.

My fathers are those who 
told me the same fable, 
night after night, in the hope 
that one day I would find
the rice grain of truth embedded in it;
they are those who saw me home 
through fierce, desert suns
walking, walking so that 
their unobtrusive shadows 
always sheltered me.

Friday 13 June 2014

Fade in fade out

I will find him by the river, and take his face
in my hands and they will tremble
at his touch, but still unselfconscious
they will rest on his temples as though
that is all they are meant to do.
He will kick away the stones and pebbles
and his face will be the rainwashed sky,
his body the aerial roots of the banyan
that anchor my life in the crosswinds.
And I will balance on tiptoe
maybe a little shaky, a little awestruck.
I’ll reach up and find his honeysweet mouth,
his breath the sharp drizzle of eucalyptus leaves,
fused silk and stubble his cheekbones,
the curve of his lashes plain poetry
and I will kiss him till I fade into song.

Monday 9 June 2014

Whatever you want

This poem can become anything you want -
a weed in a crack of grey cement,
a communication device, upfront
grey screen black buttons correctly present
cool cheeks for patting, and it can be
a hollowed out treecave childhood haunts,
lined with fallen leaves of seasonality.

Poems shape-shift, like humans, like water takes
up the curves and stems of its glass;
don’t be misled by the metre, this makes
a ring of fire around woven green grass
and it naps itself into cloth, a soft wipe
for creased foreheads, tired palms, when nothing breaks
the gaunt-mongrel, monotonous stare of life.

Saturday 7 June 2014

Pink tongues of
puppy soft days
lick at my feet
and scamper away

Thursday 5 June 2014

Pearls, beads, and wisdom

My final farewell is watching
the work of a known artisan -
the beads threaded on a string,
the silk knotted after each one.

I dither over a pendant - 
it seems somewhat expensive
ultramarine with dark accents
left matte by the gem-smiths.

He sees me drop the item,
“Madame, don’t look so upset,
there is always a next time
for reworking stones and budgets.”

I pay for what I’ve purchased
and quietly leave the old shop;
For me there will be no next,
no rewrites, the time is up.

Tuesday 3 June 2014


A peacock feather on the window sill -
not something that was light enough to float,
a crude wooden flute left on the table.
I scanned the room, there wasn’t any note.

But never mind, I still got your meaning
though you had got me miscast for the role;
you could have set whole worlds and cycles spinning
but still I’d not have stepped out at your call.

Sunday 1 June 2014

Last times

There are no goodbyes, maudlin mental snapshot
because the last time comes and goes unmarked
unselfconscious of its own solemn slot;
just an idle stroll, boredom, the car parked
on a whim on the corniche, no special spot
or significant trajectory earmarked -
this I did here for the last time - caught
between synapses before anything sparked.

Years later, some banana yellow sunshine
not the same, but with a vaguely poignant slant
retraces steps along a waterline
and there must be a reason, but it can’t
recall spectacular whys. That the last time?
Did it fall so quiet, unnoticed, so offhand?