Monday 27 June 2016

Dinshaway, 27th June 1906

I’ve never been to Dinshaway, some places
are like that, unvisited, widely unknown;
but when their names are taken, a line of faces
hovers over memory, as if they’re my own.

Perhaps I was among the flock of pigeons
which took the bullets for the soldiers’ sport;
I was the burnt grain; the trailing smidgen 
of smoke, the shock at the sentence of the court.

Maybe I was the wood that got hammered -
unwillingly nailed into the scaffold;
the mother’s final lament; the child’s last word;
the crowd’s last gasp at the rope’s stranglehold.

Not the key, nevertheless, a witness;
I was there when the bodies twitched, lifeless.

This is, in a way, a response poem to Cavafy's 27th June, 2 p.m. In another, it's a response to an old news story that feels like a recollection, dredged up from the deepest layers of deja vu-ness.  An 'incident' that sowed the seeds of a different Brexit. It slotted into me like a missing link of memory the first time I heard it; and it continues to move me, no doubt because there are very similar tales from pre-independent India.  I mean, that must be the rational explanation.

Monday 20 June 2016

Old melodies

Listening non-stop to old melodies
dredged up from clogged memories of childhood,
frayed satin ribbons, pressed flowers in scrapbooks,
caught in folds of pages, in an obscure crease

of time and place. Reminiscent of things
I hardly think about now, the drizzle
of sunlight through leaves, long-tailed kites, and whistles,
wide open skies, gentle lands, and landings.

Halfway across the world, streets, towns convulse -
someone, something has fallen, crashed again,
the earth is slack jawed, crushed to smithereens
a lone armed man gloats at a feeble pulse.

Can't find a tune to match, something titled -
‘never yours, with aversion’?  Unbridled.

Sunday 12 June 2016

Fancy dress

However timid my heart, I will wear
it where I please, on my sleeve or my hat
or under linen skin, layer upon layer;
hide it within the staunchest rib, a nightmare
maze of bone and secrets, crosshatched slats,
but they’ll still find it and pick it quite bare.

The hats too shorn of every rosette, the caps,
of feathers, badges; would you know me then
for your own among this mass of passive men?
They’ll pluck it clean from the cloth, a pulse, a sob
of breath, a scrap of flesh, hardly a throb,
a drop of blood on the wires of timetraps.

Tuesday 7 June 2016

Peace and bliss

I like the way your hair waves off your forehead
in a gentle tide; the way your eyes crinkle
up small as you smile wide; your ears flush red
when you’re discomfited; the unpaired dimple
on the left corner of your mouth. My delight
stems from ordinary things, from the simple
halo of your hair on my pillow, the sunlight
striking it aslant, dusting it in sprinkles.

The somewhat stale-warm morning breath of the room,
yours mingled in it, therefore heady like perfume;
your half-open palm a boon and a promise
unfurling around my days, one hallowed world
tucked in your limbs, lines of thigh and waist, back curled
under the covers. No greater peace or bliss.

Still somewhat taken up with the breaking of rules, not for art or some serious reason like that.  Just to see how it feels like, if poetry feels like poetry if it snaps a few strict ones...The word sonnet comes from 'little song' and mine is that still, quite little, littler than fourteen even :)

It's the start of the Ramadan here where I am, and one has to be in Arablands to appreciate that austerity and introspection and prayer and joyfulness and exuberance can combine so seamlessly, and in so many ways.  Peace and bliss. They do it in some style.  

If you are observing, then my greetings and best wishes to you for a serene and successful holy month, may you find what you are looking for and draw closer to your spiritual goals. 

And if you're not, like me, then just dig into the food served at iftars, wherever you are. This is my time of the year to go haleem hunting. Peace and bliss of a different order entirely! :)

Friday 3 June 2016

One less petal

Suppose it’s only thirteen, does it stop
being a sonnet? and suppose it’s not about
unrequited love, shakily devout?
would you agree it can still do the job?
Does an extra slant rhyme completely rob
it of meaning, the whole open to doubt?
Must every poem tow a line, never drop

its guard for even a single minute? lest
it’s called unflattering names - pseudo, fake.
If the rose had one less petal, you’d contest
its right to be a rose? Then why can’t this break
away from arbitrary rules? let it rest,
be thirteen, without being called a mistake.