Sunday 30 September 2018

Paper boats

Photo by Artak Petrosyan on Unsplash 

Paper boats on the river,
house of cards on the sands;
love walks on calloused feet,
winds wipe off the prints inland.
It stops sometimes, slumps and limps -
that too shows up in the prints.

Parchment leaves on the water,
fragile webs on a twig;
hope’s hands are slowly bleeding
popping dreams far too big.
The glass is cracked, the ice melts,
the heat is high, there is no help.

The brands are stocked in the shops, 
contract’s signed on dotted lines,
the top’s all yearly bonus,
the bottom marks overtime.
This glass ceiling’s pretty cute
depending on the side that’s viewed.

Fake and antifake uptrend,
history is just a hashtag -
edit, crop, rotate to suit.
There are two sides to each flag.
Several stripes, wheels, rockstars,
each with its own piece of war.

Back to writing it as it comes and keeping it short. Less agony for all concerned parties :) Still a little hungover, seem to be obsessed with rivers and riverine stuff such as confluences and boats, wonder why?  

The day's already getting noticeably shorter, light's failing by five thirty. I love all seasons, but autumn is my favourite, except I miss the long daylight of summer. But happy to do without the heat. The festival season is round the corner. Always a time for quiet glee. 

And it's also time for the spooky challenge sign ups over at Write...Edit...Publish...nothing quiet about that, I assure you...

Sunday 23 September 2018

The artwork on the panel and on target with the title heavy teeny tiny

Peace starts with an absence of hate and prejudice

Peace is not simply an absence of war,
an absence of violence. It’s something more.
Not just arms down but arms open in love
for the stranger and the neighbour next door.

Peace breaks out when love labours to be blind
to our differences, and tries to be kind
even when angered it does not give up.
And it starts with an open heart and mind.

Confluence in the Arabic Press - here in Al Ayam, 
one of the largest circulating local newspapers.
Well, Confluence is over, the photos have been clicked and the reviews are in and it was all a great success. Footfall exceeding expectations, wide coverage in the local press and much feel-good vibes. The variety and breadth of artworks were mind boggling - watercolours, acrylics, photos, pen-n-ink, mixed media, even a couple of installations, one of them an interactive one, and words, words, words in long poems and short. There were artists and poets there from Australia, Bahrain, Britain, Canada, Germany, India and Pakistan. And the age range varied from 12 years to 70+ - we at the Bahrain Writers' Circle are a diverse crowd.

Confluence in the Gulf Daily News - the oldest English language 
paper in Bahrain.

I was there with my Bahraini art-partner, Herz Al Banki, an award winning photographer-artist. We had four artworks up for this exhibition, his photographs used as prompts and then combined with my poems.  Thank you, Herz!  Here is our collaborative art on display at Harbour Gate.

Photographs : Herz al Banki Poetry: moi

Viewers at Confluence
I was quite sure initially that people would only look at the images and ignore the poetry - I mean, who reads poetry at an exhibition, right? But I stand corrected. And pleasantly surprised. Both the Chief Guest and the CEO of the Bahrain Financial Harbour read my 'art' too and commented on the poems. I saw other viewers take time to read as well. I got some positive reviews on the verses, so came away feeling chuffed. Herz and I were told, more than once, that we make a good artistic team - not exactly the most terrible thing to get inside my ears this entire year. 

Visitors at the exhibition.

Visitor reading the artworks. 

One of the writers, who volunteers with a local school for children with special needs, brought in the poems from a school-group to the exhibition and the children had their own panel where they depicted their take on 'Peace' for the International Peace Day on the 21st. They inspired my rubais up there for this post. 

Peace panel. Artists and poets - children of RIA Institute.
The exhibition included an interactive piece - an oil colour of a girl in pink ballet shoes and an invitation to visitors to add a line or two to take forward a poem about the artwork. Here's the installation at the beginning of the exhibition.

Interactive poetry panel for visitors. Artist :Sarah Madan.
The organisers are already planning a bigger event next year based on the success of this one. And guess who's going to go jump back in there? Yup, that's me. 


'Go someplace new and/or try something new' has been my unchanging, rolling New Year resolution for decades now. However difficult 2018 turns out to be, I can safely say I'm on target with the res. Phew! Also bang on target with the title-heavy teeny-tiny too. And you know what? Tomorrow is the 7th birthday of this 'ere blog - didn't see even a glimmer of all this happening seven years ago.  The level of relieved/smug/jubilant/grateful here is probably illegal, but I'm running with it anyways :)  

Sunday 16 September 2018

Reflections on the painting of an unknown artist in the previous exhibition at Harbour Gate

Imagine first a rusty strand of barbed wire,
then a bird sketched in soft russets and sapphires
perched beside the spines, painted against the sky -
just inches from pain, yet also free to fly.

This week I am a participant at Confluence – an exhibition of collaborative art and poetry at the Harbour Gate, organised by Bahrain Financial Harbour and the Bahrain Writers’ Circle. The exhibition is the first of its kind on this island where poets and artists have got together to make some awesome artworks combining images and words. This is, of course, not the first time I've done this kind of collaboration, check out this post and this too, but putting poems up at an exhibition? - that's a first for me....However, it's not what I wanted to tell you today. 

What I wanted to tell you is that I was at the venue last Wednesday. The artworks were being dropped off in preparation for the display to be set up on the next day.  And the previous exhibition, a large one of some 40-50 artists from Philippines, was being taken down to free up space for us. One of those paintings caught my eye and inspired this quatrain. 

Life is about perching on barbed wires and knowing when to lift off, about balancing the risks with the toeholds. I guess I am that bird in some ways. And goes without saying, I am also a tube light - wasn't nimble enough to take a photo, or the artist's name, before they whisked it off the display, otherwise you wouldn't really have to imagine the barbed wire or anything...

BUT...on the other hand - think I'm on target as far as the writing of teeny tiny with superlong titles goes :)  

I'll let you know how the exhibition turns out - wish us luck! 

Sunday 9 September 2018

Locked rooms

There's a room somewhere, locked up, left alone,
an empty corridor furred thick with dust;
no chink of sunlight, no winking cell phone -
days grow a skin in there, curdle and crust.

The guitar stands abandoned, falls out of tune,
no hand even offhand touches the frets,
the lamp's straight, the table's no longer strewn
with papers and sheet music and headsets.

The silence spins its own threads and curtains,
the paint in a corner sags by degrees,
months scab over, the door's harder to open,
locks won't yield to a bunch of rusty keys.

Neither you nor I go there too often,
the dust of silence is layered, and thickens.

Still kind of wrapped up in the 'house' metaphor. Too many locked rooms, too many subjects that we are silent about. Need to be aired out with a bit of straight talk. But meaningful dissent is being slowly stifled, it's being equated with a lack of patriotism or even criminality. Activists are raided and harassed. History is being revised to suit political agendas. 

Last week, an archaic law criminalising homosexuality was struck down by the Indian Supreme Court. Still a lot of inequality in my world, a lot of marginalisation and discrimination based on gender or sexuality or appearance or where someone was born. But one step away from that. Every step is a landmark and aids the slow march to the destination.

Friday 7 September 2018


Image credit

মাঝে মাঝে তাই  শুধু বাংলায়  বলে  -

অন্যের থেকে ধার নেওয়া কথার ধার

বেশি  লাগে, ছড়ে হাত, মন, স্বপ্ন,

শব্দ শুনতে পায়  রূপক ছেঁড়ার।

অনেক কিছুই গাঁথা  এই ঘেরাটোপে

অনেক কথা দিয়ে ছাউনি ছাওয়া,

কিন্তু সেখানেও অবসাদ নামে

গাঁথনির ফাঁকে ফাঁকে হিমেল হাওয়া

সুঁচের  মতন বেঁধে মাথায় কানে,

বাতাসের ঝাপটায় সব অগোছালো,

শুকনো পাতার মতো  টুকরো কথা

না দেওয়াল, না ছাত ছাওয়া যায় ভালো।

অন্যের জরি, ফোঁড় - ছন্দের মখমলে

বেমানান  ঠেকে - তাই বাংলায় বলে।

in bengali

that's why it only speaks in bengali sometimes -
the edge of borrowed language feels too sharp
ends up scratching hands, hearts, dreams, it hears
the sounds of metaphors being torn up

many things are pinned down in this enclosure
the awning's made of many stories, words
but even so, exhaustion trickles in, 
spaces in between let in icy winds

which prick ears and minds like sharp needles,
gusts of wind ruffle and mess up everything,
fragments of words like withered, crisp leaves,
they can't be used to build walls nor thatch roofs.

someone else's stitches, threads on the velvet of rhymes
feels awkward sometimes, so it speaks bengali.

The first difficulty in translating Bengali to English I face is that Bengali does not have any capitalisation. Whatever line breaks one might use, the eye travels smoother over the lines, there is less of a 'break'. Apart from the other word to word losses in translation that is.  

The word Bangla is used by native speakers for both the land and the language so 'In Bangla' can mean in the language or in the region/space - can't translate those shades of meanings. The word 'dhaar' means both 'sharpness' and 'borrow' so 'dhaar kora kothar dhaar' - how to get that to transition into English? 'the edge of borrowed language' is the closest I thought but the alliteration becomes different, more of an internal rhyme - the end syllable of language and edge rather than the phonetic sounds at word beginnings. 

The translation is a bare bones word for word sense. Or maybe senseless. But thought I'd just bung it in because most of my visitors here don't read Bengali. What do you think?

Sunday 2 September 2018


The sky turns its face towards me
and raises a brow in a question mark
will you know me wherever I am
and wherever you are? Without
the fingerprints of a single star?
I don’t know, I whisper. But I am
being diplomatic. The sky’s the same
everywhere. I don’t wish to hurt
any feelings. Probably meet again
unexpectedly in another city
somewhere. The smoke of evenings coils
around me upwards, the factory
whistles its workers slowly home.
Nearby a stripped tree wears nesting
sparrows like sparse winter foliage.
The shoeshine man sits at the crossroads
of darkness and cobbles the soles
of scuffed daydreams.