Ugly Flowers

'Loves me, loves me not, loves me, loves me not'
and with that its petals all plucked
thrown away,
This flower (?) dropped in dismay
is left to rot in headiness.
For that pale yellow head 
holding pollen and dissatisfaction
is all that remains of the once heady scent
that would perforate the pores of the air
and make it hang heavy
with the weight of all pulsating in it, 
around it;
Now rid of its petals, aromatic,
the flower head does not smell.
Does not smell anything, much less sweet
does not look anything, much less pretty
so it lies at the foot
of the ugly wooden park bench:
It resigns itself to the soil
and learns to love rot,
learns to prettily decay, not display
because it has no other choice
than to rejoice
in its slow death
and hope, perhaps, that the rain might hasten it.

Crumpled flower from the same bush fares not better.
The wind, you see, shook it loose
so it fell, pendulating on its eddies,
and somebody— a different kind of romantic, perhaps—
picked it up and held it
cupped in her oh-so-gentle hands.
But she did not, could not, would not
and perhaps most importantly: wished not
to keep holding it
to keep it with her,
not even in her pocket, forget the heart:
so she yelled 'Coming!' to some faceless figure
and the flower, now wet from her sweat,
and crumpled in her oh-so-gentle palm,
was dropped on the ground
in a flurry much less pleasant.
Now no one, not even romantics,
bother to pick it up.
For what can you do
with this abandoned, crumpled flower?
It's not pretty enough: its once electric purple
faded to a lonely lilac, 
so wrinkled its petals
so crushed its stem
It's not even Flower anymore: come on,
we'll find a different one, a prettier one
and it will learn to revel in rot too.

2nd April/ (2/30)/ Free verse

Featured image credit: Alan Shapiro on 500px

Morning jog after a lifetime

I wake at six and am immediately proud.
It's a college day and I have the time to go for a run today. 
I lace on my shoes like this fresh morning enthusiasm and it begins.
Round I
I feel like youth;
like that soft green shooting out of that old tree bark
with its springtime crayon leaves,
I replay the day before yesterday,
and the day before that, and the day before that
perhaps subconsciously 
but my sucky bowling skills propel my feet forward,
The pavement feels 
I'm breathing the same air I'm walking on
and I'm not even out of breath when I circle back to the start again.
Round II
Some strange fruit or squirrel poop— I can't tell—
drops like light rain from my starting point tree.
Hearts with elongated tips stretch 
out from a sunrise-green plant
to cheer me on
(for running? for living? I cannot tell.
Perhaps both.)
And I think how just until a few weeks ago,
I would've thought this impossible:
I have not had the time to be alone 
and laugh at dumb jokes with 'casual friends'—
When I stop for water it is more out of sheer habit than necessity.
Round III
Perhaps this soul is not built for happiness.
Perhaps introspection is my fatal flaw,
for I cannot conceive of a world where joy lasts. 
When did I fall in love with melancholy
so much that momentary absences of it
feel like some strange fruit or squirrel poop—
I cannot tell—
and banter feels like dragonfruit on my tongue
I do not know what to make of it: it's bland
but looks so pretty and feels so exotic
and being cool or hilarious or fun
seems like the kind of neck contortion in sleep you're so comfortable with then
but have stiff aching muscles after.
Round IV
I find you cannot run with a heavy head.
The pavement around the park seems endless
and my steps too short or too slow
and a line from someone else's poem 
echoes with the pound of my feet—
'God mason, heart heavier than all the bricks'—
and I do not believe in god I am out of breath I still keep running and oh god I'm tired and it's a college day and—
Round V
I restart after another recharge
of water but also something else.
I try to concentrate on the air I was walking on.
Everywhere I look I see guilt—
guilt growing out of tree barks
guilt waving from branches
guilt gilded in the sky
guilt in the microscopic mole-holes of my sneakers—
I am not jogging properly
I am refusing to revel in youth
I am not writing or reading or thinking or doing,
I am gaslighting myself.
I am gatekeeping enjoyment from my mind
lest I get too attached.
I do not want to be habituated to happiness, not yet, 
because I know it will go away and I will be heartbroken again.
I am protecting,
but not without destroying
and I am to be blamed
for the waterboarding of my bones.
Round VI
Last round, I try to do it best as I can.
Running feels like my fugitive of a brain
and I wonder
whether being happy and being an artist 
are mutually exclusive choices.
How narcissistic of me to think myself an artist,
when I can't write a single word now to save my life—
Yet isn't it what I've been doing
(or had been)
since the time I learnt how to hold a pen?
Saving my life?
Now that pen might just write diary entries instead of poems
and the occasional mediocre verse it leaks
tastes like medicine in cranberry juice;
Fools and parades,
Fools and poets,
Fools, or are we. 

1st April/ (1/30)/ A bad start to NaPoWriMo.

House behind the rising sun

Sometimes in the middle of the night
This sleeping house wakes up, 
and tragic
like a death in the newspaper
or whispers at a wake
Wake at the hour it's supposed to sleep

and this house, in the middle of the night
when it does not even know the time
(or time, for that matter)
its ton of bricks crush down on it
like a sense of despair.
Solitary, calm, poetic midnight
transforms into loneliness
cold as concrete
hollow as the foundation, eaten away
by rats now through the years

and this house, it cannot cry now.
It is too old and too empty
or perhaps it is the fact
that it does not have floorboards
to hide secrets underneath
to be pried open by fingernails
and put back in place at will,
it does not have 
wood that can heave
and settle with a sigh;
Only cool (cold?) white tile
It would have to be broken
to see what lies underneath.

and this house, with its vast structure
feels small, so incredibly small
like a blue dot in a space painting
barely visible, with an arrow pointing
'You are here'
And all that you have ever known
And all that you will ever be—
it knows it is solid,
the world, whatever it is,
sees it is solid, and knowing
but the truth is it does not know
anything apart from...
well, nothing.

and this house is a bastet
it changes shape in the night
or perhaps it is merely
casting off its clothes in the sundown's privacy
but it is afraid of its naked
self that hides during the day;
this house does not like the sun.
But neither does it like the moon
or the romanticized notions it carries
for all it sees is white tile,
it to tears
But never further, always choking on tidal brine
because it is that vast, you see,

and this house wants to scream
not for love, not for mercy, not for help,
but to make the particles
of its very skeleton resonate with shrill emptiness
until it implodes
like a bomb shelter, perhaps,
clattering furniture, falling bricks, gaping holes
that existed before it fell apart
Because it had never been together, really,
only now it might collapse
and let its weariness radiate 
in tidal waves breaking
on the shore
finally uncovering its underbelly
finding, perhaps,
some stillborn child
blood of this very house
gone quietly, loudly
into the black embrace of night. 

Memoir in Marble

The marble bathtub is cracked
with the weight of too many heads
having rested on its broad rim, 
claw feet dragged 
sluggish 'cross its side
water carving grooves in stone.

Except it's not
The pieces of the rim keep falling off
jigsaw-puzzled into place, they don't stay
like the heads inevitably lifted
weights taken off but
marbled memory-red in the cold
of this ugly jagged monument, cement-exposed. 

Frangipani-scented soap scum
on walls cut through 
Missile assault of brackish shower
Bleeding into hair-clogged drain
Shampoo bottles sweat on sentry duty
as the humid stillness makes fools of all.

The cracked marble bathtub has seen
naked bodies sprawled on its floor
sweating flesh soaking in
the intricate carvings of marble
that singer chisels into the air with his very voice,
Shadows of fear and thrill
cast in the windowless sunlight.

So it is nothing new to the cracked marble tub
As another push, another shove
smashes another skull 
on the rim
bones cracking white
bleeding wine, slow thick wine,
sanguinifying diluted detergent water
Shadowed by looming cheshire cat grin
in that face with new moon-eyes
disappearing in the swinging dark door. 

For the nameless gay cousin uncle

“Don’t take it personally,” 
my sister, also queer, says with a tired sigh.
“You know how they are.”
You see, distant relative I don’t even know the name of, 
They were talking about you this night. 

Dear Uncle, I know you have a little brother
who's probably the pride of the family—
he has a job, and a wife,
and a respectable well-settled life;
You wore eyeliner to a shaadi
and danced to Baby Doll. 

Dear Uncle, I'd known long before this night
the hatred in the hearts of this family 
for all the people who are 'others'
This family that could be so caring and kind,
and I had somehow loved them through it all;
Now, I cannot talk to my maama
without hearing his mocking laugh, saying
"I'll tell you why he isn't married yet"
Cannot look at my maami without reading the subtext of
"Because he likes men."
Cannot even smile at my own mother 
without replaying her dramatic gasp at this odd alien creature.

Dear Uncle, you don't know I exist
I don't know who you are
Yet I still feel that hot red spot
in the middle of my forehead
that opened like a furious third eye this night
But did not wreck loose any fireballs
that set about the end of the world
like your mere existence did.

Dear Uncle, I do not know
whether your kohl-lined smolder
was your personal gay yell from the rooftop
Or your 'earth-shattering' dance
was your tandava, your middle finger
to the family which never treated you like one—
I may never know, either, 
you will never read this poem
and if you do, I hope it's not over 
our shared pained smiles of the aching bones
our khandaan gives us someday. 

Dear Uncle, forgive me, 
For I will never be as brave as you are,
I can make my boiling blood simmer
until it spills and screams in the private ink of these pages,
but I could not fight the words that were said
with the immense heat that built up inside my head
—I was exhausted, and scared, and alone
But those are no excuses: to be a silent observer
is to be a part of the crime.

I'm a criminal, dear uncle, as I sit writing
this angry gay poem behind bars
around my throat
my throat which learnt to choke on its own
soon after it managed to open up last year,
if only to itself;
And you are this criminal's muse, dear uncle,
You have fused
this black ace ring permanently to my finger now
this magical metallic bolt that lets the closet stay open
and closed at the same time.

I wish I could let you know
that I took it personally, dear uncle—
I did not know you existed until today
and though my cowardly hands 
did nothing to stop that machine gun,
It made this unprecedented Picasso mosaic of my bones
Perhaps, close to, what it would've made of you.

Dear Uncle, I know none of my words will ever be enough
and I'm a cynic who doesn't buy that telepathic connection shit
But for today, just for today,
I want to believe that I'm there with you in spirit
wherever you are,
that you may feel some unexplained warmth
in this cold, cold, cold of the dual atmospheres
That your brain might throw up a kind word
amidst all the slurs it keeps replaying. 

Dear Uncle, this is a really long shot
But I hope one day we gatecrash a wedding
and march on to the stage to proclaim:
"Yes, I'm a queer, I'm a freak, I'm a fag,
I've got mud on my face and I'm a big disgrace
and I will wave my banner and shout
until the stars above you tremble,"
And we will be in drag, dear uncle, 
a mass slaughter of this civilised family's collective brain;
and we will laugh at gay jokes together
when we get kicked out of the family,
Estranged from those who were strangers in the first place
Maybe I could be brave enough with you.

Dear Uncle, it should not be a big deal
I've heard worse, way worse, but it is
and your eyeliner and dance moves
should not be brave— it's been too long, they should be ordinary
But whatever it meant, it made you extraordinary,
extra-everything in the minds of the people
who cannot handle anything extra
beyond their narrow tunnel vision of their little frog-pond world,
Who do not give two shits about you
except when it comes to tittering
Tittering that will turn into jittering
flames of the torches they'll bring to burn our houses down,
But we will make our houses fireproof, dear uncle,
We will build them so they spit it right back
Spit rainbow-hued fire tornadoes
That will char the sky and this mob's faces
in the colours of the love they fear so much;
And we will
Take it personally.

Why and other monosyllabic nightmares

Another half-day of mindless scrolling
Another half-day of unfocused rumination
Another half-day of tired naps later,
I find myself pleading guilty
in the court of productivity and optimisation
And so I dig into that bottomless sack of writing prompts I possess:
My life.

But what do I do now?
Now that I've exhausted all those metaphors
that never could convey anything concrete anyway;
I think about writing a poem about the Ice Queen
and not-so-subtly projecting on to her,
I think about how I'm past the stages
of romanticising, and of not romanticising,
I think about all the poems I could write—
Redundant, already crumpled and thrown in my paper-shredder mind.

I dip my paintbrush in my blood
And draw sigils on the floor sacrificing
my body to sadness for poetry,
Adorn the altar of insanity
With the icy tinsel of my frozen tears,
Cover the pebble made of scream stuck in my throat 
with colourful paint, tack some sequins on it
Call it art, present to you
to use as a paperweight.

Here, inside the fortress built of enamel ribs
I put a suction needle in my heart
here, inside the safety of the exhibition gallery 
I have the luxury to air censored content—
if it can be called a luxury, that is. 

I turn myself inside out, like a coat pocket
Shake all the lint and dirt out on paper
in the hope of being restored to my natural pocket-state
(whatever that may be)
But as anyone who's ever turned anything inside-out knows,
you can never quite get rid of it all.

I am not a Gryffindor, my art
is a blanket woven out of cowardly moments
Dyed out of silent vessels filled with nothing and everything
Embroidered with the words 'Passive Deathwish'
as if they mean anything to anyone but me;
My art is this cozy blanket
I'm getting too comfortable in.

My art is the rug I hastily threw over
the mess on the floor before you came in—
Creation concealing destruction—
You knocked,
'Come in,' I said,
You said the rug was so pretty, you wish you'd made it
You left but you didn't know
that the rug's fused to the floor.

is all we have between us:
So much yet so little,
so rich yet so lacking,
Its inventions can heal 
anyone but its own inventor
Or they can spread, contagious,
like the virus I feel, treading borders
too much to count—
Until every work becomes so unique,
uniqueness doesn't exist anymore.
Only loneliness in a crowd. 

Beauty, you see, is only what art presents—
pain is not poetic, nor sorrow edgy—
For all its pure and noble ambitions,
art has an ulterior motive: attention, validation, appreciation
Why else cut yourself in half and indulge the world
in this sensational magic trick?
All the artist wants
is to be seen.

To be seen, to be heard, to be felt, 
Yet I do not want your sympathy
I have no desire for your admiration
for you only see the creation, maybe the preservation,
But not the destruction that lies behind
the bodies burnt in the plague before the renaissance;

You see the rug and not the mess
neither do you want to, and I understand—
Well, what do I want then?
Don't you see? I don't have a clue.
How could I?
How else could this poem exist?

Image by: Aiko Uchiha on We Heart It

If Apollo had a conscience

A saying known about me goes today—
'Apollo loves you? You are screwed to hell'
I could smite all mouths which these words say
I won't, though; for that's the truth, I can tell.

My endless power to heal, what good does it bring?
I fail to save even those whose love I won
Their fates forever sealed with Hades' ring
The sea or the earth seems higher up than the sun.

Though how do I shield from the arrows of erosy?
The boundless beauty of mortal souls attracts
A disease which seems to have no remedy
My heart, it shies, away from loveless contracts.

To the deity of augurs, fate, his own, concealed
But try, I will, to keep all feeling sealed.

30th April/ (15/30) / Shakespearean sonnet

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City sunsets

Sunsets in the city
aren't the most romantic affair— you see,
there's no sun-dipping-into-the-horizon
(because there is no horizon)
no distant crash of waves
or the chirping of unknown birds,
(Though you might just get a nice breeze if you're lucky)
there's no fire in the hearth slowly going out.

But leaning here against the balcony's railing
Gazing at the sky you just know
you just feel the sun setting
And a slight smile creeps up your lips
and you feel the railing's warmth
which has had time to heat up the entire day,
but also its strangely soothing metallic cool.

You just know you're watching a sunset
without watching the sun set—
In the gradient of the sky
blue, then a hint of thunderstorm grey,
soft lamplight orange, then lovely, lovely pink
before finally descending
into the grey-blue of the oncoming night.

The oncoming night,
which does not fall, but rises
Though not before that flock of birds
stops tracing figures-of-eight in the dusk
then zeroes, and gets thinner and thinner
as each bird alights on the 'chosen one' tree,
Not before that lone kite
stops floating in the swirls and eddies
of the streetlight wind,
Not before you finally notice
the mosquitoes in your feet
and wish those powerlines in front of your house
cutting through every view
would just disappear forever,
Not before you still heave a contented sigh
and go back inside,
missing it already.

26th April/ (14/30) / Free verse

Ode to Joy

No, I’m no Beethoven, but I’ll try
to do you justice, joy;
Not a lot of poems are dedicated to you, are they?
We’re all depressed poets here, yearning for you,
spilling our sorrows out onto paper,
out into the world, in the hope
that when we’ve spilled it all, we may calm down
the storm inside us and find you as a remnant 
And see you, experience you, bathe in you—
But when we do, we never write poems to you, do we?

We’re afraid, joy, that if we revel too much
in your sun-scented, waxing crescent moon-washed arms
and share this fullness we finally feel
inside our bodies, parched for so long,
we’ll end up losing you. Or maybe
we’re just speechless,
for you’re not much of a writing prompt, are you?
But then, so aren’t our lives supposed to be:
Vomiting pain helps, yes, but romanticising not.
Nobody romanticises you, do they, joy?

But what is there to romanticise?
How can I paint a picture or write a poem
that’s beautiful enough to capture your likeness?
For joy, oh, true joy, now that I feel you
now that I feel this rainbow ocean of butterflies
this calm zephyr of sunrise
the still, satisfied millpond of moonlight
engulfing my heart I feel
That you were worth it,
That I am worth it.

Maybe it’s you healing your way up through me
but somehow, somewhere I feel
that you are worth the demons
that have made me feel angelic today,
you are worth the pain, the suffering, the struggling
the chaos, the storms, the blackholes, the voids
all the metaphors I have used for my grief
are now washed away with your gentle breath
that finally caresses the skin of my soul;
After all, one cannot feel joy 
if one has not known despair.

Joy, oh sweet, pure joy,
You are not a party popper
Or bungee-jumping in the rain—
I feel your tranquility, your finality
in the ichor now coursing through my veins
and in the healing of well-deep wounds
that now seem shallow, oh, so shallow
before your benign, fulfilling presence
that leaves the air inside me smelling of roses.

Oh, what a moment it was, 
Swelling with mellifluous melody
as you peeled the glasses of gloom off my eyes—
that'd been there so long, I'd forgotten they were glasses—
that had shown doom as the answer to life
You, joy, you show people life
needs no answer— it is life, it is us
that we live for, and it is you
that makes it worth our while. 

Pure, all-calming, persistent joy
You came when I least expected you to
led in by my home: Mummy, Cas, and Dean and Sam
grown and nurtured by me;
And I know not whether I will have you tomorrow
or the day after, or next week, or next month,
For I am no seer, sweet joy, my dear
But I will let the slow chocolate fudge of your walnut brownie melt on my tongue
and you have been here for a week,
and I feel you inside me now
And that is what matters. 

25th April/ (13/30) / Free verse

Why nature poems

I'm not saying nature will heal you
The cure, after all, depends on the nature of the wound
But being near a tree can give you oxygen anew

Which really isn't much of a breakthrough
When inside your mind, you know you're doomed
So even if it could, nature won't heal you

But you're so exhausted there's nothing you can do
Cry and relate to the songs that melancholy singer crooned
But unlike a tree, it won't give you oxygen anew.

What's wrong with planning a little rendezvous
With the sunset flowers in the park that have bloomed
Don't expect healing— nature can't do that to you

But the colour of that butterfly can blot out your blue
Even if temporarily, it'll pull out the endless thread of gloom
And bonus: the trees will give you oxygen anew.

This dusky horizon that the sun dips into
Can't replace your shrink; without a ship, you're marooned
Stars, animals, nature— it's not their job to heal you
But that tree can surely give you oxygen anew. 

16th April/ (12/30) / Villanelle