Dear A, How are you? I know you're not doing well, and neither can I. You turned twenty two months ago, and it's summer break now— Youth and time: the perfect combination, right? But I know you resent your twentieth birthday with the same seething passion you could never love me with. I know you resent it because after that day, you stabbed your soul so hard that its shriek shook the heart you'd strung up on a torture rack, and your soul hasn't sung since; Not like it used to do, not like it was supposed to do with the vodka-spiked tea of youth running through your veins I can see it's mute; your blank slate empty of creation littered with your torn-up hair instead. To tell you the truth, A, I've been devoid of creation too. I can no longer seem to create pretty things so I've turned into a vulture for them: I scavenge for beauty now, Blacking out words in old newspapers to dig up poetry in that manner you hated Hunting for bits of paper and shiny little things to assemble in my scrapbooking journal in that 'aesthetic instagrammy' manner you so despise And I find that discarded beauty in my broken house so that I'm arms deep in its cracks, fingers fumbling for fulfilment Even so, I am glad; at least I'm not scavenging for sadness like you used to do. Do you still make your 5s like squiggly S's, A? Because you rented room 505 for a lifetime in the hope that someone would read it as SOS, And your yearning is a poor veil for the love you could never afford yourself so you look for others to spare some for you— Perhaps that is why you chose to break yourself so you could kintsugi yourself back in place, Be better, stronger, more beautiful, more artistic but still not something that hunger could be satiated with. The other day I heard you load the gun of adulthood to shoot your dreams in the head And sharpen your paper knife to cut lines in their fat greasy thighs. I know because I found the bullet holes still sizzling the bloodless cuts (you could never cut that deep) still unhealed on the body in your backyard— Now a body, because you could only create on the fumes of despair for so long before the fuel ran out. Didn't I tell you, A, your suffering had no meaning in the first place? You thought you were a sinkable ship but it turns out you're doomed to float forever. Let me help you float undoomed. Because I may not love you now but I want to, by god I want to love you. So let me rip the band-aids off healed wounds and gently peel the bandages off pits of blood to check on their state Because I see you, because I am you, because I perch in your stabbed soul and I may not be the hope Dickinson told of so fondly but I certainly have feathers, although small, I do have the spark that could light your way to get that heart off that black rack— A will-o-the-wisp, if you will— I'll teach you to arrange the pieces you thought you'd lost along the way in that scrapbook manner I like, and it will all make sense.
Inside-out the world turns its being Blank-eyed moon seeing Fragrant shampoo wine weaving air-mesh Melting night flesh Quiet, darkness makes creation reach salvation Listening walls, drumbeat pulsation from Secret portals locked in shadows Opened in slanting streetlight from windows that watch Blank-eyed moon seeing melting night flesh reach salvation.
30th April/ (11/30)/ Ovillejo
God, not another meh poem about the planet Written on days meant to commemorate but never remember— Earth day, Environment day, water day, wildlife day— Days we all pretend like we're concerned For the planet we call home Understanding nods, grave tones of voices proclaiming 'doom' And then, soon as that webinar or talk or fancy event ends, Whoosh go our promises Down the dumpster go the deeds. We complain about the heat while lounging smack dab in the middle of air-conditioned domes— Domes we lull ourselves into Bubbles we close ourselves into— not us, surely? Nothing bad will happen to me, right? Perhaps we simply cannot conceive of a catastrophe unfolding right in front of our eyes. Perhaps it is just the fact that one word, one phrase repeated enough times Loses all meaning. SOS could be urgent. SOS, SOS, SOS, SOS, SOS, SOS, SOS is just droning noise. So we thump our chests and wail 'climate change' In the middle of the planet burning, curling in with snaking hellfire embers as a paper ball does. As a paper ball this four billion-years old entire planet with... Nothing. Imagine nothing. Hard, isn't it? Our minds cannot even imagine nothing Cannot see the paper ball as ashes Cannot conceive of death. Now I see you, thinking, "But I always turn off the lights But I never throw away food But I carpool" It's not an 'I', you see, It's a we. A we who wages wars A we who lets moneyed men with tiny feet make giant carbon footprints A we who wants more, more, more A we who chooses ignorance. I will not claim that the Earth is crying. I will not tell you the universe will weep over this planet's demise, For it will not, And words, however powerful, however beautiful Cannot save you or me Or every single bird, chameleon or tree But perhaps there is still time to wipe away that sleep dust in our eyes and do what we speak For just another meh poem about the planet, perhaps, To try and re-verse this gloomy destiny.
22nd April/ (10/30)/ Happy Earth Day, folks. Don’t forget climate change is still a looming death sceptre over all of us.
'बस, कट रही है ज़िन्दगी' दूसरी ओर से जवाब आया। हॅंस कर फिर मैंने भी लिख दिया, 'ज़िन्दगी काट ही रहे हैं, जी नहीं रहे।' जानते नहीं एक-दूसरे को उतने करीब से दोनों फिर भी ईमानदारी की ये ज़रा सी छींट उछल कर, अनजाने ही, कुछ समान, कुछ बिलकुल अलग बँटे दुःख के रंग के निशाँ ज़रा हलके कर जाती है। 'बस, कट रही है ज़िन्दगी' यह साधारण सा वाक्य ज़रिया है लोगों के बीच दिल को ढका रखकर नग्न कर देने का, कहने का, की न तुम अकेले, और आशा करते हैं कि न हम भी; शायद कोई किसी दिन पूछ ही ले कि भाई क्यों कट रही ज़िन्दगी तुम्हारी इस कदर? शायद किसी दिन हम भी बताने की हिम्मत जोड़ पाएं। बस, कट रही है ज़िन्दगी उस पेड़ की भाँति जिसके पास कहीं और जाने को नहीं, जिसकी रगें बारूद की तरह इतनी सूख चुकी हैं की अब काटने पर लहू तक नही बहता; उस पेड़ ने अपना विनाश-लिप्त भाग्य अब चुपचाप गले लगा लिया है। बस, कट रही है ज़िन्दगी हमारे जिस्म की भाँति इन काले-नीले पन्नों के बीच जिनके ज़रिये सुन लेते हैं, कह लेते हैं, मगर कर नहीं पाते जैसे हम पेड़ और वो इंसाँ हो। बस, कट रही है ज़िन्दगी हम सब थके हारे कवियों की जो अपने दुःख-दर्द से कुछ सुन्दर बनाने की कोशिश में हैं, कोशिश में हैं अपनी रचनाओं के ज़रिये ही जी लेने की, उस छुपती-छुपाती ख़ुशी से गुफ़्तगू कर लेने की जिसकी आस में बस, कट रही है ज़िन्दगी।
10th April/ (7/30)/ Seems like I can write in Hindi only in April
One stanza inspired by this PoemsIndia prompt
"It's the month of poetry and I have nothing to write about— Each sunset and leaf Each tempest and grief already expounded on— I'm all out of steam now Everything I had to say, I said when I was young," I say. And when were you young? You have been old all your short life, my love, When before today have you slunk onto the forbidden fifth floor of that campus building that no one even knew you could go to, When else have you so overused the phrase 'alone, but not lonely' When else have you walked into love with yourself, eyes wide open, voluntary, and felt a quiet kind of thrill, a cool kind of warmth on art-and-coffee dates with yourself, When, before today, has your ink not run out but your words have? When else, sweet child of the rain, have you yelled your heart into a mic on a stage in a room full of 'chill' artists— if artists can ever be that— Been hugged so long and so tight by a complete stranger, felt like crying twice on the same day in the same place and not romanticised it in rhythmless verses? When else have you inhaled the pages of antique books that you bought by the kilo, and been done with it in a couple of lines in a single poem; When else have your palms run out of room for fallen blooms? When else, when before, my darling, have you cheered at an acapella and a rainbow fashion show with the person you're still too afraid to call 'best friend' When else have you sucked at bowling or fallen on your ass off a tiny skateboard and felt your hand a jigsaw puzzle piece as that boy helped you up, When else has that fun girl from your class been your partner in tiny crimes or that chatty big-brother-figure classmate called you the 'crouching moron hidden badass goth girl' When else have you indulged in little adolescent pleasures too unpoetic to write about? For you, beloved of the winter stars, time runs backwards. For these are only the newest-born sprigs of youth that you might think pruned away too quickly even before they've had the chance to breathe, and you will think joy fleeting technicolour glitching in the old noir television set of life, But to think joy a firecracker and sorrow a candle is a bit double-standard, don't you think? You are yet to pat the puppy's head a bit too forcefully You are yet to set the milk jugs precariously close to the edge You are yet to accumulate enough air in your lungs to blow out that seemingly everlasting candle, I know, But heart, I have yet to see another still beating after so often being beaten within inches of its life, I have yet to cup a face in my hands of someone so dimmed yet so alive. Remember when your sister told you she saw the evening in your soul? You have not yet felt young, oh you, beautiful old, But what is more youthful than the evening more brimming with possibility serene yet buzzing with quiet current-generator hums colourful yet perfumed with the greyed earth— Don't you see? The dusk is yet to dawn. I know it is unfair for it to be all rocks and you barefoot, For the tunnel so long and you exhausted, I know you will keep retreating into the familiar comfort you do not want yet still, unbeknownst, cling to, For I am but a corporeal hand for you to hold, but I promise I will be enough and will keep holding you even when you do not. You are artist, my dear, not art, to be strung up on a wall and admired, You create to destroy some, to birth some, to feel some— and feeling one does not incapacitate the other as neither does a moment's absence equal annihilation of the self, or peace, or joy, which are just as worthy as detachment, or chaos, or distress are. 'Happiness' has not stopped being a loaded gun of a word. There exist still, inside you vampires feeding on your blood hellhounds baying for more servings of lava Demons, nightmares all that you have yet to catch in the net woven of language The same language whose kite strings have yet to set free seraphims orchestrating pegasi hungry for flight and moon gods thundering to be alive. The ocean of thought never dries up, for you are human And words can certainly not leave now; In fact, they are yet to come for youth comes after, Unwasted on the young.
5th April/ (4/30)/ Free verse
Special thanks to Starninja‘s comment which
I plagiarised inspired some of the lines in this poem.
Here comes the Sun, slinking out the clouds Godfather of this earth light casting off its shroud, Casting the shroud off those whose moods set with its setting and rise with its floods, Or those whose first 'art' was inspired by the slumber and wake of this gentle giant of fire, Whose fury, unforgiving, can just as quickly destroy as its benevolence creates all life and joy. Here comes the Rain, dripping off unseen shores Angel tears, heaven faucets— countless metaphors, A being of sound and smell unlike Sun, its antithesis (?) But like it can nurture or make all perish; Such beauty, such poise, this lady's voice Her mere presence plays with hearts touching unseen strings in gentle harps, Mother of poetry and storms the ocean's first-born. Here come the Stars, oft overlooked for the moon Long dead, still twinkling in the sky's black cocoon Dagger wounds in dark dresses holding firmly in their embrace you, and the secrets that dwell behind that face, For the stars were how we first learned of poetry Diamonds in the sky, corpses burning for eternity.
4th April/ (3/30)/ Childish rhyming verse
Featured image: CD painted by my sister
'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 heady 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
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.
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 inviting. 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.
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.
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.
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—
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.
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.
Sometimes in the middle of the night This sleeping house wakes up, sudden 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 pockmarked fixed unmoving— 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, pockmarked fixed moving 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 white pockmarked unmoving finally uncovering its underbelly finding, perhaps, some stillborn child blood of this very house gone quietly, loudly into the black embrace of night.
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 Water 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 things: 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.