To somebody that I used to love

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.

One A.M. Magic

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

 

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Just another Earth poem

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

'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

Youth comes after

"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

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

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
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

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 
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.
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, 
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. 

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
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.