Leaving My Only Home

It was of sunsets and orange melting cirrus’ hierarchy, scattered
conversation crumbs in the public balcony pressed down the next morning
by fish baskets pregnant with bombay ducks, gazing copulative coppersmith barbets
seeking monotone, me picking out glorious shrimp heads, the lustre of cobwebs over
a sulking clothes line, maritime meanderings of breezes that once held my ancestors —
Mumbai, circa 2019, fresh and revisited endless, still poked unfairly by those
eschewing onion and garlic. Distant diving of potato fritters, coconut water
an elixir for insomniac dark circles, the door of my room widowed
by former tenants confiding secrets to me, joined by stray housewife gossip,
lunchbox recipes lacking creaminess but instead enhanced by everyday love;

my own solution was to mix cheap gin with kokum. Nocturnal confessions to
Amsterdam, Paris, and eventually Sicily where I finally learned being human
is all it takes to have one’s lips seized by someone beautiful and skilled – a rare
combination, much like dried mackerel and puffed rice soaked with the tender
critique of my grandmother; nutritionists claim it’s just omega 3 and protein,
maybe zinc. I’ll add Arabian Sea to the list of essential micronutrients. One forgets
introverted home-alone days as one forgets childhood commutes, the enrichment
of tallow no amount of sunflower oil can match, that one night spent hydrating
a delivery boy anaemic from the city’s demands, those peripheral plants seeking closure.
Joined by vernacular calendars, refrigerated sorrow, hoarded bird calls from Corbett and
flamingo mornings, freckled tiles protruded in revolt urging a valid rebirth, peepul roots
from the terrace annexing my bathroom to usher worms and the Western Ghats,
I danced naked amidst it all, the pheromones from this temporal orgy
heightened by the rustic tossing of lemongrass and home-made sausage.
A sanctuary. A temple to chant nothingness, acquired only by a few poets. To
sleep into a deep withdrawal from the world that lists you as nobody, dissect in private
the mind’s creases, be preened by a sleepless dawn’s limbless allure, writhe nude in
monsooned humidity without judgement; here is where I butchered films and goats alike,
neutral, sacred is the cut that decides a creation’s future – cheek, ribs, loins, the
resilient spine sawed for a butterfly, the precious brain and non-negotiable liver, alas,
the blood that makes me who I am – pure. Today I rip out posters and shelves and coffin
every book into slow stacks, whack and fold each linen, wade past expired evening laughter
of exes and actors and well-wishing travellers potent with wine-induced sarcasm and tears,
the troughs of toilet tiles soiled by invisible urine, a bathroom withered by my sighs.
Towards the end everything becomes undocumented legacy – small talk, kite fights,
carpenter wisdom, plumber rants, pent-up pressure cooker orgasms, poised stutters of
unrequited texts. Cats scratch me a final time, jackfruit trees send departing incense,
the fattened neighbour and her prayer, the broker and his silence, my landlord’s meek
hand reaching mine in regret – an inevitable hammer. Left cut open all over the stairs, I
leak my various personas for the rest to devour, I become extinct as the car is filled,
above, in the empty house, I am sequestered into the walls.

– Ishan Sadwelkar, 2nd July 2020.

Swimming Lessons

Not that important. At age seven, when one is usually happiest,
I crashed my brother’s cycle, a profuse
slide over uneven tar sandpapered my elbows pink/red. I wasn’t
good enough, just the way the one isn’t rich enough
to travel first class. Never mind;

years later college offered, amply, commentary
similar to my (now) cyclist brother – no point in
pitching this vague project, don’t polish creative silverware,

sit quiet and swallow nicotine air; I nodded and ruminated
my undercooked image. Cheap beer
and occasional crisps as company, somber
Russian films with jarring subtitles, slow bearded boys who
cursed nostalgia and better education. Not that

it’s even worth mentioning — I thought of letting
my former flame know that I was abandoning all her secrets;
went to our river-shore and let them sail onward, drowning
in a stench of dead fish and old mistakes, it was her idea

of proper closure. Cormorants witnessed it. Although, there were

far more important things to be addressed: the essential fear
of what others might think (feel?), the fermented awareness
that one should’ve found the ideal life, then of course
the overall obvious incompetence of one’s body.
Years later
I found myself in a car feeling as though I’ve at last learned something,
I plucked the gearbox, but as always, crashed, and dad like always,
said I was still stupid and couldn’t (shouldn’t) ever drive; my eyes fell off

and kept seeking roads worth or not worth driving on — tribals, natives
teeming with hunt poems, elephant hymns; the occasional roadkill
that I helped clean, thawing valleys cleansed my skin, I carried
this nameless person I was now becoming
into unopened homes craving windows into our world. Today
it’s begun raining, as it does every year,

nothing special. I’m naked in the sea where at age five
I drowned only to resurface as a punching bag. That day
I wasn’t good enough. Boatmen laughed as I got rescued, flung
me onto sand like an unworthy anchovy, choking; a fisherwoman
roasted mackerel, scrubbed my light coconut head —
I stuttered I was okay, no really, it was nothing important, while
I cried tearless like one cries oneself at the movies –
later confessing nothing

By Dawn I’ll Be Fine⁣

Innocuous strips of shadows occasionally train⁣

Across smudged windows tempered by rain⁣

Locked indoors a troubled silence continues to brine⁣

Forewords of unread books hope by dawn I’ll be fine⁣

Falling eyes undress empty streets over and over⁣

Each rippling pothole craving for eventual closure⁣

The drizzle gives way to the smogged city’s outline⁣

Its moonlit silhouette forecasts by dawn I’ll be fine ⁣

Against run of play I fling open an empty fridge⁣

Rummage through wrappers, bowls, leftovers at the ridge⁣

Suddenly recalling saffron’s aroma from the high alpine⁣

Sighs of mute shepherds which claimed by dawn I’ll be fine⁣

Elsewhere the past runs headless through the dark room⁣

Breaking bones, recounting errors of a fruitless womb⁣

In the kitchen decays time’s final rib that was once mine⁣

Marinating it for longer I assume by dawn I’ll be fine ⁣

The Evening That Is Arriving

Unique, marvellous, dramatised
by scattered backlit clouds and a curated
ballet of woks, blurring traffic, is
an evening, arriving — inevitable, en route,
first conditioning the air into a lull,
then turning the harbour in, cutting,
this ordinary day into contradicting halves;
the sky slowly shipwrecks into dusk

pinkish for a kettle’s final redux, mauve
for silhouettes of tired flocks departing, blue
for a fleet of fruit bat released mayhem, indigo
enough for open hair to sing aloud — there is
this evening descending onto hills, streets, the
lanes besides yours you haven’t yet seen—
pure and seeping effortlessly like a good education,
regular from the outset, sedate in hushing
the sun behind grey bridges; necklacing
curved roads with street lights and elevating
every passing train to the status of an uncut film

Strolling Home From Jardim da Cordoaria

out of love, not

sympathy, I let a 
and her kitten have
my sardines; cobbled downhill

a maze of lanes perplexed
amidst tungsten street-art, same-

sex couples interlocked, an aged

song lingering staunch as

a city

mesmeric, cramped, indigo
and that long grim tiled gathering
of roofs and half-asleep windows;
caught, enamoured 

by a lonely tourist walking 

deep into the town’s belly,
cooked just a bit under, smelling
a soon to be morning

dawning at the cusp, waiting 

for the last bar to close — I open
the door and dive into bed

another night fully exploited 

Scenes from Divar Island, Ribander

I’m standing with a decapitated coconut before a football field teeming with
potential small victories and future merchant navy summer vacation releases
A couple of adjutant storks flap over us assuring the cerulean sky of some action
The mango tree under which once sages sat hoarded by tourists with hats
And then a rather peculiar thirty something coughs his way past the light-pole
A church blurs in the background hoping to stay for another hundred years

Quite a few god-fearing well wishers ask me to start the day with prayer
Hoping I become a better person by afternoon and by evening get married
Probably change my diet and eat clean wear suits jive smoothly to live bands
Thinking of their faces I look away into the creek and spot a large kingfish
Being unloaded into a crate full of other splendid catches all rather perfect
I’m thinking — coriander seeds, coconut, chillies, garlic, steam in turmeric leav—

—my head is suddenly bombed by a football, the coconut falls
Tumbling further and further away it gathers my pain of losing it
A distant apology is sent to me by people I’ll never meet again
And then a rather strange fifty something strolls past me laughing
I ignore and walk to the mango tree to merge with further stupidity
Someone I once knew recognises me and offers me a lift and two coconuts

Getting Comprehensively Drunk After Four Years 

downtown Panaji calm neon slow cooked
white rum – vinegar – coconut winds
new mate from Melbourne teaches me how to drink
on careful first pour discard old troubles into the creek
whisky – rocks – sea salt – soda – rum – gin – lager
do you even feni i ask being all polite
no let’s do shots
fine let’s
pedro who’s been too quiet now suddenly jumps
is there urak too yes of course thanks man
pour – pour
table roars
we down it and share mutual stares
holy **** this is amazing i need more
pour – pour
we down it and screams are heard all the way in Mapusa
screw you why didn’t i know of this before
soon we’re dancing outside with cats
everything’s shut but we’re alive
coffee was is was my real alcohol you know I claim
**** no alcohol is your alcohol she says
cancelled by the breeze we cross the church
swaying like two long free and independent skirts
is there any other place that still serves elixir
thus 3 a.m. we’re dancing on a karaoke floor
do you want more feni i ask being all polite
yes let’s do shots
yes let’s
francis at the bar does his thing and slaughters a lime
drink – drink
Panaji hugs Melbourne
holy fuck this is the best we should do this more

– inspired by true incidents from June and August 2019, Goa, from the time spent with dear friend Jasmin Churches who managed to convert me back to the flamboyant drinker I once was, but now, far more refined and enjoyable. The moment this lockdown ends we will get some feni. Even if it’s in Auckland I don’t care. 

Hata, April 2018

After sixteen thousand feet the air feels thinly alien
Swarming snow pigeons erase smog memories of cities

Sunrise claims cotton peaks with a slow orange
Every dew drop in the valley becomes gradual liquor

Fortified by dry leftovers and weak tea one resumes
A long upward search for the pure and rarely trespassed

Monochrome pasted on cerulean dotted by slow griffons
The river further refines the wind by merely being itself

At noon a tent carves up frugal lunch and powdered milk
Hata, an echo away, decides to shed its summer robe

Three minutes later grey gushes onto what was a postcard
All peaks howl in unison and an eerie season is suddenly born

In an unforeseen snow shower before the mountain
One feels life inching towards its very edge, unable

To resist fatal surrendering, static in fresh snowfall,

Frozen in time like an extinct dialect longing
to arouse an archaeologist in the distant future