Routes

locked away into a novel, scampering around your own world
the world within the city that fell while you were unborn
tragic that you came to life as an aftermath

while boys played cricket over gravestones levelled into the earth
the rains seeped into notebooks and slushed around the words
on drying the language changed, the smell of damp nothings

a day in November you too will be much older, sorry
for forgetting your mother-tongue like the others from your groups
where-they-all-now you’ll wonder, alone in a cube cooled inside a skyscraper

synthetic coffee, planned romance, reminders will get you across.

Francophone

Today the day scatters moodily, scarfs
tied against pulled back hair
embroidered with block-printed tales
wave along the smoggy air
…bus stop, white earphones
a farewell bid to unknown faces
senseless proximity with strangers
in the distance a coffee shop dead- livened
by an opening shutter
the flux of beans roasting released
a cup rinsed by black
black, and more black
french accent, african descent
a country opens its newspaper

Fields, circa 2010

in the interim, your hair disturbed
by October and its slow winds
flurrying over fields of sugarcane
your rustic accent splintering slangs, your fangs
biting into my innocence
what a fabulous season it was
the highway wasn’t built yet, storks circled
pipits danced, the mat we slept on scarred
by tense movements
muscle and bone
hair and breath
evenings and more evenings
nights without names

Butterfly

catching it is impossible
ignoring it, even more
the afternoon snores, the boy
lost in chores
-but flickering, its beats dot the air
carrying the universe in a glide
in the distance the shimmering tide lowers
the boats park and let their nets sleep, gulls
crowd and behave like flying papers, flapping
…but flapping here is the butterfly
resisting any one spot, resisting
any one audience – playing its mute song
ribboning the air with cerulean and pink
sometimes yellow sometimes stopping to think
on an anaemic plant branch, tanning
under the humid sun
around her the world debates and procrastinates
trees wither and house new caterpillars
music flows in with the evening’s breath
older men at the harbour await their death
as the sun sets a butterfly tinkers before them
sometimes in silhouette sometimes revealed
making old faces move to its pace
before leaving, leaving
a smile on each wrinkled face

Naked

To be naked no mirrors are necessary
The past opens like a fable once the mind is touched
Even the doves alight as memories, flutter

Tainting the city of regrets with shadows

Elsewhere windows open and your mother’s voice calls
Her each syllable logs in limbo as a future poem
And in your palms, as a lover dissolves into a warm sleep

You are undressed into a further nudity

Meanwhile every country divides you into names and ages
The brilliance of old dreams rests as fallen leaves
A changing sky, showing missed seasons, turns cold

As doves, returning from abroad,
bring gifts and cologne for the soul


– opening line is the ending of a poem by Dilip Chitre, from the series Travelling in a Cage

River

I’m a slow river
building up pace
turn after turn
wrinkling my face
ripple by ripple
straightening my hair
in millet farms
leaving my body bare
for the pelican’s arms
going deep and shallow
moodily as I enter
the city’s eyebrows
whose insides I rinse
to gather waste and skins
clogging my chest
darkening my blood
making my body smell
turn after turn
crippling my face
bridge after bridge
as I sleep into a creek
spreading my tired body
on a bed of sand and dirt
dreaming of a sea
to accept me for what I am

Cross

seventeen years later, the cross
seems puzzling still, dust fills
its gaps as my eyes are pulled
to the glass paintings
who cover the outside world, like
a mother’s stories about her past

having sinned again, my hands
soiled by the murder of blindness
touch an empty bench, caressing
dead cells of a pious person
who made a donation, hoping
the cross would come alive