Reading Aloud

Reading it aloud:
You
Your whims, your hormonal rants,
The part where you sneeze
The moment you finally cry
I read it all out, your eyes open
Like two journals on either side of your age
With you in the centre, present in the present
Mute as a photo
Out of focus

Your nights
Your breath
The bits of you leftover
In text messages and friends of friends
Even the music you forgot
That comes around unasked
The wall that holds your face
As you fall asleep scarred
Read it all aloud, like a play
We’re listening to each other age
The clock waits for you
The taxi drops it’s meter, the new year
Opens and calls for an encore

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Without

There is the creaking ceiling fan, there is
The line of crumbs along the table’s edge, your face
Tucked into the blanket as a mask
Hidden from a soft blue window

Quoting an untranslated author, dreaming
Of her verse in the dim silence of your sleep, you
Breakaway and enter the world again, reborn
From a night’s sleep devoid of tense

Elsewhere the town yawns, crawls
The carts of fruit and grain drag, the streets thaw in
Mist exhaled by the mountain over us, your white
Shirt and your reflection in the diary counting
Another day passed by lonely, not knowing
How to meet the evening without an answer

Poet

I was a poet
Centuries ago when I sailed to Aden
I carried spices on my back and charmed Bedouins at the shore
I carried my coast from here to there and exchanged sand
Learning words and scripts, bringing them back
I sprinkled them in a kettle
Ever since time has brewed for me the choicest phrases
As I turn my palm, the leaf of experience shows itself

I was forever a poet
Even before you undressed me and asked me to age backwards
In the timeless expanse of indigo I let my words foam into verbose surf
At times into cutting tides
At times into mellow sentences touching the creek
Where paper boats meet ships
And seawater refuels my veins; I remain
in history as a traveller and in the future as a page
exploring one library to another; living as a poet forever

Dream, Sikkim.

Your dream. A vision
of noiseless rivers foaming
in the distance, while
a monastery touched by calls
of ravens, lights a lantern
the moon sets

over the mountain’s shoulder. Simmering
tea pots, on them the sage’s fable
inked like a lucid memory

recited by shut eyes. The floor
cold from the season, pressed
by the music of toes. The sun rises,
its first arrows
piercing the village with joy.

School, circa 1999

From a corner I watched you rehearse patiently
Logging notes in the breeze using black and white keys
Surveying turning pages with a moving gaze

In a strange distance an old choir climbed stairs
Settling to their positions and awaiting the conductor
Who searched for fallen tobacco outside the hall

A breeze pulled it away from him
Boys played football and noticed nothing
Logging flying notes in the air using their feet

Witness

I the music that engulfed me first in the dim bar, is
the substance I use to break myself into a thousand parts
while I age carefully from younger to young
and then maybe, not so young
the rustle of brushes skimming cymbals, married
to the sound of a wailing saxophone
I witnessed it all
through the reducing horizon of the beer glass
my head sleeping over the damp table, my pants
whose pockets filled with unaccounted coins
and the notes I would later use to pay
for your cigarettes and chicken puffs
even share them while we switched between channels
on an outdated television surrounded by books
surrounded by shelves and more shelves
hanging on the walls paintings you made as a child
your clothes hanging outside the window whose pane
you sprinkled with a long joint, spiked
with teenage theatrics and young lust
and aromas of the kitchen scattered with leftovers
the music that engulfed me at first, is the last
the very last
time I ever heard someone tell me I’m lovely
I was told I’m a kid with the brain of a man
but the smile of a child
while you were a girl with the eyes of a woman
I witnessed it all
through the years of being a boy
reduced to an adult