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 season
Opens and calls for an encore

Probably

I’ll probably talk about myself in bits and pieces along the way
As we river into life’s slower years with a softening memory
The glass that separates the reflection from the being will dissolve
And sorry doves alighting on grey buildings will take off

In the soothing streams of my childhood you’ll dip rough fingers
And the mountains that hold my ancestry with release scores of eagles
The horses that run into you will burst into a million butterflies
Each carrying a day of my life, hinging between now and then, flapping

And the hush of leaves that follows you windily in my city
Shall stop before the shop where I kept a tab all my life
Within each shelf are preserved secrets, some expired, pick them all
Or none, your call, you may leave anytime

I wait for you at the end of it all besides the lake
Where clouds collate over its face, the birds float over the mirror
And age stops all of a sudden like the clock on my grandfather’s wall
I still remember it, the dial mute and the hands hanging like sorrowing branches
You will sit with me and watch me become a man one last time
Awaiting entry into the sanctuary, breathing, counting every breath on its way out

– translated from Marathi

Premise

I understood the premise, but before the curtain fell,
the ending passed through and left me empty, hanging
in the dream I left behind at twenty – you scurried across your stage
the white starlings hopped about wondering
who the man in grey kaftan is, you

how I ran into the salt pans, the mirages
deftly slapping me one after the other, the vultures
eating away at my debts – you never surface, in an exposed corner
you typed away into the sky, both friend and father

today in the audience, darkened by the mask of not knowing
what is before and after me, I felt you finally
as man and soul – you gripped your portrait and caged each word
in your voice, I understood how you’re here but then you’re not
living in stories you wrote before your final drought

Someplace Faraway

someplace faraway
there is a high school dance about to commence
rays of cyan, mauve, chrome touch young bodies
the music is from a different era but the shoes aren’t
and while some of your friends sip rum for the first time
you stand alone unaware that time is moving
a travelling yellow pierces my face, my drink falls
the music floats softly and friends start looking different
this is the dance we never attended
the floor we never scraped with polished shoes
and the ceiling whose hanging lanterns we never saw
even the slow scattering of couples evaded us
so did the long drive through a sleeping city
whose moody streetlights warmed ice-cream carts
we didn’t pass by them with half-shut eyes like we could’ve
we never met like we should’ve

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

Where Did You Learn to Write?

I don’t quite remember exactly but it was
on a slow evening in my father’s rented house
the aroma of frying fish and spiced sauce
evoked in me voices of my ancestors
I felt words from a language I hadn’t learned
They became images before I could blink
I realised that to write there was no need to think
It happened then and it often happens now
In crowded buses and trapped elevators
even before crumbling buildings and old eyes
where unsaid things become lengthy chapters
and the said things turned into eventual lyrics
all merging later into one another in my dreams
slowly and gradually turning into noisy streams
making me wake up and scribble in soiled notebooks
as years later I turn around and wonder
when really did I learn this mad craft
I don’t quite remember exactly but it was
on a slow evening with a woman about to cry
I lied to her saying I had a job and a house
she smiled as she said
you’re a nice storyteller

Within

one submerges slowly
breath after breath
clouds move away
the mind’s sky clearing
watching greyer clouds arrive
seasons change
fantasies rain
watch it all fade

the raven sits beside
wondering what lies within