Of Shadows

 

Of shadows, the ones left behind
which later became nameless nomads, reciting
stories to each pavement they rested over
allowing themselves to be dented, reformed
by each surface that made love to their passing
occasionally hiding in unlikely places
each time a sunrise attempted an ambush.
Pursued by cats and the occasional lunatic,
escaping from one conniving space to another
learning the art of bending, spreading, shielding
they finally gave offsprings one summer night, since then
a city once coloured by a single mood
found moments of grey to balance itself out

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Strolling Through My Old Neighbourhood Without Expecting Anything

Air was dense as the soda maker
deposited trays, bottles calibrated, dates missing
expired like my mom’s old embraces, signalling onwards
a protected cow controlling traffic, mostly mismanaging
mosque and temple collided
mutterings, quotes, chants, sayings, histories
the pouring of layered tea absolutely promising
a quiet two and a half minutes, bettered
by buttered bread and the incoming of fried eggs
a lady from nowhere with the voice of an old radio
releasing a flurry of preserved rants, madmen
laughing looking at alcoholics trying to pour
unfiltered water into a glass unwashed, traffic
lights becoming abstract videos over its curved face

Venturing on a nomad sans memory of puberty, matchstick
realised as a flaming excuse for killing a cigarette, bokeh
enhanced by moonlight and glow of oil lamps,
miscarriage of a meat seller’s bargain, a displayed brain,
liver, lungs, intestines and chops at the one eyed butcher,
lanterns hanging over a closing market contemplating
the night through barks and meows and bats flapping
figs dropping, overall

at winter’s death
old city
washed by noise

as

woke footsteps
print the street
– old traveller

while

a cockroach’s glance
carried by red sewers
meets a rat

elsewhere

phones scrolled
trap sad eyes
fingers cancelled

unaware the soda maker shuts shop, the Parsi restaurant
ageing alone into extinction releases a food blogger
I see my schoolteacher cross the street, but like last time
I digress and miss the chance to converse, ‘what a strange boy,
this loner,
he was always so
bad at being nice’

Badly Written Homecoming Letter

I stole visuals from the Arabian Sea, songs
from the forests that let me hide, echoes from
the higher Himalayan autumn, colours
from the feathers of my favourite birds.
I stole everything from the world around me
To later label and resell as poetry
I am a stealer and I am unoriginal
my breath reeks of alcohol I haven’t tasted
my journals talk of places I haven’t visited
my body is a lie floating around scavenging leftover vibes
from used rooms, bus stops, joints, streets, gardens,
windows, buses, footpaths, temples, mosques, churches
I lent my entire present to time’s helpless passing
I let books plot inside me new routes to repeat myself
Posing as a true friend I coldly absorbed
the spoken fears of loved ones as future writing prompts
And before idols I stood faceless with hands together pretending
to be devout, honest, pure, untouched, virgin
to the ways of country liquor, beedis and the fresh aroma
of love making,
of skewers, of a woman’s breath on my face, of a farmer’s rant
that flew over my head. I am a fake.
Others lied to win or escape or crossover
I lied to let go of what could never be mine
And using napkins, papers, screens, barks, stone walls
I recorded sightings I’ve unfairly hoarded for centuries
As for those who raised me to become someone else, know
That I’ve whored myself out to life and become nobody
And I’m returning home with nothing but poetry
Come, let’s have some tea

Kutch, Circa 2016

endless white chapped by
earth’s cracked face
onwards a mirage tempts
cheated eyes to draw closer
offering only more distance
in exchange for more distance
the falcon unperturbed
sits inside your scope sage
and from a mile a wind delivers
fresh dust as lunch and dinner
relished only by onagers
cut by the road a lark 
flees
with a rant and disappears
meanwhile the dry sun
settling into a sleep finally
reveals a real horizon
under its orange finish
the oasis, a bed of pink,
suddenly
throws a million petals into the sky
departing flamingos ignore you cry
rewriting your dreams forever

Rohtang, circa 2007

Raise a toast to the breeze,
to the stars, the snow, the ruins
without forgetting the mist that
slowly reveals every pine
body by body, signalling
the morning’s birth through a thrush,
through the calm slither of Beas, young
before it ages over the neighbour’s earth

And give special mention to
the lady who decided fire was
important tonight, and the man who
offered time and a stew, tea, flatbread
that went well the apples from earlier
and never forget the pass, whose gradual
unfurl of mountain after mountain, each
a match-cut in a winding cinema

Raise a toast to the breeze,
to the rocks, the chants, the eyes
of the lammergeier who made you envious
of height, and other impossible things
such as effortless flight and freewill

Montage 2

The air gathers the passing
From where I left the bus behind, it’s red body flashed
By torn adverts tearing into the city
Chapped and aged

The cafe opens – a cup
filled like a proud schoolboy
Carries freshness, the round tip
Meeting and vanishing all together
…a photographer walks by

His love hanging around his neck,
The pictures uncaged freely circle him, continue

To mesmerise the old chap with a splattered sole
Scratching the floor, rowing along
Carrying the falling leaves with him
Into an apartment with a locked cupboard,
Two teacups, a bus ticket
And a box of negatives
Undeveloped
Kept for later, the very end

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 music you forgot
Comes around unasked
The wall 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