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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Sunrise

 

Sunrise, know that you are alone
the gull that carries you on its wing is a thief
the sea that lets you spread uses you to cleanse its face
the flower that breaks into a bloom uses you as an alarm
and you, slowly emerging from the mountain’s forehead
send luminous gifts to cities who in return
cloud you with smog and the gossip of cars
Sunrise, know that tomorrow will be the same
somewhere someone craves for you to be replaced with rain
somewhere someone craves for you to be the same each day
and while there is no land you haven’t touched
in one distant dark village an old woman knows
that your arrival means
one day less, and one day more

First Love

(another poem that emerged instantaneously from a chat)

Under a rare full moon a train glides
over glistening tracks carrying a song –
percussions and horn, I threw my face
into the night and it was met by yours
At fifteen we looked for love, but
nothing serious that would last, we assesed
it would be real and fast, fingers
melded into answers, shirts that feathered
the wind and then dismembered, sketches
made using eyes that scarcely opened –
and that pulled pause before which
you drew over me freely, like
a child set free in the woods without company
climbing every tree and reciprocating
the surprise of each bird, even
the fireflies not spared by curiosity;
all along I shivered under you, chilled
by the breeze that found space to flow
between you and the moon’s growing glow,
you fell over me like the sea on a promenade
and I lifted you slowly, discovering
that at times time can be formless
and hair belonging to someone locked around you
could be a cushion for breath, also that
the moment thereafter
is a brittle sculpture, withering away
as life gives you other choices

Village

I come back to you guilty of having slept with distant cities
With eyes carrying signs of urban affairs shamed by the sea breeze
Before me you drop the sunset into the ocean and let it spread
The coast painted by its endemic orange glow sends back
The tides it moments ago tried to contain but could never catch

Old fishermen walk past me with monsoons full of cancelled tears
‘return before you mature into a foreigner’, you said
before slurring an ancestral chant to cleanse my forehead
You released me sagely like the hill releases a sea eagle
But I revisit you with eyes polluted by dark circles
Asexual and cold like a lover who has divorced desire

The coast scarred by my rugged feet is peppered by crab holes
Coconut trees bend over the long line of my preserved sorrow
Eventually at dusk, four hundred years ago, a ship comes in with spices
A man with my surname recites a story about a future city
Where more like me are lonely and without a language

(translated from Marathi)

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

Telegram





I was faraway when you cried

Letting the river absolve me with ripples

Searching for a landing place, finches,
portable as ever, decided a retreat to Europe
was best, that’s where you are, isn’t it?
Collating the smells of cities into

one long cup of coffee, kissed slowly,

attention broken by the newspaper’s turning
recalling beats of a story unwritten 



Yet when seven years later, the fig tree 

now even larger and attractive (claims 

the oriole and the hornbill), it allowed
the perfume of dawn to fill its rooms 

And at the point where childhood ends, you

with your slippers now silent, apparently 

absent, released a dense exhale someplace 

I will never be, yet I imagine smoke 

exploring your insides now recycled 

as mist, let out into the world, lonely

but filled with the desire to travel