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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)

The Day My Cat Died

The day my cat died we won a cricket match
The mosque opposite my house butchered the air with decibels
My neighbour tripped and broke a rib, letting out a weak scream
And I was out drinking, missing her furry mane,
hoping to share new secrets with her

Walking past school, I refused to pet
any cat which stroked my calves, I barged into
the fish market at dawn and fought for fresh
fish heads, liver, even some shrimp and eel
And later I stood by the butcher to collect, every
last portion of cartilage that was leftover
it was her birthday, after all

And later at breakfast I got my heart broken, a
woman I thought I loved left me bewildered, worse,
leaving me with an unpaid bill and badly written letter
neither of which I ever made sense of, I needed my cat
to cure my life, more than my sister

The day my cat died I was told she is alive
I called at home and left her a long message
My brother pretended that she’s playing upstairs with pigeons
My dad said she is watching a stew coming to boil
My grandmother said my cat is waiting for me

I waited for her as she fell down twelve floors
Unaware that she would die seconds later
And from another suburb, I sent released cigarette smoke
Knowing that by evening she would help me quit

Night

12.11 am. Let it begin. Raincoats soaked,
teapots cloaked
by thick steam, the murmurs of shadows
passing in and out of their faces

Books browse the breeze, their flaps open
pages stroked and shivered
unwritten bits whispered as wants
sitting on moist ears

Like a workshop, the bed, busy and frantic
rises and falls like an ocean, whose waves
travel towards the silent coasts of windows
faraway and sleeping

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