Atop The City Drinking Great Coffee

One wades through Riberia like a music video on loop
Crosses the bridge to Gaia from where a nude woman jumped
Drizzly enough the wind brings the river’s tension to your face
Staircases stack through the matchboxed medieval hill
Housed clusters of Azores tiles and the occasional laugh
At the banks you’re drunk and safely loud amongst locals
You climb three hundred and twenty one stairs to reach a cafe
Guatemalan filter 1:15 ratio at 92°C done in three pours
Caffeinated liquor seeps down as Porto writhes in summer

Atop the city drinking great coffee
Orange-d roofs pair well with Duoro’s turquoise
Distant ships cramming tourists resemble disturbed beehives
Erratic ruas cup the town’s tasting notes: pernil, assado, super bock
In your own cup you discover mandarin, cacao, jaggery
Citrus sunbeams burn through surrendered windows
Beside you an old Chinese man drops a cheap souvenir
Above you the sky replays shrill echoes of gulls
By the end of one coffee you rewind your thirst
Tossing an euro and hoping it lands tomorrow
Wishing time stays unmoved longer than what is permitted
Selfishly searching for loopholes in life’s grand arrangement
Another cup arrives, this time Brazilian, unaware
You toiled three thousand and forty seven days to reach this cafe

Glossary:
Riberia – riverfront
Gaia – twin city across Porto
Duoro – river on whose banks Porto/Gaia stand
pernil – slow cooked pork leg/shoulder,
assado – barbecue, open fire
super bock – brand of northern Portuguese beer,
rua – street/road

Carriage

Ran through paddyfields repainting your feet. The wind’s favourite sport was to enamour your forehead with numbness.
Left alone in the backyard you trespassed – robbery of jackfruit and cashew apples you failed to guess were liquor.
Grew up to be a burning torch of unfulfilled desires. Painting every city with slang ridden verses and slurred tongues.
Later at thirty-seven you picked up the telephone, at the other end was your brother’s son, unaware of his uncle.
A rare instance of you returning – mother – now about to be extinguished into a memoir; you were late (absent) again. You crossed fifty.
Met your nephew, finally; transferred your leftover age into his and said a prayer – his hair felt like the first time your fingers ran through paddyfields.
So many trains dispersed, alas, we stood at the station watching you depart,

and then all of a sudden we gasped when a fruit crate was unloaded.

carrying the scent
of lost years

…mango breeze

Old Song Now Outdated

Often that night your smoke, unconfined
spoke lucidly to the walls, spoke as ether
to a window that longed to hold you closer,
the crunch of crisps and weightless foam
of cheap beer, each stroll of our paired eyes
plotting a new poster, finding a new face
to laugh at, laughs reciprocated by a music player
embalming the room, the corridor, 
the neighbour’s
lonely dinner, and later, in the car
it kept persisting side a, side b, free
from a future touchscreen and unchained
by the listener’s choice to change midway, allowing
you to rest over me quoting some Persian
saint’s soft poetry, followed by inconsistent hints
to draw nearer, a scarf of azure blue deepened,
a defocused indigo under the dim influence
of the room’s changing mood, your embrace
was a curtain parted, noiseless, a ball of fragrance –
nicotine, young sweat, loosening cotton,
hidden fruit, yesterday’s perfume; the decade
lingered on as a single scent, recently

Reminded of the smell, tiring eyes
falling prey to the night, got wetter
I understand then, why old people said
music in our time was so much better

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)

Night

chinese lanterns – popcorn – photographs
old records – mozzarella – sweatpants
heat – bollywood clinging – seabreeze
stench of rum on a collar
untimely teardrop of a cloud
a window curtained by
shadows contemplating union

culminating in a linen cove
a script – generous parentheses
suggesting a future lunge
confirmed by fingers hinging
a rain percussions for the ceiling fan
to take bass, while a duet
swells the air, repaints walls,
deafens the city for the time being

Years

a few years ago I left my voice at the bus stop
it asked a lady for the time, it made small talk with passengers
when the conductor asked for change, it shrouded
no one has heard of it since

a few years ago I left my feet at a lover’s house
they searched for slippers and hoped the raincoat
wasn’t torn, in the flooded city they floated –
by winter, they were nowhere to be found

my heart, I left it at the center of the old fort, it’s been years
by now a tree must’ve grown there and
sent out blossoms to the dargah, or maybe
it was brushed aside by morning sweepers, who once
introduced me to the art of dipping biscuits in tea

Eight years ago I left behind a boy of sixteen, virgin and strong
I filled him with songs and told him to never return
I scolded him and told him time is everything
And blocked him out so that he finds his own wisdom
Haven’t seen him since, not even virtually
But sometimes through a crowded local train when there’s just
enough space to peep through outstretched arms
I see someone like him walking with a stubble and soiled notebooks
ashamed of his stutter while trying
to light a cigarette with a borrowed matchstick

Afternoon

humid breath 

between the rain and I 

a steamed window

one kettle
brews a future sip
of both tea and mint

intoxicated, 



leafbird dashes

once grey air 

now flourescent green 


damp wood
-
quiet lungs
perfumed 
final monsoon

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

Today

Sobered down, you swipe keys
On a touch phone; the drizzle still feels real
So does the sudden jerk of the rickshaw
One writes poetry that is timeless when one has time
Without cause, only
As a faint reaction
Ten years ago fingers pressed real keys
And chat boxes opened
Like chocolate wrappers
We grew old too soon