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

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

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

Cafe, circa 2011

sorry
said the poet, lingering around
looking at a stained tea-cup where
his lips once touched, in steam,
his nose
immersed

…unpaid, half-done, finished
allow me to leave, said the poet
fishing around the outskirts with his glance

arrives the crook, crutches cancelled
as he retires into a chair – his shadows
waving a cigarette

the counter opens to commotion

the poet’s account heavier; he’ll be back
says the crook
what you offer is tea, which everyone does
but what you provide is drama, which no one else does

refill please

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

Faraway Temple

Tea. 6.16 am. Retro-pop
plays on your radio, the cat
yawning and upturned, curling
into a

corner where your quilt acts
as a heater, the spoon tinkers
the air
like a bell, you

remember the temple, don’t you?
Scent of drizzle and white flowers
seducing
the child you, becoming
medicine for sad mornings, slowly
fading away
into one page
of a new book, unwritten

but revisited. Tea, 6.19 am, brewed.
This honey though, weak and plastic,
nothing compares to the beehive, above
the temple wall

smoke rises

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