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
merging into one another in my dreams
slowly and gradually turning into noisy streams
making me wake up and scribble in soiled notebooks
and years later looking back and wondering
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

Within

one submerges slowly
breath after breath
clouds move away
the mind’s sky clearing
watching greyer clouds arrive
seasons change
fantasies rain
watch it all fade

the raven sits beside
wondering what lies within

Lost Time Regained

The palace fell
You felt
The tremors of the earth forever
Piercing you every now and then
In the hollows of this sad metropolis
Devoid of the smell of fresh cinnamon

Years passed as your den’s air
Stale with the scent of unwritten books
Your hair dense with misplaced memoirs
Falling one by one invisibly

Until much later I saw you once more
Sipping single malt alone with a pile of papers
The traffic lit you occasionally
You continued to whistle
While your pen scribbled across the evening

I held your face in my mirror
As you recited verse after verse
Watching you reborn I shook hands again
Your arms smelling of ittar from a few centuries ago
Your eyes fresh with lack of sleep
Your words floating across eras carelessly

Lost time was your textbook
You held it close to you while crossing bridges
Between this moment and the next

School, circa 1999

From a corner I watched you rehearse patiently
Logging notes in the breeze using black and white keys
Surveying turning pages with a moving gaze

In a strange distance an old choir climbed stairs
Settling to their positions and awaiting the conductor
Who searched for fallen tobacco outside the hall

A breeze pulled it away from him
Boys played football and noticed nothing
Logging flying notes in the air using their feet