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

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


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


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


locked away into a novel, scampering around your own world
the world within the city that fell while you were unborn
tragic that you came to life as an aftermath

while boys played cricket over gravestones levelled into the earth
the rains seeped into notebooks and slushed around the words
on drying the language changed, the smell of damp nothings

a day in November you too will be much older, sorry
for forgetting your mother-tongue like the others from your groups
where-they-all-now you’ll wonder, alone in a cube cooled inside a skyscraper

synthetic coffee, planned romance, reminders will get you across.

Fields, circa 2010

in the interim, your hair disturbed
by October and its slow winds
flurrying over fields of sugarcane
your rustic accent splintering slangs, your fangs
biting into my innocence
what a fabulous season it was
the highway wasn’t built yet, storks circled
pipits danced, the mat we slept on scarred
by tense movements
muscle and bone
hair and breath
evenings and more evenings
nights without names


the chalk that wires across the blackboard
last smudged my fingers
when I was 11 and crew cut

they anglicised our language for us
uniforms, leather,
uptight references to the weather
the use of local words
within an essay
banned like one bans the opposite religion

how stupidly I obeyed it all
and stood first, acing
every exam like a long distance runner
at the end of the race my mind splintered
my roots cut, my feet
insulated from my own earth
I was now ready, to conquer
an air conditioned world
ironing my new shirt every evening

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


I started writing to you last night, but stopped
Not on ink and paper but a bland touchscreen,
it auto-saved itself, this
mongrel string of words
Clogging a virtual space of nothings.
To be honest, I couldn’t
hear my thoughts like before
If instead were you gazing into me
in person, from a real door
I could’ve heard your voice, broken it
with mine, argued. I really
meant to write to you and say something
It clouded and clouded and then slowly
vanished like a mist you can never catch
I then saw you age backwards and
tear my page neatly, take it on the floor
under the robust ceiling fan, folding
the edges to make a paper plane
At the window you stood, tantalising
The pigeons, excited to know their temporary
Fake friend
You let it go and watched me condense
Into a memory aged into
a fading relation
Dissolving everyday with time’s passage
How does one reply to all of that
In the space a single message

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