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

Routes

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

Upbringing

the chalk that rivers 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 dangerous drugs

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
as I was now ready, to conquer
the 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

Reply

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