The Sorrowful Heart of a Nineteen Year Old Girl

Met her through an ice-cream loving friend
Amidst the fete crowd she wore a floral skirt
And rickety shoes, her eyes lacking an eyeliner
Story-less and pure
She called me an unusual scientist with weird ears
And said my nose was like a rocky hill
Even my hair wasn’t spared, her convent accent
Described it as an abandoned nest
Later that month I’d find her
Strolling across the race course
Staring at horses speed past her morose eyes

Her morose eyes

The wintry tears and snowfall of regrets
Her perfect face cancelled by her imperfect self, even
The teenagers from the suburb
Felt she was too smart
But she was just a stupid girl
With a sorrowful heart

For days I’d let her jabber, not just
The usual hormonal rants but even
Lyrics of favourite songs, oh for that matter
Plans to travel to Rome and back
We even booked our trains to China
But it kind of fell apart once the phone cut

The phone cut

Years later with m shirt tucked in
I found her in a mall, she
Dragged around a cart filled
With discounted flour and tea, it even had
Vegetables and frozen meat, she looked
the same except for her skin

Dark in places, pale in some,
Her eyes slow to blink and her hair overdone
She stood in a line with
A heap of worries and despair, the winter
in her eyes colder
At the cash counter
As they touched a travel magazine
That made promises of blue seas
And islands with beautiful men,
She thought of picking one up, but then thought,
Life’s a lie, and at 28,
it’s probably better to look elsewhere

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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

Shop, Centre Street

the passer-by notices the crumbling shop
a notice on the pillar inside; helper
wanted
urgently

the print faded, the helper too

a hunchback appears from the pantry, saucer
carrying a bruised cup
chipped off bone china
holding tea from 1942

somehow, still warm, the shirt wrinkled

clogged in the shelves
receipts and papers yellow
a photograph of a dead customer
a certificate of ownership

strewn around are muttered words, softened

an evening parks outside, starts
begging for a place to rest the night
like everyday, shooed away
made to join the other beggars
at edge of the square, counting coins
the shutter
tiredly
descends

elsewhere the city erupts with life

Witness

I the music that engulfed me first in the dim bar, is
the substance I use to break myself into a thousand parts
while I age carefully from younger to young
and then maybe, not so young
the rustle of brushes skimming cymbals, married
to the sound of a wailing saxophone
I witnessed it all
through the reducing horizon of the beer glass
my head sleeping over the damp table, my pants
whose pockets filled with unaccounted coins
and the notes I would later use to pay
for your cigarettes and chicken puffs
even share them while we switched between channels
on an outdated television surrounded by books
surrounded by shelves and more shelves
hanging on the walls paintings you made as a child
your clothes hanging outside the window whose pane
you sprinkled with a long joint, spiked
with teenage theatrics and young lust
and aromas of the kitchen scattered with leftovers
the music that engulfed me at first, is the last
the very last
time I ever heard someone tell me I’m lovely
I was told I’m a kid with the brain of a man
but the smile of a child
while you were a girl with the eyes of a woman
I witnessed it all
through the years of being a boy
reduced to an adult

Places

I fell in love with you first
At the tea stall behind the 800 year old temple
And again a few steps later
At its ornamented entrance
Three days later, I fell in love with you
In the Thursday market strewn with rare berries
And the smell of decayed woodwork
From the nearby ruins of old houses
Over the years
I loved you even more, as you are
At the food stalls outside the square public garden
Sparkling with sounds of schoolchildren
I kept loving you as I walked through
Splayed offal of cut buffalo parts
Ridden by the stench of slaughter
And the churches and mosques that I stepped in
I loved you in all of them, on every wall, every unlit corner
I fall in love with you again and again
Touching every dusty surface in the old city
I sense that is where your heart and bones are
The rest of these cold, growing suburbs
Are just your obesity, the outer fat
I will choose to let them go

16.1.17