Old Song Now Outdated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

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Village

I come back to you guilty of having slept with distant cities
With eyes carrying signs of urban affairs shamed by the sea breeze
Before me you drop the sunset into the ocean and let it spread
The coast painted by its endemic orange glow sends back
The tides it moments ago tried to contain but could never catch

Old fishermen walk past me with monsoons full of cancelled tears
‘return before you mature into a foreigner’, you said
before slurring an ancestral chant to cleanse my forehead
You released me sagely like the hill releases a sea eagle
But I revisit you with eyes polluted by dark circles
Asexual and cold like a lover who has divorced desire

The coast scarred by my rugged feet is peppered by crab holes
Coconut trees bend over the long line of my preserved sorrow
Eventually at dusk, four hundred years ago, a ship comes in with spices
A man with my surname recites a story about a future city
Where more like me are lonely and without a language

(translated from Marathi)

Strolling Through My Old Neighbourhood Without Expecting Anything

Air was dense as the soda maker
deposited trays, bottles calibrated, dates missing
expired like my mom’s old embraces, signalling onwards
a protected cow controlling traffic, mostly mismanaging
mosque and temple collided
mutterings, quotes, chants, sayings, histories
the pouring of layered tea absolutely promising
a quiet two and a half minutes, bettered
by buttered bread and the incoming of fried eggs
a lady from nowhere with the voice of an old radio
releasing a flurry of preserved rants, madmen
laughing looking at alcoholics trying to pour
unfiltered water into a glass unwashed, traffic
lights becoming abstract videos over its curved face

Venturing on a nomad sans memory of puberty, matchstick
realised as a flaming excuse for killing a cigarette, bokeh
enhanced by moonlight and glow of oil lamps,
miscarriage of a meat seller’s bargain, a displayed brain,
liver, lungs, intestines and chops at the one eyed butcher,
lanterns hanging over a closing market contemplating
the night through barks and meows and bats flapping
figs dropping, overall

at winter’s death
old city
washed by noise

as

woke footsteps
print the street
– old traveller

while

a cockroach’s glance
carried by red sewers
meets a rat

elsewhere

phones scrolled
trap sad eyes
fingers cancelled

unaware the soda maker shuts shop, the Parsi restaurant
ageing alone into extinction releases a food blogger
I see my schoolteacher cross the street, but like last time
I digress and miss the chance to converse, ‘what a strange boy,
this loner,
he was always so
bad at being nice’

At Times

At times a man leaves his bedroom as it is
climbs down a flight of stairs wearing yesterday’s shirt
smelling of indecisiveness he ventures across a beaten street
his ears passively attend to the temple’s ruckuss while
a memoir flies in like a newspaper and catches his attention
it dances around his gaze like a dragonfly, 
then
turns towards him suddenly, a rickshaw cuts
the distance between them in half
on either side, the longing to reunite

At times a man wakes up in a new city
his arms furry like earth’s skin in a faraway grassland
he wears the new season and throws his glance out of the window
hoping to find a flock of ideas circling the sky forming a graffiti
wishing they’d follow him to the local train station on a Monday morning
he steps into a human mess of hands and legs and sweat and bags

wishes and rants and silences and gags
adjusts himself to stay ironed for the rest of day’s first half
silently wriggling out his phone he scrolls across the world’s debates
and while focussed, his shoulder is tapped by a sudden breeze,
scared, he turns around, and witnesses his entire youth pass by

The Day My Cat Died

The day my cat died we won a cricket match
The mosque opposite my house butchered the air with decibels
My neighbour tripped and broke a rib, letting out a weak scream
And I was out drinking, missing her furry mane,
hoping to share new secrets with her

Walking past school, I refused to pet
any cat which stroked my calves, I barged into
the fish market at dawn and fought for fresh
fish heads, liver, even some shrimp and eel
And later I stood by the butcher to collect, every
last portion of cartilage that was leftover
it was her birthday, after all

And later at breakfast I got my heart broken, a
woman I thought I loved left me bewildered, worse,
leaving me with an unpaid bill and badly written letter
neither of which I ever made sense of, I needed my cat
to cure my life, more than my sister

The day my cat died I was told she is alive
I called at home and left her a long message
My brother pretended that she’s playing upstairs with pigeons
My dad said she is watching a stew coming to boil
My grandmother said my cat is waiting for me

I waited for her as she fell down twelve floors
Unaware that she would die seconds later
And from another suburb, I sent released cigarette smoke
Knowing that by evening she would help me quit

Others

others fear loneliness as much as I fear being discovered
crouching in the sunlit haze of a cafe’s corner with eyes closed
passively nursing the exasperation of having lived life poorly
sometimes in sobered down streets I fear being discovered
ogling at used clothes carts, old women bargaining, rusting gates
and peering into decayed houses haunted by evening news and scraped wall paint
awkward faces noticing me lost in the haze of unsure observance

enamoured by the public garden’s aural ether which lulls the brain
I fear you suddenly finding me after many years with me grown fatter
my beard covering most of my flaws like moss over an old bungalow
and from your perfection you ask me questions about future movements
trees behind you alight in bokehs while children circlulate my silence with laughter

others fear failure as much as I fear being mediocre
unable to be sane at the crucial moment when one must say yes unwillingly
haunted by the unfulfilled self smashing mirrors and turning rants into songs
strolling into terrors, immune to being flawless, experiences ferment
in passing blurs life leaves me bits of colour and lush memoirs 

Serenade

Was last night’s serenade a dream?
The incandescence of aged tungsten warming the bridge
whose ends welcomed dead poets singing
songs from forgotten years, their lyrics translating
into one another like a stew mixing
While your scarf waved gloriously, the seagulls
arising from an aligned sleep dashed in vivid numbers
and fishermen who threw their caps into an indigo sky
lost them in a maze of flaps
Across the bridge a town hummed with the pages
you left half-read as a child, now
they were soiled posters talking of a future
You showed me around the lanes and carts
like a child running across her ancestral home, the
flags in the square, the market of unused footwear,
the roads fluid with passing spirits carrying little joys
You flew me across the circle into the town of lakes
where every boat carried your favourite food into floating homes
asking me silly questions, you trapped my reflection in a picture
calling it a painting – you said – this will mean much more later
You rowed into and across brittle homes soaked in black water
calling out to former friends, all asleep, never to wake up to see you smile
Just then a sea appeared, the very end of the creek
you shed a tear, watching an orange moon descend
and make love to a tired ocean, ‘this is where I come
to talk to myself’, you confessed
as I watched the sea age,
you wrinkled and became quieter