Naked

To be naked no mirrors are necessary
The past opens like a fable once the mind is touched
Even the doves alight as memories, flutter

Tainting the city of regrets with shadows

Elsewhere windows open and your mother’s voice calls
Her each syllable logs in limbo as a future poem
And in your palms, as a lover dissolves into a warm sleep

You are undressed into a further nudity

Meanwhile every country divides you into names and ages
The brilliance of old dreams rests as fallen leaves
A changing sky, showing missed seasons, turns cold

As doves, returning from abroad,
bring gifts and cologne for the soul


– opening line is the ending of a poem by Dilip Chitre, from the series Travelling in a Cage

River

I’m a slow river
building up pace
turn after turn
wrinkling my face
ripple by ripple
straightening my hair
in millet farms
leaving my body bare
for the pelican’s arms
going deep and shallow
moodily as I enter
the city’s eyebrows
whose insides I rinse
to gather waste and skins
clogging my chest
darkening my blood
making my body smell
turn after turn
crippling my face
bridge after bridge
as I sleep into a creek
spreading my tired body
on a bed of sand and dirt
dreaming of a sea
to accept me for what I am

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

Dream, Sikkim.

Your dream. A vision
of noiseless rivers foaming
in the distance, while
a monastery touched by calls
of ravens, lights a lantern
the moon sets

over the mountain’s shoulder. Simmering
tea pots, on them the sage’s fable
inked like a lucid memory

recited by shut eyes. The floor
cold from the season, pressed
by the music of toes. The sun rises,
its first arrows
piercing the village with joy.

Evening Snacks at the Hill Overlooking Your Favourite Scenery

cream cracker heavy
with paprika, herbs and cheese
bursts in your mouth
what a gorgeous evening it is

terns dive in the estuary
wearing the scent of fresh fish
hills dense with orchids and cashews
we order for an extra dish

filled with the essence of the scape
it arrives in mixed portions, eschewing
delicacies and favourites, instead
bringing pieces of meadows and memories
of years lived in isolation, away
from the brackish gems of this home
a dish filled with something we can both share

we divide it into equal parts
call separately for wine and sautéed beef
at sunset breaking it into halves
flinging it over the ancient cliff
in the humid air they dissolve into birds
gliding gracefully to the beach
following the wind as their prophet
settling at the ocean’s mouth
silently discussing the future

Travels

I let my words go last night
They travelled cold deserts under a sage moon
Whispering ancient secrets to still oases
Silently calling scattered gazelles and foxes
To come drink together

They traversed countless dunes and entered a town
Where shops were shutting and drunks were rising
Filling every house slowly like opium
Eventually arriving at every mother’s lip
Each growing
into a different story

Much later they reached a sparkling port
Ships carrying dates and saffron anchored momentarily
They dissolved into each sleeping sailor’s dream
Becoming peaceful prayers
For battles to come

Like all words they tired too
And cuddled in a moving caravan and fell asleep
Someday I might find them again
Dressed in a different language with changed names
I hope they might remember me
And teach me poetry all over again

Insight

so many doors
knock them down
let the clogged memoirs out
for a serene stroll
the verandah waits for you

so many windows
with faces of bruised children
awaiting your forgiveness
light some lanterns and let them rise
create joyous images in their eyes
the sky waits for you

i wait for you at the end of this moment
i watch you disappear and reappear
i watch you age like everything else
you call me back to show me
the city of love you rebuilt
the streets pulse like veins from your heart
each house invites you for a feast
but you decline saying
you have more houses to build