Probably

I’ll probably talk about myself in bits and pieces along the way
As we river into life’s slower years with a softening memory
The glass that separates the reflection from the being will dissolve
And sorry doves alighting on grey buildings will take off

In the soothing streams of my childhood you’ll dip rough fingers
And the mountains that hold my ancestry with release scores of eagles
The horses that run into you will burst into a million butterflies
Each carrying a day of my life, hinging between now and then, flapping

And the hush of leaves that follows you windily in my city
Shall stop before the shop where I kept a tab all my life
Within each shelf are preserved secrets, some expired, pick them all
Or none, your call, you may leave anytime

I wait for you at the end of it all besides the lake
Where clouds collate over its face, the birds float over the mirror
And age stops all of a sudden like the clock on my grandfather’s wall
I still remember it, the dial mute and the hands hanging like sorrowing branches
You will sit with me and watch me become a man one last time
Awaiting entry into the sanctuary, breathing, counting every breath on its way out

– translated from Marathi

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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

Poet

I was a poet
Centuries ago when I sailed to Aden
I carried spices on my back and charmed Bedouins at the shore
I carried my coast from here to there and exchanged sand
Learning words and scripts, bringing them back
I sprinkled them in a kettle
Ever since time has brewed for me the choicest phrases
As I turn my palm, the leaf of experience shows itself

I was forever a poet
Even before you undressed me and asked me to age backwards
In the timeless expanse of indigo I let my words foam into verbose surf
At times into cutting tides
At times into mellow sentences touching the creek
Where paper boats meet ships
And seawater refuels my veins; I remain
in history as a traveller and in the future as a page
exploring one library to another; living as a poet forever

Sing

Sing mute till you find a voice
Sing without your chords, only imagining the verse flower
At the tip of your mouth where your lips open to the rain
Imagine your future voice waiting there
Till it finds you and enters you as incense
Settling in your soul, growing into forms
Later coming out into the air
Like vapour rising from saffron tea

Premise

I understood the premise, but before the curtain fell,
the ending passed through and left me empty, hanging
in the dream I left behind at twenty – you scurried across your stage
the white starlings hopped about wondering
who the man in grey kaftan is, you

how I ran into the salt pans, the mirages
deftly slapping me one after the other, the vultures
eating away at my debts – you never surface, in an exposed corner
you typed away into the sky, both friend and father

today in the audience, darkened by the mask of not knowing
what is before and after me, I felt you finally
as man and soul – you gripped your portrait and caged each word
in your voice, I understood how you’re here but then you’re not
living in stories you wrote before your final drought

Fiction

Just woke up an hour ago, from fiction
Into a tense-less world where
Masks were absent, the traffic blurred like a stream, the
Murmuration of birds tipping the horizon
Like my hands browsing tips of grasses, slow waves
Endless

Eventually,
With the sea on either side, the path
Occasionally emerging with faces from the past,
Language-less, calm
Their eyes sinewed by forgiveness
…I aged backward into skin and bones, thereafter
Thousands of new moons dazed me, I ceased
To be a body with senses and mistakes, instead
The past and future opened their arms
Together
I reached my origin, becoming
A million years older
And a million years younger
Watching my entire being pass by
Changing every second

Masked

The person inward is the sage, outside
Is a masked rogue wearing a smile

Dew falls into earth’s veins
Seeping unaided, the poem
That becomes is the one that is felt
At the outside, only words

The person inward is rage, outside
Is a masked saint wearing a smile