Getting Comprehensively Drunk After Four Years 


downtown Panaji calm neon slow cooked
white rum – vinegar – coconut winds
new mate from Melbourne teaches me how to drink
on careful first pour discard old troubles into the creek
whisky – rocks – sea salt – soda – rum – gin – lager
do you even feni i ask being all polite
no let’s do shots
fine let’s
pedro who’s been too quiet now suddenly jumps
is there urak too yes of course thanks man
pour – pour
table roars
we down it and share mutual stares
holy **** this is amazing i need more
pour – pour
we down it and screams are heard all the way in Mapusa
screw you why didn’t i know of this before
soon we’re dancing outside with cats
everything’s shut but we’re alive
coffee was is was my real alcohol you know I claim
**** no alcohol is your alcohol she says
cancelled by the breeze we cross the church
swaying like two long free and independent skirts
is there any other place that still serves elixir
thus 3 a.m. we’re dancing on a karaoke floor
do you want more feni i ask being all polite
yes let’s do shots
yes let’s
francis at the bar does his thing and slaughters a lime
drink – drink
Panaji hugs Melbourne
holy fuck this is the best we should do this more

– inspired by true incidents from June and August 2019, Goa, from the time spent with dear friend Jasmin Churches who managed to convert me back to the flamboyant drinker I once was, but now, far more refined and enjoyable. The moment this lockdown ends we will get some feni. Even if it’s in Auckland I don’t care. 


Incoherent List of Reminders

She reads the screen then reads your face
mid-morning, late-afternoon, purple evening –
all these awkward times of the day when
nothing is happening, is when she remembers
unsaid prose and lets it out in non-linear fashion;
“thank you, for sharing that, I had forgotten
how much I liked poetry’, ‘I also used to
love the sound of onions crackling in oil’,
‘thank you for watering the plants, now, I
remember the romance of petrichor’, ‘will you
speak on the phone in the next room? It will
feel like this home has more people than it does”
I obliged; then on sultry nights I played synth-pop,
practiced my French, got reminded of former flames
and failed loves, still lingering like spices on fingers
post a marinade rub; then late one night, ‘don’t
speak so much when you snore, choose one’, that
was the last straw; I unfurled old photos, former
calendars where nothing was striked off,
found a pristine boy in some of them
his hair was lush and he wore my name
winking at me from another country
smirking and holding a chord in his teeth
about to sing, the choir will join in, the
street market will disperse sweets, a city shall
remember him as special, and the
monsoon breeze
blowing from that day into this
will wipe the dust off this memory

Walkthrough

Turn right from the church then proceed
to the main gate of my school where I had my
first strawberry ice-cream and later my first crush,
she’s married now; never mind, go south and find
a junction smelling of baked firewood and garbage,
a fish market bang opposite and a ruckus of kites,
scores of corvids, all a graffiti of wings in the sky cut
by wires with beggars in the foreground expecting you
to make their day better; ignore – walk past the
ice crusher that creates beds for dead fish and be
pecked by kittens smelling of offal, a tungsten orchard
illuminates rows of corpses – wood thudded by chops,
which reminds me, I used to learn Karate but then
stopped. I also stopped singing, calligraphy, piano classes,
asking advice from elders, praying, being nice
to myself when I was wrong, I stopped in this market
fifteen years ago and decided to write poems while friends
binged on obese textbooks already written by someone else
so that they’d nail exams to become someone important,
have a life – I wondered at that prospect like someone
who reads signboards written in a foreign language – while
I sat on the floor of the market and soiled myself with:
blood, a concoction of stenches, eyes (dead and alive),
bargaining techniques, that faraway promise of kebabs,
waste paper shop scraps, leftover mince, a lonely half
smoked cigarette battling drizzle, vernacular debates
rousing balding vegetable sellers, that one lie I lied that still
floats around as a rumour ~
turn left from the market and venture on past the
lush dairies and spinach stalls and shoemakers
buy yourself a jackfruit, some dates, there is even
a beedi shop at the end of it, a sandwich cart that
doesn’t say no to extra cheese, a Parsi eatery now
endangered, a country bar with orange peel liquor; enough.
Now you know know everything essential about
this street that one needs to know, and there is only
so much about me that is even remotely interesting,
one thing though
turn right from the market and find school textbook shops
where I bought my first books on most subjects and
later in my teens lied to my teacher that
I was happy and soon-to-be-published, she’s no more,
never mind, next door is a great bakery whose cream
rolls are just ~

Badly Written Homecoming Letter

I stole visuals from the Arabian Sea, songs
from the forests that let me hide, echoes from
the higher Himalayan autumn, colours
from the feathers of my favourite birds.
I stole everything from the world around me
To later label and resell as poetry
I am a stealer and I am unoriginal
my breath reeks of alcohol I haven’t tasted
my journals talk of places I haven’t visited
my body is a lie floating around scavenging leftover vibes
from used rooms, bus stops, joints, streets, gardens,
windows, buses, footpaths, temples, mosques, churches
I lent my entire present to time’s helpless passing
I let books plot inside me new routes to repeat myself
Posing as a true friend I coldly absorbed
the spoken fears of loved ones as future writing prompts
And before idols I stood faceless with hands together pretending
to be devout, honest, pure, untouched, virgin
to the ways of country liquor, beedis and the fresh aroma
of love making,
of skewers, of a woman’s breath on my face, of a farmer’s rant
that flew over my head. I am a fake.
Others lied to win or escape or crossover
I lied to let go of what could never be mine
And using napkins, papers, screens, barks, stone walls
I recorded sightings I’ve unfairly hoarded for centuries
As for those who raised me to become someone else, know
That I’ve whored myself out to life and become nobody
And I’m returning home with nothing but poetry
Come, let’s have some tea

Years

a few years ago I left my voice at the bus stop
it asked a lady for the time, it made small talk with passengers
when the conductor asked for change, it shrouded
no one has heard of it since

a few years ago I left my feet at a lover’s house
they searched for slippers and hoped the raincoat
wasn’t torn, in the flooded city they floated –
by winter, they were nowhere to be found

my heart, I left it at the center of the old fort, it’s been years
by now a tree must’ve grown there and
sent out blossoms to the dargah, or maybe
it was brushed aside by morning sweepers, who once
introduced me to the art of dipping biscuits in tea

Eight years ago I left behind a boy of sixteen, virgin and strong
I filled him with songs and told him to never return
I scolded him and told him time is everything
And blocked him out so that he finds his own wisdom
Haven’t seen him since, not even virtually
But sometimes through a crowded local train when there’s just
enough space to peep through outstretched arms
I see someone like him walking with a stubble and soiled notebooks
ashamed of his stutter while trying
to light a cigarette with a borrowed matchstick

Passages

occasional excursions into new beds fizzle, love
instead returns each time
as a dove seeking water, as
a page wanting to be folded before
being felt, an act seeking
a curtain’s gradual closure, while relishing
anonymous applause

another night dissolves into dawn, awakened
by the stale odour of loneliness, the dove
now a hawk, vanishes without farewell, stained
by teacup prints a page yellows,
as you open the curtain, a city appears
a million windows aged, abused
by the sound of life running away

K

Hi K, how are you, last night
I saw you cross from this foothpath
to the one opposite, in between
a solar system flattened

I sensed your rush, you even
cut a call from god, texting that
you’ll call back later, eschewing
the lure of parked whores
you dashed into a colony of visions

I wanted to run after you, stop
you and ask you for your new number, ask
if you’re free tomorrow for a short dinner, listen
to your exploits about memory erasure

but I stopped as you opened your new wings
the slum rotting under your rise
I watched you happy, for the first time,
it was new and it stunned me endless
Never thought I’d do what I did next –
took a picture of you, I also did
that other thing, for the first time,

I let you go

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