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)

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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’

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

Kutch, Circa 2016

endless white chapped by
earth’s cracked face
onwards a mirage tempts
cheated eyes to draw closer
offering only more distance
in exchange for more distance
the falcon unperturbed
sits inside your scope sage
and from a mile a wind delivers
fresh dust as lunch and dinner
relished only by onagers
cut by the road a lark 
flees
with a rant and disappears
meanwhile the dry sun
settling into a sleep finally
reveals a real horizon
under its orange finish
the oasis, a bed of pink,
suddenly
throws a million petals into the sky
departing flamingos ignore you cry
rewriting your dreams forever

Telegram





I was faraway when you cried

Letting the river absolve me with ripples

Searching for a landing place, finches,
portable as ever, decided a retreat to Europe
was best, that’s where you are, isn’t it?
Collating the smells of cities into

one long cup of coffee, kissed slowly,

attention broken by the newspaper’s turning
recalling beats of a story unwritten 



Yet when seven years later, the fig tree 

now even larger and attractive (claims 

the oriole and the hornbill), it allowed
the perfume of dawn to fill its rooms 

And at the point where childhood ends, you

with your slippers now silent, apparently 

absent, released a dense exhale someplace 

I will never be, yet I imagine smoke 

exploring your insides now recycled 

as mist, let out into the world, lonely

but filled with the desire to travel 


Rohtang, circa 2007

Raise a toast to the breeze,
to the stars, the snow, the ruins
without forgetting the mist that
slowly reveals every pine
body by body, signalling
the morning’s birth through a thrush,
through the calm slither of Beas, young
before it ages over the neighbour’s earth

And give special mention to
the lady who decided fire was
important tonight, and the man who
offered time and a stew, tea, flatbread
that went well the apples from earlier
and never forget the pass, whose gradual
unfurl of mountain after mountain, each
a match-cut in a winding cinema

Raise a toast to the breeze,
to the rocks, the chants, the eyes
of the lammergeier who made you envious
of height, and other impossible things
such as effortless flight and freewill

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