Of Shadows

 

Of shadows, the ones left behind
which later became nameless nomads, reciting
stories to each pavement they rested over
allowing themselves to be dented, reformed
by each surface that made love to their passing
occasionally hiding in unlikely places
each time a sunrise attempted an ambush.
Pursued by cats and the occasional lunatic,
escaping from one conniving space to another
learning the art of bending, spreading, shielding
they finally gave offsprings one summer night, since then
a city once coloured by a single mood
found moments of grey to balance itself out

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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

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

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