Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Three short poems

No matter how hard I try
I can never recall
the colour of your eyes.

It's almost as if
I want to see them for the first time
every time.

***

Remember that evening
we spent walking in the Père Lachaise?
Summer had just ended,
but the birds didn't seem to know it yet.

It was the first time
I saw tears in your eyes.

Night came down swiftly
like a vast, mute protest.
There were no stars to be seen.

***

My favourite picture of you
features only a part of your palm
in the backseat on a highway.

The evening falling
slowly, sadly
all over the windshield
as the picture is being clicked.

Every bit of it sublimely ordinary
except for the hand
caught at the edge of the frame

unaware of its own grace
like a poem about to take shape.

Friday, October 24, 2014

On reading Homer

Tonight I got in a cab after work,
went straight home
and read Homer at my desk.

The last flight out 
was never taken.
A window seat was not chosen.

A "just landed" text
was never sent.
No smiles were involved.

A cab outside an airport
was never hailed.
No addresses were given.

A late night doorbell 
was never rung.
No hugs were shared.

A midnight dinner
was never cooked.
No dishes were done.

Elsewhere
Someone did not discover a star.
Someone did not get groceries.
Someone did not start a war.
Someone did not visit the dentist.
Someone did not light a fire.

Seven billion worlds never came to be.
There's only one for us all,
and that's all there ever will be.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Tell Me

Tell me beginnings matter.
Tell me hugs can be awkward.
Tell me postmen will survive.
Tell me great questions can have simple answers.
Tell me childhood is a place we can go to.
Tell me pride can forgive and be forgiven.
Tell me spontaneity is overrated.
Tell me there are things even nightmares are afraid of.
Tell me happiness is a language we can learn.
Tell me there's more to love than just a young man's poetry.
Tell me home is not what you leave behind, but what you bring back.
Tell me silence is only a manner of speaking.
Tell me highways have memories.
Tell me a story with a happy ending.
Tell me, tell me again.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Anthem

Morning.
Sunlight sinks its fangs into glass.
Thoughts bend to laws. Refraction, reflection.
Distant presences intruding on an absence.

You are not here.

Noon.
The shadow devours itself into a dot.
The hot air screams into itself. Shattered silences.
Dusty tears burning up a lonely countryside.

You are not here.

Evening.
The wet Earth deepens into a chasm. 
Sky-high lines drip into circles. Drops dropping into drops.
Miniscule worlds making themselves up, splitting apart.

You are not here.

Night.
Darkness drips onto land, ink from the heavens.
Bundles of black piled upon one another. Invisible walls.
A wordless heart echoing a bursting anthem.

You are not here.
You are not here.
You are not here.

Monday, October 13, 2014

WiFi History

In my left pocket,
protected by glass, silicone and passphrases,
is a list, forever safe,

of all those visits
I made to the web of our collective consciousness,
a history of somedays and somewheres.

That friend's house where I spent thursdays listening to Greek piano.
That surf shop in the Portuguese village which was once the end of the world.
That sunrise viewed over a bedecked window by the Ganga.
That Parisian library I first discovered Brodsky in.
That common room in Rome where I failed to console a tearful stranger.
That yellow bistro by the North Sea on a winter afternoon.
That Venetian streetlamp that bore a letter to a three year old.
That stormy night spent in a four poster bed in Pondicherry.
That Viennese apartment with old German books and fraying wallpaper.
That sleepless night in Firenze spent in anticipation of the Uffizi.
That room in Hyderabad that reeks of my tenacious youth.
That Bruges hostel where a housekeeper slipped me a note on Szymborska.
That breezy evening spent alone in a pool by the Vembanad lake.
That long railway dream through an Andalusian landscape.
That rainy day spent in London's streets dreaming of Turner's seascapes.
That Bangalore house where my poetry breathes quietly in a shelf corner.
That kind stranger in Coimbra who left her network open.
That blissful night spent on the Aegean Sea in a floating room.
That friendly old bookseller in Madrid who loved Tennyson.

All those homes, momentary and sedentary,
rains, chuckles, beginnings, cafés, chances,
horizons, friendships, errors, names, airports,
conversations, burdens, faces, absences, choices

reduced to a list narrated in circuitry and code,
a composition that can never comprehend its own beauty
but will, by design, relentlessly pursue its own future,
growing longer, longer and longer
until it no longer can

just like life
just like life itself.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Sunday

This is how the universe begins.

Light bulbs in our hearts
flickering to life

circular waves of our light
unfurling
into cities, continents, hemispheres, orbits, galaxies.

This day, love,
we burn.
We grow old
under these sheets.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The young cartographer

You speak
like a voice in a dream.
My ancient mariner's compass
guiding me
under the wicked paths of the stars.

My eyes are on the road ahead,
navigating the car in a sea of darkness.
We're going somewhere,
purpose is an afterthought.

Outside our windows,
cars and hours rush past,
like other people's dreams.

In the dark of your windowed silhouette
I imagine your beauty
like a cartographer at work
on the mysteries of the universe.

The hushed smile, the inkwell eyes
the warm circle of your arms
tender feet and fistfuls of grace
draped in the earth of your skin

the margins of your infinity
tracing their electric outlines
on the map of a young man's heart.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

For the man who gave me Asterix

You would be in your armchair
steel tea glass in hand, a book or two on the armrest,
legs crossed in dayless leisure.
I would arrive,
smelling of chalk dust and skipped homework,
clutching an Asterix adventure,
yet another disappointment.

It had happened again.
My Caesar was great,
but Gaul was greater.
Druids in white, fat men in stripes,
valour in a droopy moustache,
what could a poor emperor do?

Oh how it must have amused you,
the rigid disbelief of this brash schoolboy
who worshipped Caesar just because
lines from a school play rippled in his blood,
"Friends, Romans, Countrymen..."

You would commiserate
and generously hand over the next volume,
impishly fostering hope.
Perhaps this time, I would say, perhaps,
and you would grin.
And the cycle would repeat itself.

The truth found its way to me, eventually,
far away from your armchair
yet your wisdom stays with me,
an old man's mischief.

***

I heard yesterday
that you had passed away.

I wanted to come back to you
and borrow books from you again,
to walk past the tree in your front yard
that grew fearlessly across the stairs,
to sit silently waiting for you to look up from your page,
to sneak greedy glances at your library
until the book finally came out of the shelf 
accompanied by the magic words
(delivered with a faux sternness and a wagging forefinger)
"No food or milk near it, no creases."

That was it, our secret adventure,
the life inside of us we can never lose

all those evenings

our foreheads pressed up against
the window of childhood,
I, in a hurry to leave mine behind,
you, eagerly reaching out for yours.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Footnotes II

[The first instalment is here.]

Beauty is the stillness
of mirrors; Religion is a signpost
in an open desert; Goodbye
is the weight of a rose on a headstone;
Travel is a means of forgetting; Photography
is the currency of impermanence; Hope is
a stranger's smile seen through one's tears;
Novels are second hand dreams; Parenthood
is a long, slow education in letting go;
Regret is curiosity gone astray; Sadness is
an abandoned parasol in the monsoon;
Poetry is the imperfection of dusk; Distance
is the shared loneliness of railway tracks.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Resurrection

Tuesday evening in your pyjamas,
the apple juice is drinking nicely
as yellow light bounces off yellow walls.

The slow-motion machinery of the evening
rolls on.
The dry socks, the fallen cushions,
the router's blinks, the air conditioner's hum,
scratches on the surface of life.

You see the blank pages on your desk
and think to yourself,
maybe poetry is the language of elsewhere,
of the hereafter.

Just as you do, as if on cue
the past gathers itself into a huge wave.
All of the twenty nine years,
all of them.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Plummet

I was too young when it happened.
Or so it seemed.

They brought you home
with a crown of stitches on your forehead
and cotton choking your nostrils.

The room appeared to shrink around you,
as did those who loved you.
They said it was no place for a seven year old
so they took me away
speaking carefully in hushed tones, as if not to wake you.

Strangers with puffy eyes tried to feed me
and encouraged me to play carroms with the cousins.
Someone even got me comics.
Clearly, I had lost something,
I just wasn't being told what it was.

Then they carried you through the streets
but I was excused again,
you were too heavy for a seven year old's shoulders.

When my part finally came to be, the eldest son's calling,
I was obediently brave,
swallowing my childish fear of flames.

From the distant mountaintop of adulthood
every June
I look back on that seven year old boy in white.

That morning
he was asleep in a bed far away
as you lay dying.

Perhaps he still is.

Friday, March 28, 2014

La Poste

First there was that letter sent from Paris
for a long lost friend in a gardened city,
blue ink wrapped in cheap French stationery
with a bookmark, a street flyer with a copied recipe
and excess postage, just to be sure.
Undelivered.

Then that postcard sent from Madrid
for the girl who loved dusty shelves and tall bridges,
drippy spanish verses scribbled behind
an image of a full-mooned night by the Gran Vía
posted on a half-mooned night by the Gran Vía.
Undelivered.

Then there was that letter from Delhi
addressed to an ashen avenue in Strasbourg,
musing on Mallarmé's swan and Iberian sands,
violins, baguettes and the ironies of horology,
the nightly reveries of a wintry summer.
Undelivered.

***

It never goes away,
the inky grief of an undelivered letter,
like a lost pet from childhood.

It lingers like an unrecallable dream,
the shadow of all those lost words
huddled somewhere in unwilling silence,

perhaps
gathering dust in an office crevice,
or in a stranger's shoebox,
or crumpled behind a dumpster
or floating out at sea, the moist ink slowly fraying
like blue veins hurtling into heartless oblivion.