The letters always start with a familiar tone. A gray sea, an even grayer town with mossy roofs and people older than the first folklore. A bench by the sea. A couple of seagulls cawing in protest to the elder sea god who blasts them with gusts of briny air. The weather is always gloomy, clouds covering the eyes of the sun with a soft grayish blue blanket as if to protect it from the ghastly sights below. A man, or a woman – can be anyone, because that person is faceless under the thickness of their thoughts, looks at this rotten picture with the serenity of Claude Monet, about to burst into a picture of a thousand gray flowers. The person itself can be an Edouard Manet portrait, a decaying soul whose ribcages are filled with sand and salt – but whether they are from the sea or memories, remains unknown.
Driving to smells of local coffee and
sitting by the glass windows to see
a world flow by, a quagmire of
known and unknown
used to be a world
that you and I knew.
Finding our Trader Joe’s has
been a chore ever since
that world has dismantled
like our bastions of
sanity. All we have left
are dreams that
are neither utopian, nor
dystopian – somewhere in between.
Stuck in a bog amidst plague
years, the harangued existence
is a bitter fight. For you
and me, searching for
that drive across suburbia,
waiting in line
Heatwaves searing through memory meshes
as an amber mixture of chilipowder and salt
scintillates summer-baked humans, and prying
poets prepare their next soliloquy.
A bullet once shot can never be reversed. How
about a cannonball, Monsieur?
The infinite paradox of saving and
wanting to be saved cracks through armor
like subzero blight on bones; Terribly
trapped, yet viciously alive – a Kevlar of thorns
injecting the nausea of hope every second.
Fools believe that this summer is ending.
Does our collective conscience really matter in the grand schemes of this universe? Are we not impervious little specs of dusts amidst a sea of nothingness – an infinite swirl of hollow? Existence as we know it is an amalgamation of trepid thoughts about death and thereafter – does it hatch anything other that little pea-sized pods of happiness that we store in our yellow jars and eat slowly throughout our lives, like the fancy little fruit preserve that you bought from the farmer’s market one day and loved it so much that you refused to gobble it down in a couple of meals?
Will we be brave enough someday to answer these questions, or are we too consumed by our journey that we have forgotten that the tunnel ends under the surface, without a cylinder of bright light welcoming us? We keep on trying and trying, expecting difference in results, or do we? Are we expecting a different result, or the same result as the folks we’ve put in our collective pedestals?
We are running out of seasons. It feels like the year is either too hot or too cold, or too rainy and glum. Either way, our heaven is our hell. We will never get out of that hallucination, even when our bodies are thrown into the great fire. We will still have a smile in our faces, thinking our legacy will carry on. The dinosaur fossils would shake their heads and disagree.
Outside, a dying sun will still paint the earth crimson as it shrugs to the other side of the planet, expecting another gazillion foolish souls looking at evenings and afternoons in awe, but never thinking beyond it.
Your heart is a bubble. It floats amidst
non-necessities of life – where a naked king, fearless
and free, or a dirty sorceress weaving her
makeshift wand at every passers-by –
blows drafts of air to it, and it
rises high to those tree-branches where
a cuckoo, every morning, screams
about sping’s arrival.
Morning heat scrambles your brain.
You are as confused as the women
you love, and the love you think you have moves
like the city, old, trodden by idiots,
nonchalant of the dead and the living.
While the king and the sorceress build castles
and fairytales with their riches of imagination,
you ogle at them, your smile brittle and
desperate, wishing for a piece of their gold.
In this world of finite wishes,
their magic lanterns are infinite. Your heart is
but a bubble, hoping against hope,
for the spring to come.
I was looking at this picture that I had taken about eight-nine years back, standing at a parking deck of a shopping mall. Life was simpler back then, I think, I was still clueless – aimless – less, as gradually, experiences would gather like vines and moss around me, making me look like a discarded, derelict piece of history that people often pasted the most lurid posters; I was fighting the demons back then, fresh in the battlefield. In 2020, the demons have gotten a fresh start. So we have started to fight, again.
In terms of writing, 2020 has been a mixed bag. While I have been writing here and there (mostly in my blog) and listening to ‘America Online’ by The Midnight on a loop, I haven’t been consciously submitting my works to publications, albeit one, that is due to come out in 2021. My friends have been slacking too, caught in the quagmire that is 2020, like the marshes of Louisiana – once you got in, the mist choked you till you gave up all the secrets. Two headstarts that would someday transform into novels are looking at me disdainfully like my ex-projects, and I am feigning obliviousness.
One of my most vivid and recurring dreams, one that found its way to one of these novels is that I am sitting on a bench by a gray sea in a small, British town on an inclement day. The sea has found its way into my eyes, reflecting its calm waves that ended in nothingness. What I am looking at, I do not know. There’s not a single person in sight. I gradually get up and walk along the shore, looking for something amidst the sand and pebbles. The sea looks back at me, in amusement and then in boredom, and continues lapping waves at my feet, trying to eke any emotions out. This year has been such for me. Between the constantly looming New York Times headlines, the awful human nature all around, I have been searching for that niche. Both Debiroopa & I have been.
We cannot lose hope, and we should not. That is what keeps us afloat in these troubled waters. Though the 99% cynical me would advise you otherwise, but have 1% of hope in your heart and trudge on through the rubble, through the bogs of the past, to the fresh beginnings of future (or, like Tenet, go to the future to fix the past so you can be safe in the present?) Lo-Fi, classical music and podcasts have been my saviors this year, and books, articles and some very, very good poetry – making me realize that art is the ultimate distractor of them all, apart from misery.
Like this picture – which looked to me like the invitation to another age of simpler dreams that we had left far behind and couldn’t touch now – the normalcy of people, of friends and family – seems to have been rewritten this year, and if you think about it, maybe for our own good. The white, yellow, brown, ochre, blue pasteled sky and the bindi-like moon are just reminders that life used to be bright and vivid and we, careless lot we, screwed it for ourselves. So all we have left now is the gray sea, and we must make the most out of it before the weather changes again.
Happy New Year, everyone! Stay well, stay safe!
The wildfire has burnt down refuges
after refuges, and nature has flown the ashes
astray, creating new stories. Standing
atop a pile of volcanic rock-dust, a seedling
seeks a poet’s pen to grant it
immortality; but the island is
sinking every hour, and raising its head back
Loving people is like that. There are days
when you’ve let go of those fires, those
sights and smells, and then the flood
comes, and you’re without
your buoying straw.
The smog had blurred a winter sun for another day, claiming victory over the already defeated star as it hovered over the city like an old shawl that your grandpa refused to get rid of. Camaraderie of crows closely monitored us as we walked to and fro on a decaying rooftop, sipping whatever remained of a dying afternoon into our conscience.
This house was a stone’s throw from a popular city crematorium (even though popular is probably the wrong word to choose here). The double chimneys worked full-time to spill out blackish gray fumes that instantly joined their brethren in the smog colony, rejuvenating the sheath that obscured our sight.
Then it dawned on us : we were inhaling particles of the dead – people who were separate consciences a brief time ago, now reduced to dust and framed photos destined to slide further and further away from our living room-full of activities – were floating around in the air, hidden in plain sight – and we were taking them in. Did that mean that we were consuming their memories too? The lone kite (the bird) flying over us screeched, the noise that is distinctly theirs, even in the middle of a full-blown cacophony of buses, trams, taxis, bikes, cycles and pedestrians – and let us know that the answer wasn’t as simple as one might have thought.
Deprived from the sun, we returned with the dust of conscience on our bodies, the burnt fragrance of existence that were no longer mortal infinitely scattered on us like meteors on the lunar surface, Eau de Human as Debiroopa called them – into a conscience that was borrowed, into a world that was as fake as the assurance of living forever amidst humans. Behind us, the crows still cawed, gatekeepers of the dead as they were, that this too, shall pass.
There is a cyclone fence betweenourselves and the slaughter and behind itwe hover in a calm protected world likenetted fish, exactly like netted fish. It is either the beginning or the endof the world, and the choice is ourselvesor nothing. The black soot rises above … Continue reading The Country Between Us – Carolyn Forché and ‘Ourselves or nothing’
The normalcy of regular people is extraordinary. When you are amazed by the daylight tapering down to a feeble glow by four pm in the afternoon and wonder how the very same rays of light scorched you like an omelet a few months back, streams of people walk beneath your balcony to their destinations. Point A, point B, point C; what are our lives than scampering across from one misery to another, in search of that little smell of cheese called happiness? Creatures of desperation, we are, always in a pickle, always needing help, always seeking validation from others. You, poet, are trapped amidst these thorny bubbles. Let any of you touch them, and your reverie of a poem is over.
Between cities, clouds float in their usual randomness, sometimes swayed erratic by the wind, sometimes dragged by the ear by the vices of gravity and centrifugal forces. You’d notice them in their slow swim across the blue sky, as eccentric as ever. The cities under them, like the rivulets beneath your 50 square meter verandah, bicker and drown in rivers of hooch in meeting their targets.
If you are reading this, the clouds are listening into our conversation, peeping from the window. Escaping them is impossible.