Monday, 29 December 2008

Convalescent *


Days come tumbling one over the other
In silent succession
Talking to me in familiar gestures—

Now the municipal garbage gatherer
Emptying the bin of yesterday’s waste,

Then the stout unsmiling milk vending dame
Carrying light her kettle and measure,

The newspaper boy flinging the day's fare
With the same precision over the gate,

The twin-jingle of his bycycle bell
Vanishing round the corner of the street...

I keep reciting the lines again and again
As though learning by heart
The jingle of an old rhyme.

*****

Monday, 22 December 2008

Checkmate *


On the clay-tiled floor
I spread myself like chess pieces,
sleeping all morning.

Dreaming...I perspire
over the next crucial move,
facing smiling void.

*****

Thursday, 20 November 2008

what is the quality of that moment then?


like when you jump from an airplane
and you are in the clouds,
the clouds zooming past you
and you plunging
into a screaming tunnel of clouds…

like when icicles turn brittle your eyelashes,
your tresses flapping frenzied,
the wind blasting through you,
cleansing,
cleansing beyond all cleansing…

like when you think not of heaven or earth;
you think not of anything,
neither perchance the parachute failing,
nor whether you remember
buckling the whole thing on.

what is the quality of that moment then?

*****

Monday, 17 November 2008

Nothing


A jewel in the puddle on the ground
The lamp sheds
As I walk the streets this night.

A twirl-wind spins and lifts
Dead leaves
As I walk the streets this night.

They dance on silent steps
They arch and twist and toss
They strut back, swing and fall
Flashing
A whiff of jasmine on the cheeks.

My cheeks…
Wet with tears…
For nothing.

Homeward,
As I walk the streets this night.

***

Thursday, 13 November 2008

poem


at the farthest end of the corridor
a door opens.

light skids down the floor
like skaters exploding a silent slope.

words vanish to open a void
i freeze…

the strains of a poem trip lightly in.

*****

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

After the cloudburst

Wet night of the cloudburst
When the floods and the traffic
Clog the roads—
The policeman
Waving his glowing batons
Muffled in raincoat—
Sodden like a seed—

Why did we argue?
Why did you hurl that unkind word on me?
Why did I respond the way I did?

I will be home at eight to a warm supper
Of steaming rice and tapioca and pickle
And you, three hours hence—
In all probability—
To pickle and tapioca and steaming rice.

We both need a hot bath before the meal
Back from the wet and the cold...

I can imagine,
You stretching aching legs under the table,
As the old dame
Ladles rice on to your plate.
A funny expression you have on your face,
Mustachios combed down!

Shhhhh… she tells you,
In a hush
Swinging out of reach—

The children,
Don’t you wake them up!

*****

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

my son


eighteen-year-old vishnu
in between lessons
pumps twelve-kg dumbbells
talks of calories over breakfast
how much ronnie coleman takes
and how much arnold schwarzenegger
what their workout schedules are
hauls big sister lakshmi’s big almirah
at her bidding
from corner to corner
single-handed
not as handsome as his pop
as mom often tells him
with a wink
so he won't feel crushed
facing the reality
but a nice-looking chap all the same
a wiry clean-shaven oak tree grimacing
as though in a bout of dyspepsia
which is misleading
has the best of digestions
takes the bull by the horns
for anybody
has more than three score friends I know of
some of them bodybuilders
others
sheer brains and wizardry
damn good chaps each one of them
bowls leg spin and googlies
mixing them with flippers
a stickler for style
with flicks and cuts and drives
or flexing biceps
the size of tomatoes
tapping the belly
six-pack cutting
can walk on hands and wriggle his ears
a great hit with all the girls
below the age of sixteen
his friend trivikram tells me
behind his back
uncle be careful
keep a watch
and don't tell i told

*****

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Rainy Night *




It rained the whole of last night, dear son.
The banyan tree past our fence
Swished and swayed in the storm.

How bleak the wet luminance of my wait!
No streetlamp blinked
On the riddle of your returning trail
Over the desolate stretches of the night.

My eyes stood sentinel
The whole night, dearest,
For the faraway flicker of your torch
Hurrying home...
Only fireflies wheeled lost and hopeless in the gale.

And there was lightning too, dearest.
White stallions carting the chariot of faceless shadows
Down the valley of my gloom.

My heart leapt at each thunderclap...
Did I hear,
Muffled in its rumble,
Your fumble at the gate...
Knock at the door?

*****

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

The wind howls in the street outside


In the far corner,
Where etiquette matters,
Where there can be no misspelled words,
Missed syllables,
The debate on ethical behaviour to animals
Takes a commercial break,
As whiskered men dry their whiskers
With neatly folded handkerchiefs,
Praising the excellent vegetable soup...

The wind howls in the street outside.

Here, the smiles embalmed,
Preserved for posterity,
Value-added laughter,
Packaged, under the seal of the market economy;
A toast
To the big alliance, the mother of all strategies,
The concept of the decade...
And by way of pre-meditated entertainment,
The tale of certain daring escapade:
Dames without names,
Conquest without context...

The wind howls in the street outside.

And there, the ones to be watched,
The ones with whom one watches every sip,
The ones to be wary about,
The ones who call for the best of pretenses,
Measuring one another's words,
Adding up the 'ifs' and 'buts'
Rounding off the sum to the nearest whole number,
Alert, vigilant,
Counting one another's drink...

The wind howls in the street outside.

*****

The rail bridge basement is an ingenious find
Sheltered from lights and the howling wind
The migrants rebuilding the city dome
Lie stretched on stone, dreaming of home.

*****

Thursday, 28 August 2008

The Rainbow





A flock of steel-grey and white doves flapped up from the neighbouring roof in sudden excitement and fluttered up into the sky as though at the sound of an inaudible gunshot.

They were working their wings with great joy and they circled high, one following the other, metallic and feather-light.

They circled on and on, weaving ever-evolving patterns in the sky, circling now closer overhead so you could see each one of them tilting the beak sideways listening to the wing-beats of the others, moderating the speed and direction of the flight with subtle paddling variations of the wings to merge seamlessly with the whole.

They circled on and on and away, taking their ecstasy to levels beyond concepts, theories and logic.

They turned into specks of pure delight in the grey evening sky and, with the light of the heady regions playing on their feathers, became invisible flickers of sublime nothingness, dissolving from memory. They wheeled back into view yet again, drawing strands of some invisible filament from a drifting cloud.

The sun was behind a big bank of rain-clouds in the west. The whole line of the horizon west seemed to have caught fire and the clouds were billowing up like black smoke from a massive conflagration. They trundled east like a herd of wild elephants conquering a valley.

A sudden squall disturbed the trees, exciting cuckoos, sparrows and crows out of their perches. They flew from branch to unsure branch, but only the crows cawed. The doves were still circling high in the sky, wheeling in and out of the east-bound rain-clouds.

They wheeled with the high-altitude winds, sometimes the wind blowing them off their course, but each time the faltering happened, they dipped or climbed together to navigate the choppy ether, effortlessly weaving newer formations in which the wind too joined to make the whole.

The clouds galloping east would invade the whole sky: they rolled forward, the breakers curling in with the onward thrust of the massive clouds from behind. The wind among the trees had fallen silent. The whole earth seemed to freeze with the expectation of the first drops of the downpour as the clouds passed overhead.

It did not rain. The clouds seemed to be holding back, not allowing the myriad particles of vapour packing them with immeasurable power to condense and fall. They held back and rolled on and on as though they had to reach somewhere; they were so fixed on something...

They rolled on and on and the light began to fall, growing dimmer by the second, until it seemed night and heavy shadows would embrace the sky and the earth...

And then there was light and revelation.

It had neither shape nor dimension; it was the flowering of a flower of thousand petals slowly blooming, petal after petal unfolding brilliance and fragrance, overflowing. The clouds were lifting their blanket in the west and the sun was coming out and now shining in the full glory of joyous surprises.

It was immeasurable and fathomless as the void of the heavens; and the doves were now circling closer and were not of this world.

They descended gliding radiant on still wings, the deep violet of the rain-clouds behind them, their beaks soft and shining. They came swinging down, bobbing up in smooth arcs at touchdown and flapping their wings twice or thrice to gain sure-footed perch on the old rooftop.

They perched in a row at the very top of the roof where the tiles folded pyramid-shape and they were all facing east and crooning. They perched transmuted on the rooftop and they were all gazing happily at a glorious rainbow straddling the eastern sky, all seven colours sparkling.

They crooned as though saying it was their work; the entire sweep of the rainbow was their work.

A cuckoo began to sing and it was raining rainbows somewhere in the east.

************

Monday, 25 August 2008

Sun expires at noon

Shouts went down the beach
As when the canoe returns heavy with fish.
They came with baskets running,
Crowding around the jeep,
Laughing, jostling, pushing,
Hurling foul names and blows at one another
In a conflagration of paranoiac anxiety.

An authoritative voice boomed out:
What shame! What shame!
Suddenly there was silence,
Suddenly they stopped squabbling,
Hurriedly they formed a queue...

And now they spoke in undertones,
Holding their baskets like floral wreaths,
As though some unknown dignitary had died,
And they in queue to pay their tributes.

No undignified display of emotion,
No expression at all on the face,
When the sun expired at noon.

Redemption?

I had learned so little in life:
When the calling came to unlearn everything,
I found so little to disentangle.

I had accumulated so little in life:
When the calling came to give up everything,
I found hardly anything to unload.

Oh, how I used to cling like a leech to the dead
And jump next to that never born.

Not knowing now is the beginning and the end...
Bliss with no beginning and end.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Spellbound *


Street-abustle morn...
In my lodging room above,
Your smile fills my soul.

On my windowsill,
Flapping, a dove perches still...
Oh too close I freeze...

Feathers glistening
Metallic, yet soft-crooning...
Our eyes meet spellbound.

*****

Friday, 22 August 2008

Footprints *


In the twilight corridors of my dreams
I search for your footprints.

Wherefrom this fragrance, faint and alluring?
A gust of wind from the wilderness of another birth,
Bringing forgotten memories on its wings...

I remember, on my frozen floor, the soft tread of your steps.

In blinking moments of revelation,
When the distant lighthouse swings its beam past my windless sail,
I quiver,
On the edge of ecstacy,
Feeling your presence in my cabin.

You elude me, like a forgotten touch,
A word,
Drifting out of reach...

*****

Thursday, 7 August 2008

GOAL!

there were eight or ten of them little boys, it was difficult to count them, for they kept swinging madly on their roller skates on the court hardly the size of a basketball court, sweeping along in a bunch after the ball with their sticks poised and stretching out tense for the strike, dispersing and twisting in wild patterns and then going after the ball yet again, straining forward for speed, navigating smoothly, dangerously, sticks clacking, shoulders pushing, shooting off the course and with manoeuvres of the feet and the knees and the hips and the flailing hands recovering balance, laughing, and now from all corners converging on the far goal post to attack and defend, the goalkeeper strung bristling as a cat confronting an attacking pack, and as the whole court touched a beat to the imploding moment, there was this lady shouting from the sidelines, shoot, sonny, shoot, shoot.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Twin Crows


Two crows were perching huddled close on a bough up the big tree swaying with the winds blowing from the west.

The whole canopy rose and fell with the climb and fall of each gust and you heard the heaving of the wind like the deep-breasted breath of a bodybuilder pumping weights.

Everything was strong and robust this forenoon, the sky a translucence of dissipating white clouds vast and spreading, only in the east in patches showing blue brilliance, the sun hiding and peeping out as though on purpose, softening and setting alight the street and the buildings and the swaying trees, breathing light and shadow.

The wind and the light were breathing to different rhythms and the twin crows perched huddled close, their beaks sunk against the fluff of their breasts and eyes half-closed in the sharing of warmth, dancing with the twig bobbing in the wind like a pair of ballet dancers oblivious of everything else but the sharing of each other’s warmth and the listening to of each other’s heartbeats, never losing a step, never losing the perch, as though this moment was the beginning and the end and this dance the only thing.

The wind and the light were singing to different beats, but the crows with their dance on the swaying twig turned them all into a fusion music that was joy and celebration.

A car honked. And a truck hurtled past along the street raising dust in clouds quickly blown off and away by a gust waiting to come to life just to blow away that trail of dust and, its assignment done, fullfilled, to die unceremoniously somewhere down the street, like a panther out from the shadows in quick twisting bounds finishing its prey and withdrawing into the thickets.

A bicycle fell from its stand on the sidewalk with a rattle and there was the sound of laughter; someone shouted an oath, three or four of them were laughing and a boy came out and hauled the bicycle back on to its stand.

The wind and the sun and the honk of the car and the hurtling sound of the truck and the laughter each had its own rhythm, but the two crows on the twig with their swinging dance on the heaving canopy close to the terrace where you stood turned all sounds into a fusion music that was joy and celebration.

That music was the depth of silence and that silence the totality of everything.

*****