Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Seasons

I smelt roses
With the thunder clap
When petals rained
On my head ---
Night turned to day
In the blink of a bud
The feet turned light
Felt ready for flight
The arms looked
Like sprouting wings
The cocoon burst
Bright petals floated
Doted on flowers
That died by the hour 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Shadow

We hoped no shadow
Would darken the day
When the feet had found the way
Back to where our hearts lay
Yet in the shrine
Only the shadow remained
The head bowing all the same
Saw behind the closed eyes, ripples of emptiness
Soon swelling into an orange oblivion
Someone said there could be no darkness
Only various shades of night
From moonliness to moonlessness
And all one had to do was wait
Before it would be first light
When the search could begin again
For the new god who rejected all gods.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Truth

Say only the words
I want to hear,
It is the truth
I truly fear,
For now, lies will do
For even dreams are only lies
Before they come true
Before they rise
Before unbelieving eyes
Who only believe
What they see
Then say it cannot be ---
Or be like the deity
Who only listens
Who can only be silent
But all the same
Makes my eyes glisten.







Sunday, August 26, 2012

Body

Give us back
What belongs to us,
Keep your eyes
In your sockets
Not chase after us,
Let your poison-tipped barbs
Stay in your quiver,
Allow us to forget
The cross we carry
The bleeding wounds
That mark us for life,
Do not keep telling us
What fig-leaf we should wear
What we should not,
Stop blaming us even
When you violate us,
Do not call us goddesses
Those you pay lip service to
Before you hound us
As if we were sorceresses.





Thursday, August 2, 2012

In denial

In the unreal night
Of the death-dazed house
I clutch at the faintest sounds;
I steal from room to room
Hoping she has somehow come home;
Is she now merely hiding
Like a child
Behind the door
Or under the bed
Just waiting to be found?
Maybe I have forgotten
She was again staying over
With her ailing father,
Tomorrow she might walk in
Through the door
Like the other time,
With sleepless eyes
Yet eager to take
The house off our hands ---
How I wish I can go to sleep
Wake up and find her
Next to me, still asleep.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The rat race

Death came early
Like a wintry night
Out to put out all light;
Friends could not tell
Friends from fiends
Who wore their shoes everywhere
Not caring what they trampled upon;
The toys were plucked away
From three-year-olds
Who were pushed into the rat race;
The funeral pyres
Of normal desires
Never stopped burning
There were so many corpses falling
That mass graves became handy
It didn't matter to anyone
If you ate or slept
Or laughed or cried
It didn't matter
If you lived or just died;
There was talk for a while
Of a safety net
Before the proposal
Was dropped as not cost-effective;
The law of the jungle
Was embraced like the truth
By those who preyed
On those who merely prayed

Monday, July 9, 2012

Grief

I've wept the tears
Of a lifetime
On a single night
The strangers
With their condolence faces
And cliches of comfort
Have all disappeared
Leaving behind a house
That has turned
A stranger without her
I switch off
Even the zero light
To hide my eyes
A hush as when the clouds gather
Seems to hang in the air
Beside me a howling vastness
Darkness giving way to darkness ---
I dread the break of day

Monday, July 2, 2012

Child's play

It is enough,
A flight of stairs
To run up and down,
A wall to bounce
A ball off,
And a neighbour
Who, even when he has
No child of his own,
Knows children have to play.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A known heaven

The river stops
Short of the sea
Not knowing
If the deep would be
Its death or deliverance;
Can heaven not be entered
In our own image,
Under our own name,
With our house, soul mate, garden,
Books, bosom friends, songs, music,
Favourite foods, drinks, fragrances,
The past glowing like a full moon,
With all bad memories erased,
And no new desires,
To make waking undesirable?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Curfew

It was a night
That seemed like
An afternoon,
The sun seemed
Not to have set
Only turned invisible,
Trees stood still
Leaves barely breathing
As if there was
A curfew on the wind,
Sweat flowed
Like blood
That wouldn't clot,
Thirst raged
Like a fire
That couldn't be doused,
The mind fled
Like a migratory bird.

Monday, May 28, 2012

On the delete list

It is a number
I cannot bring myself
To delete like any other,
Though I have paid
My last respects
In my own way
From a distance,
It is like
The yellowing book
With my father's signature
I cannot throw away
Though the print is fading
And the teachings passe,
It is like
A secret love
I know
Cannot go anywhere
Though its glow
Is life-giving,
Just looking at it
Brings alive the voice
That went unheard
Like Cassandra's.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Graveyard

Night falls asleep
When we walk
Through our past
Picking up the toys
We have discarded
Laughing at how
We could not sleep
Without them
How we did not sleep
Because of them
The stinging words
Don't sting anymore
The mocking faces
Now stand mocked
The risen have fallen
The fallen have risen
Still strut as if
They have never fallen
Dreams we had to bury
Rise from the grave
With a sad smile
Stand unhappily awhile
Before we wave them inside.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Waiting

The blank page
Waits for words
To fill its emptiness,
The bare blue sky
Will not mind
Even barren clouds,
The white wall
Wails for
A child's scrawl,
The lonely aadi wind
Knocks on doors, windows
Crying to be let in,
Dreams stand orphaned
In every street
Of the sleepless city.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Lust

In the dark
Colours lie awake
For the day to break,
Roosters sleep light
Cannot wait
Serenade false dawns,
The dream brings those
Who have vowed
Never to step
Into the house,
White chases tan
While brown blanches
Ochre darkens
With lust
Turns ogre
Finds the door shut.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Colours of desire

When we meet
We swap lists
Of what we have bought,
She looks admiringly
At my designer wear
Praises my taste
Envies my luck
At getting a rare shade
Extracts a promise
To get one for her;
Pleased, I seek her tips
For repainting my house
I tell her I liked her decor
The last time I visited her;
After making a fresh list
Of what was new in the market
And what we needed to buy
We take leave, heads bursting
With the colours of desire

Monday, April 30, 2012

The deep

The hands are tired
From clappping
For those
Who leave little for others,
The throat is hoarse
From singing praises
To someone whose miracles
Include taking away
The little there is left,
The feet are weary
Of the mountain path
Leading to an empty shrine,
The eyes keep looking at the skies
Hoping for signs of cracks
The ears want to hear
The rumble of volcanoes in the deep
Which wants to give up the dead.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Agnihotris

The brick-lined
Homam site
In the hall
Is still warm
The fire still alive
Under the ash,
Children offer paper petals
Imitate the 'swaha' chant
Of the priests
Who have all gone ---
Smoke begins to rise
Forcing the grown-ups
To cry halt to their game,
The little flames
Dance away on lithe feet
To where they conjure
Another fire, other sacrifices.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Disconnect

What is seen
Is not scene by scene
The defender
Looks like the aggressor
The first blow
Is off-screen
What is spoken
Is not heard
What is heard
Is not understood
It is not my own
Who are dying
It is someone else's houses
That are being flattened
It is not my sea
That is being poisoned
Not my livelihood being stolen
I nod my approval
When my leader
Stresses the need
For people to sacrifice
For the nation to progress.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Blossoms

Someone who wears
Flowers in her hair
Counts the seasons
By the arrival of the blossoms
She makes do with marigold
Before the jasmine reappears
With its heady scent
The single rose is enough
For the morning rush hour
Those blooming at home
On the creeper-turned climber
And in the pot, smell the best
Because they have been strung
By mother's loving hands
I've often wondered
How it must be
To sport the crescent
On the crest
Keep a river
Coiled in the tuft
Drape a serpent
Around the neck
For inside my head
There is an ever-glowing moon
That never lets me sleep
A river that chatters forever
And a serpent that refuses to die.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Money

Green backs, saffron tinted
Blue tinged, mint fresh
Blood-stained, sweat-soaked
Soiled, crumpled, cello-taped
Sometimes bearing a lover's name
A phone number, even a doodle
Faithfully carrying images of national leaders
Whose ideals are no more in currency
Sometimes it is never seen
But as a row of tidy figures
Leaping from machine to machine
And wiping you out with a swipe
Sometimes the fake is never found
Move about like illegal aliens
Keeping to the byways and alleys
The black cousins prefer offshore havens
From where they run parallel universes
These days the notes disappear
From the wallet faster
Than they appear
And everyone from the bus conductor
To the landlord look like extortionists.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Counting the days

We used to count the days
Till the next vacation
When the hills wrapped us
In their white mists
And made us shiver delightedly
Despite the warm clothes,
Everywhere the smell of wet earth
A green outpouring,
A dam-burst of colours,
An undulating sweep of space
That was suddenly swept away
By something that kept drawing the curtain
Repeatedly drove away the sun
Till it gave up and left early
For the night that hummed in the ears
And made breathing heavy
As if we were still trekking,
We used to count the days
For the next big film, the next festival
Finally the nervous wedding at the temple town
Where the poetess fell in love with her god ---
The new arrivals, the beginning of classes
For the toddlers, a relentless looking forward to
The counting never stopping
Then suddenly turning back and looking at
How the days have fled, we stop counting
There is a slowing of the steps
There is more tarrying,
Lingering and wondering,
Wanting time to slow down
And move as leisurely
As when we have to go home
And do not want to go home.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Chasing the night

The day breaks
Early in my house
The lights come on
Long before it's dawn,
Turning in late
From the burglar-hour shift
I lie on the floor
Like a traffic island
Trying to sleep
Through rush hour,
Scurrying feet
Run around me
Leap across me
I even get a kick or two
Whether deliberately
Or inadvertently
I do not know,
Soon voices rise like
In road rage
With the lunch not packed
The laces missing
And the clock hands
Moving inexorably
The unmoving sleeper
Is somehow blamed
For the glitches,
Is roughly woken up
Forced to move
To another room
To chase his own night.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Home

Familiar walls,
The room as cosy as a womb,
The favourite spot,
The window view
Of pigeons circling
The temple tower
And landing deftly,
It's a coming back to
With the spirit unbroken
When there could well have been
An unseeing return on other feet,
The dusky goddess listens
With a glint of tears,
And a flash of fire,
The night hides the wounds,
Mother only asks
If you have eaten
Though she knows
You have been beaten
Knows too you can never be beaten.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Flies in the head

She keeps moving
The left hand
Rhythmically right to left
Shooing away flies
Which are not there
Her head suddenly shakes
Like saying no
To a frightening thought
Or a terrible temptation
The feet shuffle up and down
As if measuring the room
And getting it wrong every time
The eyes suddenly catch the mirror
She gets it off the wall
Takes it closer to the window
Where there is more sunlight
Peers at her reflection
Finds a smudge no one can see
Asks everyone in the house
If it is noticeable
Or makes her ugly
"See, that must be the reason
Why he left me, why else
Will he leave me."

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

One-man army

It's more like going to the temple
No, you can keep your footwear on
The shirt too, your beliefs, disbelief
Though you are required to
Willingly suspend the last,
As a security measure
The cookies too are confiscated,
As bandits are known to use them,
Along with the water and bag,
Do not worry, they will be
Returned to you intact
On your way out,
The hands will be free
To hold the dear in-house refreshments
You will require
To sit through the sound and fury
Of the one-man army.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Looking at legs

I keep looking at feet passing by
The drug-resistant pain in my right leg
Has slowed down my brisk gait;
The mother burdened with school bags
Drags along her son
Who wants to stop and stare
At the cat, stopping and staring at him
From atop a wayside wall
Covered with leggy film posters
Mocking the stick no bills fiat
The elderly man wills himself on
Though the knees won't bend or mend
Those barefoot seem to hardly care
For the stones or thorns or dirt or heat
Though they do not sing like the pilgrims
That they are like a bed of roses
I look at the rooted trees
That cannot flee or leave or change places
I wonder if they hurt
When the resting feet turn away

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sleepless

Do not let me sleep tonight
Let me keep hearing
Your dew-dipped voice
Fragrant like wet earth
Soft like gentle rain
Heartfelt like a grateful prayer;
I cannot sleep tonight,
As I stand alone
In the balcony
Smiling to myself
Your breath still
Seems to be
Blowing in my ear
Like a growing storm,
We rode it so well
Laughing all the while
And could not believe
It lasted so long,
I know why the treetops
Are dancing in the darkness
Like celebrating something;
I will not let you sleep tonight
Here I will sit by the door and scream
For the whole world to hear
And waking know whose sleep
You have killed so long.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sleep

This is a different kind of sleep
Where the eyes are shut in prayer
Like those of the ancestors
Standing with tears before the family deity
Day after day, year after year
Begging for a day without indignities
And a night without a nightmare
Yet waking with a start and sitting out
Looking blankly at the treetops
Dancing in the darkness
And praying for a night
When the heart is so happy
That one doesn't want to sleep.

Friday, February 17, 2012

No fly zone

No wintering birds
Will come anymore
They know they hate wings here
Anything that flies away
Not too keen to stay
Keeps two homes
Follows the sun
And knows its way back;
Though the sparrows are back
Fed by willing hands
As loving eyes watch
The fidgety birds twitter
Peck and fly, peck and fly
Dart about, worry over something
Unable to tell you where they've been
Wanting to tell you what they've seen.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Liberation

Before the moment disappears
The words somehow appear
To string the moon, to the tree,
To the kite, to something breaking free;
Before the feet turn away
The eyes have spoken and the smiles stay
On the lips like a dessert flavour
That can be savoured even light years after;
Before the lamp is lit without murmur
Yet again before the destroyer
Travelling from one sleepless city to another
Yesterday's prayers beg for an answer;
The kite doesn't belong in the tree
It is kin to something that wants to break free.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Telling it straight

Everyone likes me here
They call me the most
Beautiful girl
They've seen
In a long time
With the lightest complexion
In all eight blocks
Of our apartment complex;
They cannot believe
I am not a vegetarian;
They say my husband
Is lucky to get
A bride like me
Though he is dark-skinned,
Bony and slightly bald;
I told him
That we only wanted
A good man like him
A government servant
Without any vices
Though we had offers
Of alliances from doctors,
Engineers, even milk barons;
He believed every word of it
And was so pleased
That he wanted to buy
A silk sari for you
Mother, I had a hard time
Dissuading him from doing that
And offending our in-laws;
He seems to be fond
Of his sister and parents
I hope to wean him soon.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Prayer

All I ask, he said
Is to be spared
The shame of having
To beg for food again
The pain of leaving
A house that I have
Fallen in love with
The loss of friends
With whom I can
Walk back
Asking Time to stand by
All I ask, he said
Is to be able
To put my feet up
All my chores done
The prince's dusk song
Playing in the ear
With no longing
But to disappear

Friday, February 3, 2012

Facebook

I returned unhappy
From every visit
To the hairdresser
The elder cousin
Who accompanied me once
Gave his own instructions
Ignoring my protests
Then laughed all the way home
Looking at my near-tonsured head
Even when going unaccompanied
And giving my own order
The result was the same
The face staring back after
From the mirror
Looked worse than before
Now as the crown thins
And cannot be hid anymore
It is the young Facebook face
You want to keep looking at
And want to carry everywhere

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Truth

When you are
Willing to die
Hearing the kuyil's
Ethereal call
Do you think
Of the nest
It stole
The brood it killed?
When you listen entranced
To the song
Fragrant with jasmine,
Rain and wet bark
Do you recall the way
The composer barks
At his orchestra
And insults the musicians
Playing the wrong note?
When the revered seer
Speaks of the oneness of the soul
Can you forget his remark
Discriminating between head and feet?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Worship

In this desert city
So far away from home
To hear native words
Spoken on the street
Was like stumbling
Upon an oasis
After wading through
Hours of shimmering sands;
Never a dark skin was lovelier
White uneven teeth
Exhibited in an uninhibited grin
More welcome than a moon
The telltale accent
The fierce moustache
Brought before me
For a moment
Our folk deity
Still guarding the peepal tree
I greeted the beautiful stranger
With unabashed tears.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Fear

It was a night
One did not want it to be night,
No light was put out
Other rooms were kept out,
As if they hid someone
Waiting to pounce upon one,
The bedroom door remained shut
With wary eyes trained on it, but
Something still stood on the other side
In no hurry at all, willing to bide,
The sacred ash on the forehead
Did little to lessen the dread
Of the dark one
Fond of the one-on-one,
It was puberty time all over again
Bar the broom, pestle and pain.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Freedom

It was when one day
Was like any other
The sun rising leisurely
And waiting quietly
At the tea shop
For the milk to boil
The feet had not learned to hurry
As there was no need to
All places to go
Were within walking distance
The fastest vehicle
On the road
Was the bicycle
Nothing was expected of you
There was no one dinning it in
Day in and day out
To reach for the stars
Waving a list of the lunatics
Who made it big
There was no desire yet
Making a thorn of the pillow
And waking you before the east whitened.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Stereotypes

Someone is buried under
All that debris
Of hate words
The skin colour
Is repulsive
The height is not right
The pallu hangs
Down the wrong shoulder
The language is full
Of reprehensible loans
Besides, being spoken
Through the nose
One of us
Is equal
To ten of them
They cannot have enough of gods
Who are as frail as any of them
And constantly at war ---
Yet when they cry
Someone rises to the surface
No different from us.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Moon

I don't want to hear
This song of yesteryear
Mourning one who was so dear
Before she took away his eyes
Leaving behind a long night of lies
The orb then had not been trodded on
It was known only to wax, wane and be gone
For a while, before coming back for the flowers
And the tidings of the sleepless lovers
Now to hear the song again
With wrinkles, grey hair and pain
Is like looking at the pock-marked face
They brought back from space.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A terrible fire

The girl next door
Couldn't stand hunger,
She howled for food,
When her mother
Beat her up
All the time shouting
"There's nothing to eat
Wait till father comes home."
I signalled her
To come over
She fell upon the rice
We served, taking generous helpings
Wolfing everything down,
Soon she was crying,
Whether from the joy
Of dousing the terrible fire
Or the shame of being fed
By a neighbour
I could not tell

Monday, January 2, 2012

Time

There's nowhere to run
I know what has marked
The hair with white
Redrawn the face
Like a caricaturist,
The footsteps sound nearer
The stranger's hands
Are passing closer
As they grope for the quarry,
The old songs sound dearer
Because they are younger
Belonging to the days
Of the early mouche
The stirrings of love
The first triumphs
With endless possibilities
When anything could have been,
Not like today
When a tomorrow
Not unlike yesterday
Sits sheepishly with you,
As the stranger
Knocks on the next door