Things I need

Three spoons of sugar

A little forgetting.

A tree wrapped around my backbone

Ocean air, salty-

with a hint of french fries.

A horizon that has held me in its arms before

A lullaby that feels like feathers

A puppy, asleep in my lap

The sun on my face, through the leaves –

While the wind braids all the worries in my hair

into echoes.

Advertisements

Backbone Burnout

” You’re not going to be able to help everyone. You need to know this.”
” I know this. I do. But I don’t know what I’m meant to do knowing this. Stop trying?”

***

Days when your head
Is too heavy for your backbone
So you need a shoulder

Just to exhale
Tired.
Can’t.
Go-
On.

While hands stroke your hair
Like tomorrow
Will be another day
Like tomorrow
Will not
be the same.
Like tomorrow
Your backbone
Will carry your head
Again

Staccato

When your anger
Seizes your hair
Drags you across the threshold

Do not dig your feet into ground
Instead, surrender.

Instead,
Go limp. Let yourself be pulled into the fire.

You will not return the same.

Deciding to be full

The breakfast buffet that you ended up flirting with-
(Shouldn’t do that again.)

Pizza at 3pm.
(Love, again. So much so that you need to KNOW where the mozzarella cheese came from.)

I ignore home cooked dinner in favour of emptiness.
Everyone else has seven different tastes on their plates.

At the temple, ash and sugar.

My aunt’s house. Dinner has leftovers.
(In my defence, she makes really good dhokla. And it’s been 5 hours since I ate.)

For all practical intents and purposes,
my grandmother refuses to count any eating outside her home as legitimate.

So here I am, at 10pm mixing dal-chawal with a spoon
And my grandmother standing in the kitchen asking me-
Tumne roti nahi khayi, kyun?

Sit here. Eat.

IMG-20170411-WA0005It is useless to try to write a poem about food. Contemplating the meals I have eaten on the marble floor of my grandmother’s house, I remind myself, it is useless to try and write a poem about food. A love that tastes like the first food you’ve eaten, cannot be explained. The simple fact that someone loves you enough to cook your favorite food when you visit, cannot be elaborated on. The bare reality that we need to eat to survive, need food to nourish us since we are born, cannot be altered. A meal is just a meal, after all. But a meal is my grandmother’s hands in the dough, her hands tossing the sabzis, the way she tries harder to make this meal special, the way she nags me to eat more when I’m already full. A meal is the most elemental offering of nourishment. I am not skilled enough to turn a love like this into a poem that makes sense. But, here is the first, incomplete attempt.

***

It is impossible to write a poem about food.

Still-

My grandmother makes a meal of memories
Tastes my mouth has nearly forgotten.

It is impossible to write a poem about-

how your memories from the mouth of your childhood, can be fitted into a plate and touched, tasted, swallowed, and lost inside you

Grain and vegetable turn into something nourishing blood, breath and bone.

The food I am fed
Becoming the way I stretch my arms before sleep,                                                                     Laughter rising from my throat,                                                                                                         heartbeats, the filling and emptying of my lungs.
It is a simple plate of food,                                                                                                                   and everything tastes familiar.

It is my grandmother loving me in the uncomplicated way I will strive to love  too-

You are here. Here is dinner.                                                                                                               Eat.

Kitestring/Finitude

When you want to reach someone else

But find yourself dissolving on the way-

When you get there finally, and

Everything that was yellow, is now green.

When your voice is a kite string

lost around your throat

When you realize they cannot untie you-

And you stop breathing-

but have to start again because

you know this much, by now.

So, with this kite string situation-

Now, you have to look for your hands

(all over again)

If not your wrists, check your hair.

If not your hair, check your coat pockets

If not your coat pockets, then his coat pockets.

Keep checking. They’re bound to be somewhere.

When you find your hands have been returned to you

You will blink at them, smaller, tougher-

Thinking the same word back to front.

Finitude.

tumblr_n9p4sihhl71ticsaho1_500

 

Power cut

Watch how the darkness

Makes everything softer

Turns voices into echoes

From far away.

Here,

Only the ticking of the clock

Between these heartbeats.

Here,

Only the sound of breath

lingering and leaving

your waiting chest.

Storm. And/ or Lighthouse.

“Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn’t get in, and walk through it, step by step. There’s no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That’s the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.

An you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You’ll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others.

And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

***

 

March has been the month of memories.

And my hands clutching her ankles,

Although we are not touching.

I am not supposed to touch her.

So I say-

Please.

Wait, I’m not supposed to say please. Or even, stay.

So instead, I tell her a story. About storms, about waiting.

I know this story is true.

***

 

Before I sleep, before I eat, before I check my phone

I have to remind myself that I cannot win

A battle that is not mine to fight.

***

Today,

Someone woke me up with sentences

That tasted like wildflowers,

And in the afternoon

I spilled laughter over the faces of my friends

And laughed some more.

And at night,

My sister opened her palms

And I kept my secrets in them.

Today I am aware of fragility

how

Everything made sense.

Everything made sense.

***

Before I sleep,

I will say a prayer for those shipwrecked senseless,

Those seeking the respite of water in their tired lungs.

I will pray for things I cannot name-

I will pray for the coming of

unhurt days.

Unknotting

Writing does not come easily. Not at the writing desk with a  mug where dreams rise like steam clouds. Not on the yellowed paper diary, tucked around the perfect black ink pen.

Never. My writing has stopped being convenient, stopped showing up when invited, so often now, I don’t bother.

Instead, she is a silent gatecrasher. Instead now, I am guilty of looking away.

Instead, the hum of the sunset against the car window- where pen and paper isn’t an option. Instead, I need to go take a shower, finish making this presentation, finish thinking about each story I carry in my head that isn’t fictional, finish the to-do list,

Writing comes in between me and the tidiness I strive for in my days.

So here I am. Still in my work clothes at 9.26pm on a Saturday with my tabs open to material for a presentation, and my towel waiting on the shower rack, and a white t-shirt with a quote about the sea on it, which I will wear later to the airport.

Writing surrounds me always, and I keep telling her, not now. Not here. Not this way.

If I’m not careful, I’ll tie myself into knots, just to keep things tidy.

That is not how I began, but it is how I’ve become. 

So here’s to a month of  Unbecoming. Detangling. Unknotting. Untying. Retying.  A month of letting poetry stand behind me, running her quicksilver fingers through my hair.

Like so many poets and writers across the world, I’m making April some promises.

I insist I am safe, even if I break them.

Today is the day of fools, after all.

***

Untied Breath.

If you could see the inside of my forehead,

You would not be able to read-

Beneath my eyelids

scratched out billboards

stand flippantly.

I close my eyes-

and

I am always tripping

Over the words

I collected

and abandoned.

Sometimes, if I am lucky

I can feel poetry’s breath

On the nape of my neck

Her fingers dissolving all the questions

In my wild hair,

Until my eyelids are wiped clean

with breath

Until the mirror

Faces now, here.