On a bright day like this
With your warm smile like today’s
I saw you walk by my eyes
Stranger in me
Less of me
One of me
One of you
A vague sense of myself,
And a clear vision of you.
You in the kitchen,
I on the speakerphone.
One image. One view.
Your face, your private smile.
One feeling. One longing.
For that you I first saw.
And for that expectation of life years,
That lights up when you are in it.
That lust for it,
That love for you.
One recollection. One sensation.
For that one song we would share.
For that warm friendship we would possess.
Don’t you think you stung too early?
And so I end,
Another pedantic poem,
For one fantastic you.
Suddenly awake, head flooded with
A painful “thud” that made me cringe in pain.
Stupid alarm radio. Always does that.
It began its song already, ignoring me.
Sleep. It never comes to me free of images.
Now with your face. Close to my face.
A splintered frown in your expression.
“Have a good life.”
A surround sound shriek in my innards.
Heart pumping fast.
Lips dry. Body shaking, crazyfingers shaking.
Re-experiencing the pain.
When you hurl words at someone they come back to you
As little messengers of love that was not there.
This life will be what it has always been.
A craving for a change.
A yearning to give myself over.
An old longing to live in this world
As a man lives in a village.
“So, have you called that someone yet?”
You asked, dressing me down
Hiding your laughter
Amma, this is for you
I listen to this song,
Remembering your laughter
Remembering how your body shook
As you stood laughing, nearly doubling down
Holding our gray rusted bed stand,
Almost getting up
Almost falling over
Giving up, sitting back again
Unable to contain laughter
Waving your hands to stop
And even a mere nudge
Would plunge you back into
Holding your stomach
Is this you, Amma?
Yesterday, when we were talking
Did your heart strain?
Did it ache?
Let’s call this our song
Your Talat Mahmood
Wish I were your Talat Mahmood
Just for once,
Kindle your dreams again
Till you are young again
Till I am old again
Again and again and again
Until the shattered prism
Is put back again
Until that fleeting moment
When you are my child again
First cold hands, then warm you
Soon sheets of macrolove
Enveloped me and you
Like a front that’s come in
“You silly,” you said
“It doesn’t die,” you said
And now, fat raindrops
Fall on my roof,
In my backyard,
On my palms,
On my forearms,
On my shoulders,
And in all those places
I miss you the most
Thinking of you.
A: So, tell me.
B: It goes like this.
See, see, see?
The green light came on
The “Active” light came on
My gypsy came on
Rational doesn’t know she is cross with me
Reason doesn’t know she is fed with up with me
Heart just knows she is just there
I go to sleep with hope for “Active”
I wake up from sleep with a wish for the green gypsy
A: “And then?”
B: And then,
When night and day
Our whispers came together
Crawling into each other’s bed
Or was it my bed, and your chair?
A: “And then?”
And then your hand reached
Through static and dynamic banners
Over noise-less binary symmetric channels
Under her skirt that sat on
The pile of printed emails
The smeared sharper images,
On the stained whispers
Of the sweet sticky secrets
Of the nights and days,
Of sun and snow
Your sun, my snow
Or was it my sun, your snow?
A: “And then?”
Fiddled, fumbled and fidgeted
A: “And then?”
And then, suddenly
Gypsy walked away,
Wishing me “have a good life”
A: “And then?”
So I order a replacement heart
And go back to my Waterman, to my Brother
What a strange brew,
This blogosphere is!
Links to our heartaches
And with trackbacks like you
To keep them wounds fresh
“I have a new shirt,” said the gypsy.
She drew me closer, within reach
of her pair of sure hands
“White with Green accents in the collar and cuffs,” she smiled.
I saw only her neck, her ear and her nose
Her eyes and her cheeks
Then she said something gypsy people say
My heart became heavy
And soft at her sight
In this state of awakening
A manner of love came over me
I took her to an in-between place
Where we exchanged our bodies
On sheets of macrolove
Her heart beating faster
Now she is a gypsy with two memories
One filled with longing, kept looking back
The other filled with life, kept soaring high
And then I remembered
That I saw her once before
At this conference of hearts
Saw her today climb into a car, someone else’s
May such moments of pain bring me
A clearer understanding
Bequeath her the rest of my years
Unlived, untainted, closer to God
This is how I know I love her.
For tomorrow I must lose this weight off my heart
Pry it out of your vise grip of silence
Somebody holds the key to this living, and its not me
When nanna died, I cried at the mere sight of the birds
When amma died, I cried at the very sight of myself
Now I’ve run out of my forgiveness tokens
But for tomorrow I must lose this weight off my heart
And keep looking for the “Away” light to turn green
For that somebody who holds the key to this living
Unforgiving, this attachment to you is.
My heart believes it is a place without lies.
And calls out for your heart,
thinking foolishly, prematurely, and without any proof
that some look, some smile, some touch from you
is nature’s law, and soon you will follow it.
I stare at this attachment,
presently in its thrall, but with a hope
that I will soon let it go.
I keep telling myself
that this unreasonable desire
for a word from you, only from you,
all the time from you,
will soon pass.
But like a child in a casket
resting in your unopened heart,
I see no way out of this darkness.
Without you, without the light of you.
So I write this.
To tell the world,
here lies a man,
a roadkill in a slow motion crush
that he called attachment.
Such is the sleep of the unenlightened.
Such are the deaths of the drowned.
It would be nice
To touch those hands
To press those fingers
To take them in my hands
To take them in my fingers
To kiss them
Feel the damp sweat
of her palms on my face
Would be nice
To put my arm around her shoulders,
hug her sideways
Laugh, double up, double down
Suddenly twist her t-shirt all the way round,
till she closed her eyes, in pretended agony
and see her blue veins recede beneath her skin
My lips bend forward,
Rushing after these blues
Gulping gobs of her
Making private friendship with her belly button
Cast unilateral agreements, and
Make five-year plans with her heart
Then after just a few hours
Go to her again
Asking for more budget
With a cap in my hand
And a heart in my mouth
Amma, today I talked to someone
Whom you would approve
To lay me in my grave.
Driving home, I said to you:
Have you heard, have you heard?
The sound of her heart beat
filled to the brim with kindness
that doesn’t judge, but only steps back
for a better view.
Like forgiveness herself
She turned to me this day,
saw the agitation in my heart,
and touched me with her hand
for a better me.
See, Amma, now I can sleep
the sleep of permanence
Detached from all beings
Attached, only to her reassurance.
Every time she looked at him, she saw a new stranger.
Every time he looked at her, he saw a new friend.
Polite she: “Sure!”
Skeptical he: “What did she mean by that?”
Uncertainty strings tightened around his heart.
What an agonizing squeeze this longing is!
When such is the current status of my heart,
who cares about app store rating 1.2!
“So what made you approach me?”
I gulped back my leaping heart at her question.
In that microsecond
All the reasons I was going to simplify
Oh, I don’t know.
The sharp look in her eyes?
The old soul confidence in her walk?
One showed the storm she’s in,
The other, the patience to love someone.
I told you it became complicated.
Subtext: Steve Miller Band, Abracadabra.
Some women got together
and came up to me
as I lay on the ground.
In our days we caged our hearts
in each other,
Now one said, “What a strange man he was,”
and nodded some others.
Spiteful ones, they turned back
To their Teslas, to their Priuses.
A moment later I stirred in my last breath
and saw two shadows crouched over me,
Their shoulders shaking,
their eyes shining like diamonds.
I wiped over a cloud
and their tears dried
so they now saw how
their expressed desire for me,
their unchecked lust for me,
and their eager hands that loved me,
was life enough for me.
In May I began my man’s cycle
Fell into a world
Where everything was you
and everything was in you
My clarity of purpose was sharp
My respect for your power was firm
My patience for your love was eternal
Now, seeing you arrogant
Seeing you rude
And emanate spite
And go the way of
the awkward new Indian tech worker
in an American city of Americans,
excessively polite to Americans
excessively dismissive of Indians
I lie at the end of my cycle
with a bit more self-knowledge
My eyes drawn towards horizon
My vision, into a bit more solitude.
Why talk of the unknowability of death?
Nonsense. Let me tell you what death is.
She will never think of you.
Not out of spite,
Nor because she doesn’t want to.
While your body is cremated
You let your heart burn first,
And keep your eyes open
Waiting in vain
To see her one last time
In that final frozen moment
You will see that you were wrong
It was indeed spite
That kept burning her heart
In that final frozen moment
You smile at something else
At the glory of dying
At the gift of being forgotten
Let this life pass over me
You sigh. Murmuring thank you.
To your mother and father.
This is death. Don’t waste it.
Chairs sat in a line that went around
Into another line and came back around
With us in them, in the conference room.
I sideways to you, but half my heart,
(Was it left ventricle, or the right one?)
Already sidled up to you
Sighing like a little girl.
Such were the scenes
In this conference of hearts
When it comes to a woman
You are only what she accords you
Framed in her silence,
And if you are offended by this
Then you are not madly in crush with her
Fix this first.
A wave of somethings appeared out of nowhere
Thoughts, recollections and some debris
Some, questioning if my memory is true
Others, smiling with kindness at me—
but still unhappy at my worries
That I didn’t create worthy fellowship
A few others just swept through my ankles
Clearing my feet, and under.
And so I descend day by day
Into a sleep on the shores
of my grave, with visitations
From these waves,
Now smiling more and more
Just a few moments ago,
Hearing a sudden eruption of noise
I stopped washing my face,
Hit the tap on its head
And stood listening.
Crows. Making ruckus,
Bringing me back my cuts.
Each black flight a cut
From you, you, and you.
Each caw a wake up call,
A reminder that they await
For that day my siblings put out
Balls of rice, my sins wrapped inside.
Until that day arrives
I let each crow in, one by one
Cut their throats and prod
In each, for a kind smile
That you never bothered.
Plucking out and throwing away
The world stinging her as thorn,
This girl walked swiftly away somewhere.
Translation of Ismail’s Telugu poem, original below.
ఈ పిల్ల చక చకా
Yesterday I realized
From the white-knuckle silence
She wouldn’t let go
That I am still unborn
A point of no focus
Not ready yet
For her words that ring love
May never be ready yet
For that chuckle from her eyes
And so I am in a good place
Where strangers reside
And dream of afterlives.
Do I not see in your face
The growing pointlessness of me?
Did I not get used to you
Not even trying to ignore me?
What then is this longing still,
For a feeling for home,
For an uplifting of moods?
I must announce this secret
Before my weariness takes over
Listen all you clueless people
In this world, a woman is a home
A man is a wandering guest,
Cap in hand, begging for love
Take what she gives you,
But before you start believing
You found a home,
Her silence will kill you anyway
Lust never sleeps,
It dreams of you
Your face in my head
Questioning me, confronting me
With those big conquering eyes
Prodding me to be straight
And honorable, to you, to you alone
Squeezing the last breath out of me
Until all gone, except the desire
To please you more
Not even you can take that away from me
You say that you have children,
That your eyes are just eyes
And that your breasts are just breasts
Hearing such heartless you
I sigh, longing for your
Neck, for your waist and thighs
Orphans you stole from my palms
And gave them to your family
And so until I get them back
Lust never sleeps
Appearing in the slightest wind
That carries a memory to you
Here I am thinking,
You were nicer to me
When you were pregnant
Now all you do is
Give me a frown,
An abrupt look away
So I urge you,
Become pregnant again,
And walk in through the hallway
On a bright sunny morning
So we can be friends again
Then I can stop kicking myself,
And stop writing pedantic poetry like this,
Quoting the only Lord Byron fragment I remember,
“And must thy lyre, so long divine,
Degenerate into hands like mine?*
*Lord Byron, in his “The Isles of Greece”
If you let yourself go fat,
and a bit of you begins to be
amused by the world’s tantrums,
And another bit of you is a witness
to this amused you but in a passing way,
then, my friend, there’s hope for you.
All this means you have seized on
to the way of life that does not fall
in the allure of the svelte body
toned, and attuned to fashion.
This in turn means there’s a bit of you
that did not lose its inward glance,
and there’s a bit of you that declines
to ignore the time passed.
And a bit of you that begins to soften
at the innocence that is the true nature
of these fashionable trends,
And the same bit of you sees
that it is your own ignorance
that made this innocence into a
lifestyle of ignorance.
Now gather all these bits of you
and see them not one by one
but altogether in a single view.
In that view you will see
a path open up that leads you
through the thick and thin
and the increasing din of your tomorrow
A path toward a habit, an outlook
a language, a discipline,
a method, an attitude,
And a sense of commitment
that gives you depth.
Of what this depth consist of,
and where it leads to,
it is for you to find out.
These days I keep imagining you
Sitting in the middle of everyone
But looking elsewhere
Sighing and smiling
Thrown to wolves, I wander in myself
Keeping a distance from you
Body exchange is impossible
Kiss exchange has to be even more imaginary
We are bandinis of our age
Tied to our younger dreams
Mistaking them to be our secrets
Glorifying them, and
Dramatically becoming weary
Until slow frustrations turn into
Shaking of the fingers
Quivering of the tears
Now the chest beats faster
Now the mind wanders off,
And keeps wandering off
Now I am not just hungry again,
Not just thirsty again
Because this younger dream
Has turned into a fever,
Stealing my peace
Stealing my friends
Stealing my wish to die
How strange I must appear to you
That you don’t even feel me
But wait, isn’t this what I always wanted
A release from the world, one by one?
So I smile at your silence
And look at the heavens
Strip, strip strip strip
Strip everything strip
That look from the corner of your eye, strip
That raising your eyebrow in a tease, strip
Strip that microsecond look of longing at me, strip
Strip that touching my shoulder openly,
But sending electric waves to me secretly, strip
Strip, strip away all of that, my dear
So you can be an independent, professional woman.
Walk, walk walk walk
Walk sternly walk
Frown, glower, offended, not looking at me walk
Happy you put me in my place walk
Go each of us to our corners
You kicking my heart away,
I kicking my guts in
In crush over you.
And happy new year to you.
Let me begin by making you a woman again
And tell you who you actually are
Beneath the snow of indifference that piled up on you
And made you stop feeling womanly.
When you speak on the phone,
Your voice goes inside me
And fills me with a quiet charge
When you laugh, with that self-deprecating humor of yours
You ignite that powder keg you just deposited in me
And I pace restlessly in the room
Your eyes, your jaw, your neck,
Your waist, and all your forbidden spaces
Now suddenly make me shy and blush
Remembering the times when you
Made love to me, as only you have,
Owning my body, my muscles
My shoulders and my confidence
And rightfully so.
Now take my hand,
Feel its warmth
Feel its eagerness
Feel all its crazy fingers
Feel you melting in them
And then stop feeling
And stay suspended on the edge
As long as I let you
Until I command you
Follow my lead
Like the woman that I made you
Days are going by.
And I hold you
With content that comes from imagining you
A steady hand,
Calming my restlessness
Those searching anxious eyes
Staring at unresolved questions
Brightening quietly on seeing me
Such is the signature of my wife
On the sheets of my macrolove
Before she leaves me every morning
Saying “this grave is for you” you put me to sleep one night,
Years ago. Erased me from your memory.
Now, when our lost intimacy presses my heart,
I roll up my full sleeves, touch my naked forearms,
Imagining your face, rising from your night,
Into my morning, like a kindred sun we shared once.
I wake up now and then, on the shores of detachment,
Looking back wistfully at the ocean of love I left behind.
Old soul that you are, dear N., may you live deep within it,
Like those creatures in The Abyss.
While I switch on and off the blue lights all over your body,
Saying, “you love me,” and “you love me not.”
I know this is the end.
I am saying this to will the end to come over me.
To forget you.
To will myself to go back in time before I saw you.
To have been looking the other way in that moment when you walked in.
To be innocent of you again.
To be free again.
To have been filled with a cloud of indifference from the start, so that now I would be someone else.
Oh, what I wouldn’t give to be a stranger!
To be a visitor.
I could’ve begun with you, and added this whole world to which I would be a stranger.
But, alas, one look at you and I missed that chance.
So here I am, resetting, restarting.
Backing up all the way, before the crush.
What an arduous task this re-collection is…
(On stage, she is sitting crouched, lamenting, wailing and cursing Death who is standing quietly, about five feet in front of her, with its back to her.)
If you are so focused on not seeing me
What is this urge in me then
To make you feel what I feel
You must see someone else
As I see you in my crush
You must love someone else
As I think I love you,
Do I make you feel dishonorable
Or is it loyalty to your present love?
(At these words Death, taking a sudden deep breath, appeared to turn towards her, but held itself motionless. It was evident it is having a difficult time controlling itself.)
(She kept staring at her own hands, her voice now quieter, deeper, heavy with anguish)
Don’t you see me at this hour, everyday,
Saying your ordinary things are my extraordinary things,
Sharing secretly with you my weakest self?
Then why do you keep me,
Between your ignorings and uncarings,
Why won’t you release me
What more do you want?
(Then she became quiet. Death stood still as before. A few moments passed. Then at the sound of the bell that rang abruptly and loudly, the viewer rose, closed the laptop screen, on which the stage scene was being played, and stood up. Until tomorrow.)
I can see her saying she loves me.
Barely the words left her lips and they are already reverberating a millionth time in my head. Already reconfiguring my brain circuits. Raising the action potentials, reconnecting a billion more neurons.
Thus it is proven that some words have higher velocity. Especially words from women who say they love you.
In that moment I can feel time stop and start again. Like a switch, something in me shifts from despair to a bright possibility.
All this is because she learned the giving portion of love, forgetting the taking portion.
That’s all it took for her to say it. To me. Only to me. Always to me.
Your baby, standing on her tiny wobbly legs,
Staring at you, her fingers joyfully in her mouth
I am like that, when it comes to you.
Who are you, then? I’ve heard it said
That there is a phase women go through,
When they roughshod over children like me,
While I stand staring at you, my heart in my mouth.
Is that you?
They won’t believe it,
No one will believe it.
How you held my body, my heart, and my happiness,
Firmly to the ground,
And flew them in the air,
With one and same smile,
And with one and the same turn of your eyes,
On me. Today. At last.
How curiously I am submitting to your will,
Suppressing my impulse to talk to you,
Holding myself back from saying what’s in my heart,
Am I growing up? Is this wisdom?
Are you my country? Is this what loving you really means?
Are you teaching me how to be a friend,
Weaning me from my habit of turning into your lover?
Now. Today. Finally. I feel rested.
Saw you walk by
A little boldly today.
I turned away, but only a little
Worried that my very look at you,
Would afflict both of us.
You with more derision of me,
I with more longing for you.
How I yearn to talk to you,
To see your smile,
And those alarmed, big eyes,
Even if they cut me down,
With their diamond looks.
“Here, it is these glasses,” said she,
When I said I can’t see the Totality.
Still seeing only darkness,
I mumbled to myself, “Why I still can’t see it, even with these?”
I turned around, but she disappeared, like she was never there.
“I see what you did there,” I thought.
I was looking not at the sky, but at the people around me,
My blackness was the Totality for them,
Their whiteness was the Totality for me.
“Maybe we need shades,” I wondered.
Like those children wore over there.
Saw him first,
Groping in the dim light of my allowing eyes,
So I squeezed him in, with my gentle hands.
He stepped forward, wishing only not to be a stranger,
But just a friend for now,
Maybe, if God willing, even a dreamy lover, later.
Guided his already-blind eyes, with my gentle hands,
Saying they are lively, saying they are warm,
Read his poems, saying they are vitreous,
Saying they are mystical.
Even now I remember how it felt when I squeezed
His heart like a ripe yellow mango in my fist.
Slurpy, squishy, dripping all over my fingers and palm.
Had a hard time keeping it in my grip,
The yellow juice already sticky,
And when it unexpectedly flew squeaking out of my palm,
Hit the clean white fridge door,
And landed spinning round and round on the cement floor,
Suddenly the mango was not juicy anymore.
I washed my hand, cleaned my teeth, feeling more yucky.
As the water tasted salty, I stared at my hand,
And wondered what the hell was all that about.
Then, satiated, I suddenly remembered,
That I ought to be independent,
That I ought to be, dedicated
To my first love, to my family, to my children,
And to my provincial right and wrong,
And that I ought not to let in
That that I ought not to give in
So I touched my breasts
Said they are not special
Said he is blind.
Young women these days
And so, self-centered,
Married, betrothed, dedicated.
Groping out of the dim light of her accusing eyes,
He stepped forward,
Now as a stranger,
Wishing not even to be a friend,
But still, maybe, if God willing,
A dreamy lover, some day.
There was a time,
Two sisters enquired about you.
Two brothers joked,
Made my face flush.
A mother and a father,
Anxiously asked for your name
But I, I only loved with possession,
Groped between your breasts,
Pushing them away, looking for the heart,
Forgetting myself, and my manners
Kept awake by your self-consciousness,
I tried to cling onto your heart,
Tried to fill those self-conscious spaces
Wondering what manner of love is this,
I suckle your breast like a child
And make love to you like a man
What an in-between world is this
Not yet a child in you,
No longer only your man
Eagerly waiting, will I be a boy or a girl?
I giggle hard, kick hard,
Roll over hard, laughing hard,
While you, palms on your stomach
Say you never had it so hard,
And swear, “What manner of love this is…!
No more, no no no, no more!”
How with feeling your eyes smiled today
I cannot describe it, simply cannot
They ask me to come for life
And stay for children
They promised me,
That the thighs will remain curious
Why the breasts are heavier,
And why they sigh so much,
As though burdened by the secret.
And so I make my turn,
One more for today, like everyday,
To live, and to tell,
Though I cannot really describe it, really cannot
How, for me, your eyes smiled today
And so here I am,
Back again in your blindspot.
Not in your thoughts,
Nor in your fascinations,
Not even a chance, years from now,
To be in your recollections.
To be in your blindspot,
Is like not even being born,
But conscious enough to lament.
And so here I go,
In this august month of 2017,
Back into the blindspot,
Back into the Total Eclipse.
And I will look for you wistfully,
Among people coming in droves to see me.
Showing them my fate, cautioning them in whispers,
Not to be your enemy, you the heartless one.
This is the story of how I live in S-lane,
And how I love the little things here.
There are a thousand houses in the S-lane,
And when I walk here, a thousand looks,
Each a thousand carat diamond, greet me in the S-lane.
Each look cuts me in its own way,
One look she smiles heartless, before looking away,
One look she wishes me dead, and full of bones,
And another look she says I am all but artificial reasons.
At the end of this S-lane,
Is a graveyard of my dreams, and of my natural flair,
Still I walk in it, daily, almost daily,
With a 360-degree mirror around me,
That holds me up, to see for myself,
How I am still standing and walking tall in this S-lane,
While you, all thousand of you, run roughshod over me,
To reach that place, just before the graveyard,
Where everything is bigger than me,
Where hungry children eat what’s between my bones,
Without remorse or pity, knowing that,
Only then will I have been,
A useful furnishing of the human family,
Deserving of a quiet sleep in that graveyard,
Away from the looks of you, from the very looks of you.
Pouring coffee into the cup,
I realized something, and smiled.
I don’t have to die for you.
Of not even ignoring me,
Will bring your own ruinations.
You will no doubt go to heaven,
But only after your children mourn for you,
And only after you tire yourself,
Of looking for my eyes, ready to come to my arms.
By then I would be long buried,
In the graveyard of your regrets,
–Hidden from you when you stare at it
From your Electric Environment-friendly Car–
Turning and sighing in the golden casket
I built while dying, with my memories
My blessings, and my longings for you.
One look, one word
And I died everyday
I didn’t kiss you
Now, after 23 years
I still live
For one word, for one look
And for one kiss
To encode life
Into my 23 pairs
How long are you going to smile a public smile when you see me
Sweeping me out the door of your kindness and grace
How long am I to go on feeling a private guilt when I see you
Hoping one day you will see the chains you put me in
How long are you going to walk by my eyes, as if I am no one special to you
How long am I going to sigh, telling you I want to be someone special for you
How many times I should learn this lesson, to stop loving spontaneously
How many fresh kills am I to become, for you who judge me slovenly
Oh, how I wish I live like an old man in a village
Away from the likes of you, from the very likes of you
Don’t hold back
It is not your love I want
Nor your affection, not yet anyway
Not even your attention—maybe just a little
But you allowing yourself,
When you see me,
The softness in your heart,
The ease in your body,
Ready, hesitating and stirring.
Showing, for now, only in
The smile in your eyes.