The rain beat the lake, in rising shrapnel
A girl hid there under the rain shelter
In the eye –shadows of the afraid lover
He that was afraid of the lens’ blinding light
The sun still refused to be coaxed out
Consequently there were no copies of beauty
The rain was now furiously beating the road
All through the evening the wind howled
And there was nothing that we could do
In this sort of rain nothing really happens.
She did not die much
With a ten year old mind she could not have died much
And what little she had died caused just a little belly burn
Over a park sitting in breeze- lips pursing poor thing- saying
How good it was for her to die, to old parents, to the world
And to a forty five year old body, with a wrinkled forehead
And red anger, dry love, silver laughter, killer love in street
Little children running with stones of laughter behind her,
A body that had the rich echoes of a ten year kid's laughter
Eyes that knocked against meaning, distorted the world.
There was not much of a story and she did not die much.
We wanted our bodies to be more than stuff
Certain airy things floating on fluffy clouds
With a stringed instrument slung on shoulders
Chipping away at time, filling night with song.
The bodies spoke rhetoric in the most retro way
As if they were gods wearing unstitched clothes
And marigolds on torsos, signifying something.
Are we not more than stuff, we rhetorically asked
As an imaginary crowd shouted yes in their silence
Amid claps of spiritual hands, in the way of birds
Fluttering in sleep in the lonely trees of midnight.
How are you, they asked and fine, we are dying.
So are you, we said rhetorically to empty space.
Actually we do not wear anything in such space.
These marigolds signify nothing, plain rhetoric.
I hear two old men on the park bench
Speaking softly to each other's silence.
A son's keystrokes break nightly silence
In distant America where dollars rain.
The other man's son lives in this city.
His kids' school is on the other side.
I always write my own lyrics and you?
I compose mine on the bathroom walls
And some times, sing, in dulcet tunes,
An exquisite duet with the night cricket.
But I love this solo hum that comes
From the vacant holes of my insides.
I hear it in the silence between my ears.
It sounds like ocean wind that whispers
Into the needle- ears of tall casuarinas
On Bhimili beach on some dark nights.
The gods loved him
We do not dispute a thinly veiled existence,
His dying at early age, tongue sticking out
After a previous night's stars of many finger
Pointings towards sky-dome of ancient stars
By little finger spanning millennia of space
Light years of endless time as vacant space
Measured out in parcels of tiny square feet
Like the little boy-god under a palm umbrella
Whose smiling feet stretched to the infinity
On a softly egotistical underworld king-head.
He had lived here on loosely strung nights.
Who are we that will some day cease to be,
To assert his existence under the flickering
Stars he had pinpointed next to his own wall
And who are we to pity him for early death
With some blue years yet left to his balance?
We do not even know if the gods loved him.
The jasmine seller’s mustache is white as his jasmines.
In the basket on his head a string of jasmines lay curled
Like a de-fanged cobra listlessly waiting to be charmed.
He sells arm’s lengths of strung jasmines, a length for ten
His white shirt and turban have gone dark and brown
With the dust of streets like yesterday’s wilted jasmines.
The lady says, when she first came into the new house
There were many things to do because she was then fifty
And at fifty there was no visible time frame fixed for her.
Now, at sixty of years, her time frame is clear and visible
And so, there are not many things for her to do, says she.
Birthdays are just closing spaces between chunks of time.
We wonder why the old jasmine-seller seems pretending
All the time there is no clearly visible time frame for him.
Here I lay with my face opposed to the wall,
As its whiteness slowly seeps in wakefulness.
At midnight I open my eyes into sleep’s dark.
It is these Srinagar crows that are restating
What Mumbai crows had stated metallically-
These little specs of midnight’s darkness hide
In green chinar leaves waiting to burst out
With their sordid tales of a primeval horror
Of two innocent women in the chinar forest
Who lost their magnificent innocence and life.
It is all in their bellies, their black undersides
Those refuse to stay quiet behind Chinar leaves.
I turn to the side and lie dreaming of the Chinar's
Golden autumn leaves crunching under my feet.
In the lagoon the birds sit in threes
In black and white complacency
On sticks as though they were there
By somebody's design, not surely
Of the government tourism bosses.
These are golden ships with masts
Floating about in unspent spring
Which is my wealth for this season.
An ebony body is seen etched against
The amorphous green of coconuts
The moist green that spills all over
My lens and its luminous monitor.
It is of the body that rids the lagoon
Of water hyacinths into the boat
For stomach and more stomachs.
A little white girl crawls on the grass
Behind the sinuous coconut tree
Chasing a tiny white-leaping rabbit
As if she came out of storybook.
In the evening a flute plays high notes
On the sun-gold of the boat's head
And a tabla in a red shirt shakes head
In perfect musical agreement and nod.
(At the Kumarakom Lake View in Kerala)
This season our backyard coconuts
Hid it under their swinging fronds
Behind our asbestos-sheeted shack,
Its presence marked by pale shadow
Of our cow swishing tail on insects
In the backyard’s lonely darkness.
The cow looked in water trough
Giving out a low plaintive moan.
Her eyes shone through the night
As the pail's rope seemed to move.
Actually it was a mere water snake
That had made the well its home.
Our hibiscus stood mute by the well;
Its flowers went gray by moonlight.
Tiny flowers bloomed on the creeper
That had climbed our red-tiled roof.
Their fragrance filled the night air.
It was as though it was the moon
That smelled good in our backyard.
The Manikarnika Ghat in Varanasi
These people have come here
To solve existence problems
On the river that washed sins,
Human bodies and buffaloes.
They came from a far off river land
Where sins are equally washed.
They are wearing dark glasses
And their lungis above kneecaps.
They speak an ancient tongue
And eat mounds of liquid rice
But when their boat reaches
Within sight of Manikarnika ghat
They are deeply afraid in their eyes
Like you, me and our ancestors.
The other woman
Her white-washed house, on the town's edge,
Was warm and luminous in the evenings
Her window-shades hosted dancing phantoms.
The hibiscus tree in her backyard yielded
Deep dark red flowers meant for worship.
She complained of green snakes, now and then.
Children played in the compound, collecting
Warm twigs for the ensuing festival bonfire
During the festival, caparisoned bulls
Came accompanied by frenzied drumbeats.
Love was truly a splendorous thing
Behind closed doors and drawn curtains.
Colored bangles broke piercing her wrist
And the muscular elevation of his chest.
At dusk light cream-colored mosquito-nets
Hid shadows coalescing into each other .
Outside the window, the autumn leaves fell
One after the other, carpeting the garden floor .
The fat book on the table opened its mouth
With wide-eyed wonder at the trellis of shadows
On the marble floor cast by the chandeliers.
At night she burrowed her face in the pillow
As they dreamed together their joint dreams
And some times their separate dreams.
Green snakes haunted her dreams, slithering
All over her, dropping from the hibiscus
Of course they do not harm, these green snakes
But their slither-feel is so much disagreeable
And they merge so effortlessly in her shadows.
Keeping awake with Shiva
The night's wakefulness came across the starlit sky
Over the dark clump of mangoes and the court wall
With loud cymbals and scraps of movie songs
After lanterns started flickering with halos of moths.
We then kept awake with Shiva over tea after tea .
The pigtailed girls had hungry stomachs
Yet made thin tea for egotistical boys.
Their plea for holding bats fell on deaf ears
They jumped over charcoal drawn squares
With ribboned ponytails doing ding dong.
A mythological movie was then thought.
Mustachioed demons threw arrows in them
That fought flaming maces and burning arrows
It was good which triumphed to our comfort
When we were confused if that was indeed so.
At two we yawned deeply, suitably convinced
Shiva had by then consumed the deadly poison
And got back to his penance on the mount
The blue on his throat had by then vanished.
The kitchen (a tribute to woman)
We liked her much and her sarcastic self
She had carried her transience about her
As though it was a long flowing toga
For her transience was a settled matter
Of evolution, in Darwin and burlesque
Just a comedy of sorts, full of sarcasm.
Surely the world was made in her kitchen
Apparently he could not make a fine job.
Actually when she laughed it was at him
Not that she was afraid of him, except
In the spirit-smell of a buttocks- injection
When she had a creepy feeling in her belly.
Things seemed to happen by a strange logic
A beyond-logic one failed to nail down
Everything got mixed, things and words
Stewed in an orange light, an unreality
Being light up there, force of gravity low.
Above all this woman thing was God-like
The mother of all, who suffered for children
Who have once lived in her puffed- up belly
And for strange men she met in the corridor.
Civilizing the Bastar tribals
Long ago our courage deserted us
Thought soon froze in its tracks
Our spiked hair rose to the sky
As the cold air bit into our bones
White rain poured on thatched roofs
Forming yellow snakes of waters
And outside the rusted window rails
On the yellow- dropped leaves
Yesterday was the day of cockfights
The birds stared at their bound legs
Waiting to bleed their bird-friends
Our white fluid glistened in the pots
We went high on smelly rice drinks
We made a rope circle among trees
That was the bloody arena for cocks
Our basket threw up big plastic dice
Our village youth staked day’s labor
Our children now have blue uniforms
They will one day be clerks in office
Our women continue transplanting rice
Our gods have stopped being angry
Whatever we did in billowing skirts
Our moment never came, actually.