Elegy For The Girl Who Disappeared #24

Mourning loss is not much good nor wiping tears any gain
But it’s the best you can do sometimes
When the sand falls through the hourglass
as you try to make things last
The world sings you its song of lament.
And today you mourn not time nor space
But a soul you always believed would stay.
She was the wind, the sunshine and rain
The tempest tossed sea and the calm summer sky

But she got tired. She told me this:
even storms would have to pass someday.
She’d seen the best and worst of both worlds
And staying on would mean nothing anyway.
The mob had a way of snubbing out lit candles
And hers was the only one she’d known
when the rooms got smaller and the world, larger
Wars played out inside toy boxes
Flowers fell and paper boats drowned
Lyrics of poems drooped like autumn leaves, alone.

You! You saw the signs, the silence that grew between
Yet you waited and watched for her to come home.
Her blanket lay cold and the church bell tolled.
And still you never understood she was gone.
I’m sorry it falls on me to tell you
That she truly has left and you never knew
Don’t ask me where she is, I do not know
It is a pity that things had to end so.

There’s hills, forests, valleys and tunnels
The world is wide, the sea is deep
And finally, to roam she is free.
But maybe not quite, because she’s gone
No bird nor rain will fall for her
Memories will be wiped clean with time and water.

It’s no use,
Don’t protest.

Go scavenge the field of hopes and dreams
Battlefields of truth and honour
Seek her between the pages of books
That stay in her forgotten bookshelf
Call her to join in on the song
She used to sing all day
Look for her in the ink and graphite
Of pens and pencils she wielded in delight
Blow a horn from the rooftops of Venice
Tell her to come, see the world and its places
Ask her to blow all the dust away
From the Polaroid camera hiding in the trunk case
Place all the colour photographs in a line
And name each person, place, fragments of time.
Plead with her to remember all the stories
Etched in the camera rolls and inked papers.

And then she might appear, a ghost of her
Impassive. Unseeing. Like a machine.
Take her out for a rambling walk
Through woods and lovely lamplit streets
Hold her hand and don’t speak a word
As she looks up at the stars and smiles.
Then tell her to take it slow, to breathe
And like a floating lantern, to let go and fly.
Wave as she fades and return home
Have a cup of coffee and move on
But every now and then when the wind blows
Or when you hear an old song or when it snows
Think of her memory and wish her well
Try to remember and when you do, forget.

Be A Song #23

Be a song that screams through headphones
In quiet mellow tones
Be a song that falls on deaf ears
And makes them know what music feels like
Be a song that one learns without trying
And forgets not to hum
Be a song that strayed into the radio playlist
And wafts through the living room speakers
Be a song that mutes the laughter in the classroom
And makes everyone stop and listen
Be a song that someone doesn’t dare listen to
‘Cause it falls like rain on a part of them too fragile
Be a song that would be the background score
When you breathe in the air and watch the stars

Be the lyric, shaking your soul
Confronting your eyes, tearing down walls
Be the melody, circling your mind
Gliding like smoke to those who’ve lost hope.

Be a grand song.
Be your own song.

Introverted Dilemma #22

Can I stay in my room
And pretend to be invisible
When guests come home
and ask if they can see me?
Can I skip school and weddings
To finish my book or watch the rain
Because people drain me and
I do not know what to say
when they ask how I’m doing and
When they make a mistake?
They might think it rude of me
To correct their phrases and their actions
So how can I say all this in a nice way?

There’s so many things to get done
So much wrong to put right
In my own little universe
So many stars to ignite
But this world tires me out
Though I hide it as best I might
I do well and play along
But come the end of the day
You’ll find me lost and bewildered
Longing for silence and a silent peaceful song.

I live in an extrovert-ruled world
I try to adapt
And I do pretty well
My mask has a painted smile.
I achieve what they want me to
I talk and laugh and dance
Miserably.

Neo-Colonized Me #21

Lazing around on my retro couch
I shake my head and sigh
As the news channel stumps me
With its tirade on loss of culture
While I twirl a pen with a label
Which says it is made in China
And my mind wanders through nations
And notions and talks about nationality
But I stop as I realize
I’m not too sure where I belong, mentally-
I stand with one foot firmly in the East
Another, dangling in the West
But that does not even make any sense-
Perpetual confusion abounds in the voices
Of people like me who seem to be tainted
With a splash of multiple colours
‘cause of some colonizing exploits by men of old
From before the time when I was born
And now with the internet, it’s a small world after-all.

I who major in English Literature
But teaches my niece, my mother tongue
Listen to a German composer’s music
While studying about the French Revolution
Wears my Indian traditional outfit to a party
Where my friend hums a Spanish song
And talks about studying abroad.
I, whose childhood was carved
Out of Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’,
Reads works of Nigerian authors more
Than that of my neighbour who writes.
My brother roots for Barcelona and shouts at the TV at 3 am
I who crave Mexican food and ends up eating pizza
Calls my aunt in Australia to ask her about the weather
Discusses American Politics sipping latte
With a Professor of Sanskrit at the University of Stockholm.

The whole world is on my bucket list to visit
And I’ll be going some day I say,
But I forgot where I was going with this
Except to ask, can someone help me out
Give my confused thoughts a break
Place this neo-colonized me
(not too sure what that means)
Somewhere on the 2-D map of the world
I hold in my hand.

Dream #20

My shiny shoes fidget on the sidewalk
As my heart sighs at the sight of her
What a life to live, I think to myself
We could change it if we stood together
I tell myself proudly, this is my dream.

Her unkempt hair dances in the wind
As does the cement in the construction site around.
She warily looks at me with unforgiving grey eyes
Unsurprised, impassive and a tad annoyed.
I tell her who we are and asks her questions
She replies in monosyllables, as if each word
Would drain energy that she badly needed for breathing.
She stutters and sighs, worries aloud her wages will be cut.
We tell her not to worry ‘cause she’s going to be set free.
She turns to us in horror, and screams:
“I cannot afford that to be!”
I tell her that she returns with us,
Professionals, social workers, people she can trust.
I tell her of freedom, of future and all it could be
Of learning, of wonder, of letters and of dreams.
And she tells me of her pregnant mother
Waiting for her wages to buy a piece of roti
While her little brother sleeps feverish under a non-existing roof
“Take care of them and other thousands like me
Then set me free,” she says, that’s what matters to me
“Cause, dear sir, it’s not freedom or dreams that I now need
But a 20-rupee note to take home for Amma.”

“You turn our pains into poems and stories
Publish articles and shout slogans
For whom?” She asks. I do not answer.
“You get paid for it, don’t you?” She persists.
I shrug. Sometimes, I say.
“It’s not as simple as you think, sir, my family depends on me.
And if you care enough, let the thousands back home
Get the same attention as me.”

The metropolis dust finds a home on her shoulders
As if the burdens on it were not enough already.
I slowly realize that it’s not just about freedom
Or the loss of childhood and peace
Nor of forced labour or growing up too quickly
As she wipes her cement-scented tears and says:
“Teach me to dream, sir, for I do not know what that means. ”

The Watchman #19

I’ve seen much of all of life
In sixty years of living in this city
I’ve known people of all kinds
I’ve watched them fumble through hours
Of their fleeting evanescent lives.
I’ve seen more of night than day
I sit here from dusk till dawn on a chair
In front of a shop no one cares about
My blue uniform and whistle
Is what I have for company.

And in my time of watching the darkened skies
I have seen strange things
Like the child who ran through the streets at 1 am,
Or the drunkard who sang through the night,
The screams of a woman daily resonate in my ears
Near the hour I heard them the first time.

Year after year, the city grows old with me
The buildings are painted but nothing changes
They talk of progress and technology
I sit here and watch the world grow weary
Weary of time and weary of space
Insensitive to cries and exhausted all the while.

When it is night, it’s quiet all around
This city retires silently
An old man who’s biding his time
Resigned to what fate may hold for him
I watch him fall asleep, wrapped in a tattered garment
Of worries and dreams forgotten in sleep
Restlessly he mumbles as he turns over on his side
I sing a song and try to soothe his slumber.

He wakes up with unkempt hair and teeth
Mutters, springs right back into action
Mutters and goes about his routine
And I watch him live, think of all I’ve seen
Wait for evening to know how the day has been.

If one day, he does not wake up at dawn
After a night of loss and storms
I’ll go, tap him on his cold shoulder
Revive this Lazarus and tell him
He cannot give up, life has to go on.

Feeling The Rain #18

Listen. Hush now and listen.
Do you hear the first drops of rain?
Grab a chair and sit by the window
Keep the windows open, pull the curtains just a little
The water now comes in torrents
Swift, thick and merciless.

I know, I know
I know they ask you to dance in it
I know they ask you to walk drenched to the bone
I know they tell you to shout and pretend
To be that actor in the old movie, singing in the rain
I know they take pictures of you in a rain-coated smile
I know they romanticize it all too well
I know they say that you feel the rain then.

But, just this once, listen to me
Stay indoors and stay by the window
Let the wind blow in and close your eyes
Listen. Do you hear the rain?
Keep listening to its thunderous roar
No, don’t turn on the melancholy music
Let the cold come through
Don’t get a cup of coffee
Or a cozy book to read
Forget that you own blankets
Stay right where you are.
Breathe slowly.
Listen.
Do you hear it?
Do you hear the rain?
And now, do you feel it?
Do you really feel the cold?
The droplets on your eyes and your soul?
Can you feel the pain you covered up?
The goodbye that you’ve tried to forget?
The joy that aches and the guilt that never left?

What you feel right now is what rain is, dear friend
It is letting go and falling down
It is surrender and power
To remind you it is okay to be poured out.
Friend, you shouldn’t just feel it on your skin
The magic happens when you feel the rain within.

I Died Today #17

I died today
Just as the sun rose
In a red-tinted horizon
It never shined so brightly
But I wasn’t there to see.

They all came in waves of black
Crowds. Faces. People
Some I knew, some I didn’t
I guess most knew my name
They brought me bouquets of roses
Tears fell from their eyes
They talked of me, my love for life
My paintings and poems, music and smile
Some read letters from those who couldn’t be there
How my departing told them of the shortness of life
Some said they’ll miss me, some talked of my dreams
(I’ll conveniently forget that they didn’t know any of them)
Some sought forgiveness, others spoke of regret
Some of how I was here now and gone the next
Some of how I stayed to help and heal
So much of praise and fruitless flattery
(Let it be, for once, let it be)
My friends would always remember
How I was there for them, they said
Even when I did not need to be.

They wondered why I had to leave so soon
Some shook their fist at the sky
Some silently thanked memory
And others, the capability to forget.

They sang for me, told me I was loved
Smothered my memory with tears and hugs
I never knew I meant so much
But none of it mattered anyway
‘Cause I died today.

What I Am #16

I am the imperfect piece
With an edge bitten off
By the next-door dog
In the huge jigsaw puzzle
Where all other pieces fit in right

I am spilled coffee
With no pattern or beauty
Amid photogenic strawberries
And floral printed plates
On a table set for breakfast

I am the holed umbrella
With black and white dots
Pretty on the outside no doubt
But letting rain and shine through
So they just leave me out

I am the inkless pen
Crossing everyone’s t’s and dotting all the i’s
But to no avail cause no one realized
And I leave no mark
As my ink has dried

I am the sigh at the end of the laugh
That calls you back to your woes
Rooting you again in reality
Unwelcome am I but so it must be
And no stranger am I to hostility.

Outside #15

Poetry is to come in waves
When you look at such a place they say
So today I muse as I watch the scene
The sunlight dancing on vibrant green

And again I know what I’ve known for a while
Words have left me, without a frown or a smile
All I can think of this moment right now
Is one lone butterfly, floating like my mind

Its fluttering flight deceives and no joy does it give me
For all I can think of is it won’t fly tomorrow.
I chide myself for thinking like a depressed maniac
But it does no good, my mind is not distracted easily

I sigh and stop, why should I try
When words have forsaken my view outside.

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