BORN AGAIN-A COLLECTION OF POEMS
Kolkata Book Fair, January 2012.
SELECTIONS FROM THE BOOK
I LET YOU SLIP BY
The last time I looked,
You were younger, more patient, smooth around the edges.
Thickening, a thickening heart, carefully stored away in your bosom-
Your hair wet and soft around your newly washed face,
A smear of pink on your forehead where the red used to be.
Today, I did not have time to read between the lines.
Today, I do not have time to romanticize the curve of the china cup
In which you serve tea.
The last time I looked,
You were standing in front of the mirror.
Little jets of light, tangents from the perfume bottles I carelessly bought you from nameless airports,
Getting lost here and there between the curves of your face.
You were beautiful then.
And you must be beautiful still,
But my eyes cease to be hungry... my eyes, heavy with the weight of the everyday, the dirty,
The trodden, bent, and broken,
How many dead in the morning news?
How many miles to a litre?
How many miles till I get the silver card?
You must be beautiful still,
But my eyes linger... dull, coward-like, uninhibited in its display of indifference!
The last time I looked,
Your mouth was set around the corner
And the blood drawn to your eyes.
You were queen-like, fierce, your foot set poised firmly on the book in which you kept the records,
The thickening heart you so carefully hid
Flowing like a monster lion's tongue
On the floor between us-
And then all too sudden, unforgiving, unforgetting, you coiled up
Tongue and tether,
You coiled up and showed no more.
I saw no more.
I see no more.
HOLLOW IS AS HOLLOW DOES
Hollow in the throat, hollow in the wood, hollow in the palm of your hands.
The mass of air quivering in the hollow of a needle's eye,
Waiting, anticipating a word for its existence.
Who will name thee? Who will call you thus and own thee? Who will you rebel against and who will you keep? When the ships and giant vessels of our time will carry you up, bursting through the white molasses of clouds and over the tapestry of factories and swimming pools glistening in the mid-western sun, up and over the wrinkled face of the Earth and so many miles in between, with what right of ownership will you yearn for this?
Memories. Bastard children of time. Memories gurgling and frothing with the ceaseless seas of space with the revolutions of the Earth.
A word. A signifier for that which is signified. A symbol for man and his people. A word. An old idea like Eliot had said. What would we be without these words? And why couldn't we be without these words? More graceful, more effortless, more self-assured yet perhaps mundane, same, even, even, even. Without an argument but without an answer. Loving but unknowing. Not arrogant but ignorant. Like that lion who killed his lover's children and pushed the blood back into the den.
Words unwittingly cause such a history that we know how to distinguish history from philosophy. That we know what to call a mother and what to call a child. So that we can bridge the gap between telephone conversations and name the flowers we steal from the street. So that we can name our beliefs and find our faith. So that we can whisper and whimper, shout and wait for the echoes, write letters faded with secret tears, scrawl over bathroom walls, and scream in anguish when we hit our toe against the wall.
So, shall we not then have knowledge and wisdom for the price of isolation? Shall we not have words and know and forget and know all over again? Shall we not mean the same thing and have different words for it? The same signified, different signifier? Shall we not re-establish, demolish, and establish all over again?
All that there was to know was always there. There where I looked the least. Reverberating and reacting with anger, joy, pain, all that which we call love, reverberating to your mad fingers' dance.
NOT THE VERY BEST
It is not yet Sunday
And the sun has lingered on till six.
Five light beams stream in through the gap in your curtains,
Depositing on your bed, shafts of dancing motes.
The earth has revolved twice since we first broke the silence between our bodies,
And we have marked its history with an insignificant chunk of its time.
They will not write about us.
They will not make a movie on us.
They will not come to inquire about the tulips you once stole for me
Or how I feel about the knife I lost, that you gave to me.
They will not take notes on any meal I have cooked for you
Or the night I rubbed your forehead till you fell asleep.
But the little damp corner where Huntington Avenue meets Wait Street
Will know that I fell for a joke you made,
And foolishly laughed about it.
The coffee stains on the rock will know
That they were delivered from our gentle carelessness.
The old house will know that the floor boards reek of our mirth,
And the bed will know we fought over a blanket on it.
They will not write about us,
They won't make a movie on us
But the sun will know
For it has risen and set and risen on us
ON STAND BY
Every word, every song, every piece of poetry
That your name, your face, the feeling of you
Had rubbed itself on,
Breaks. Breaks around two round feet,
Pink and grimy from the heat.
Only now appears your mouth upon hers,
The smile she might have given,
The hours fading into light
And only a wall between us.
One plastic mug crusted with the residue of coffee
Will stand witness.
THE LAMENT OF THE HOUSEFLY
The housefly sits still,
Resting its fine wings for a moment,
Here on the brim of a silver cup.
Lady here wets her cheek silently,
Beautifully, behind your back.
There is infinite sadness in beauty.
There is infinite beauty in love.
After all, our lot is hard pressed in time.
When did the warrior ever deny a fight?
Yet she sometimes bears a heavy heart-
Not unhappy, just beautifully heavy.
Lady wet a cheek behind your back.
The more the love, the more heavy the wait to come.
Must we hide behind horses and kings and knights?
Must we roll about in bed like children
And never unite as lovers?
September slips into October and the leaves turn grey.
The old man and the mountain stand in line
Already placing their reserve signs on my time after you.
After you, there will be time enough to be a daughter and a patriot.
After you there will be time enough to be alone.
The mountains will have me, and the sea.
Everyone but another man will have me.
Yet there is a shadow of doubt in your unspoken restraint to complete this.
Must I hear silence still when I say it out loud?
Must there be that rustle of the curtain
And the blueness of the night,
The calm sounds of air on wood as an echo of my declaration?
I am not complaining. I'm observing your strangeness.
We shared the book the other night.
We drank tea at the corner of the street.
I am falling so hard every day that it is beginning to hurt.
When we separated last winter,
I took time to pick the pink lobster from its shell.
Now I find myself beautifully grown into a woman,
With patience as large as a monument.
Much, much, much is said in silence.
Like two little wolves circling each other in the swamps.
Circling, circling, circling.
As night falls, the crickets raise its little frail heads.
The sky opens up again, buckets of rain.
You fall asleep, with me, a little thing in your arms.
I know you belong to your country, first. I know you belong to your blood, first.
I never wanted you all to myself. Just a little much after they are done.