for J. P.
And so you left,
like a dandelion detached from its stem
Falling, flying, and with every little
inch of air, dissolving
into the vast sea of nothing
from which we continue
to rise, as if from poisonous soil,
We wilt, we decay, and yet somehow
are brought back to life, to speech,
to all those erroneous wanderings
that allow us to slowly shake our heads
in the blue summer wind.
You left, and we are still here,
I now wonder where you are gone—
If you are somehow intermixed in the soil
that rises in us as bile day after day
Or if an uncertain world separates you from
we who still breathe in this dust
From where in tiny wounds of clouds
you continue to torment us
in tremors and invisible aches,
Refusing to depart
One leg here and one leg afar.
Perhaps all worlds will not contain you,
and death is that cure that must end all earthly torment.
After you have gone, dandelions have something of you in them,
That gentleness and sorrow that press like down upon sleep,
And I console myself with this, your minor essence.
TO A POET OF NEGATION
How can I forget your fierce talk begun that American spring
underneath the grace of pine and Midwestern sky?
You drove a dagger into my heart, and slicing the flesh,
waited to reach the blandness of breath.
I was a child, a bubble of worldly shear
Little did I know what you had begun—
a slow, searing priestly cleansing,
a manual operation of the dastardly soul.
You were clear, you started with a ‘No’.
Your negations were tall oaks dotting your speech
They were the essence of your wisdom.
As the flesh bled away and, with it, the nauseous
blood of sins, I stepped into a long and benighted delirium;
Like a worm struggling out of caked mud,
my crippled soul ached to disentangle itself,
but pinned as it was to your oaks of negation,
it unleashed dead, vacant cries.
In another century you would have been an alchemist
But in this our age of mass-consternation and -joy,
you had to be content to be forever the sorrowful teenager,
an inadequate exile, a dangerous patriot, and a senile minister of love.
All your cloaks were filigreed with the veins of your ‘people’,
and not a thread would you let loose from the seat of your heart.
Your negations were full of the dusk before death,
carrying the raucous caws of roosting jackdaws—
‘The eye hears more than it can see, when forced into blindness,’ you’d say
‘Touch must be untrammelled by the inordinate storm of senses to be resolute’
‘The tongue is a serpent that must be killed and then burnt’
‘Go into the submerged histories of smell, and look for the mirrors’
—my senses became empty plates of steel, pitiful, nude.
I stood under your oaks and shunned the petrichor at rain
The phantasmal magnolia of sunrise was but a twitch in time
The throbbing femur of urban existence flailed about like distant mist.
I began to hear the metre of breath—up, down, inhale, exhale—
one, two, one, one, two, two—until
I was awoken by the far drums of your exile, bone-dry, taunting,
proud and fierce: an unabated salvo of mounting negations.
Who, but you, could have held on to this native poison,
this tuber of woes, this nefarious feast of bloody truths?
I had no choice, I saw more—you had tied me to the Truth of the oak:
There is no recalcitrance like the recalcitrance of Truth—
How could one leave the throbbing of breath?
Or the evenness of nothing between breaths?
Now that your exile has opened into other embraces
and your words have moved on from negation,
petrifying into the material of the seer’s banal affirmation,
at least leave me the stewardship of those oaks
until I find my own word-stones.
ANIMAL OF THOUGHT
Getting the animal of thought out of your head is a task:
no one would have thought, such hard labour to beat
the given to human size.
The rebellion of the dark rims our being,
Nestles in the quietest shades of our hospices.
The sky falls dust-blue this evening,
and everywhere my human eye sees
the ache of forms—burning flowers.
The first recess of winter, late January,
and we were primed for its great vanishing:
dew, its visibility distilled out
—such lightness. Each day after
new scales broke upon the ear,
and abandoned us quickly.
Don’t descend to that tireless descriptor
of time—Body—for each strain will pass through you,
Make do with dusk shavings:
angry parakeets, tangential traffic sounds,
clunking vessels; simmer all anticipation
to a final pause, with the far bloom of azaans.