You walk absently –
zig-zagging and moss-footed –
in a luminous, roving,
even though the sky is no longer
or trout –
nothing so obviously silver-scaled –
simmering steel to rust
in a matter of seconds.
In a matter of seconds,
trees flange the disfigured road;
their tattered arms beat
with marsupial grace.
It's a day like any other,
only years of days like this
have gone by
without us meeting. In a day
we have worked, fed, slept,
and now we are here to talk.
And we talk
about the weather,
what else can we talk
on a night like this
(we reason). We talk
the moon is a polyp
with guttering neon eyes,
how the clouds part
or don't part, how lightning
serrates, so quick and steep,
like razors. We talk
of this place we have come to
walking too much.
How, on some days,
we all come to such places.
Ours is deserted, today.
Empty bus-stops receive
every hour without fail;
watch from their posts,
mulling and mulling
around a long road
as it swallows more of itself,
and huts stand solemnly,
out of living mortar;
They might have lanterns
stirring as we pass,
the wind a tide
in their blinkered,
you look younger than me.
Dark circles stain in crescents
under your ceramic eyes.
If I touch, they will char,
turn to soot: pigment
from a butterfly's wings.
You have quartered your time
between too many,
I can tell.
Nothing’s left now.
offer you the wind in their ears,
as if to console.
Your hair blows. Maybe
it’s your hair they want
they caress with such force.
you think they will fall on you,
their deep-seated oldness
radiating, oil in water:
they will live; everything else
will die, one by one.
An owl hoots.
You startle, too,
at its 360 degree carousel head
a bat levering its whorled body, below
in the same tree,
beak spearing fruit
somebody will step into
the next morning; rot.
A thin whingeing rattlebone stillness
through a green semaphore
in the pool of road, sullenly
they breast in black strokes.
Carelessly lithe and sinuous,
We are already haunted.
We will sit here and watch
nobody in the streets,
until the stiff night sinks
into our sore limbs:
we have come here in other seasons,
we have forgotten,
like we will soon forget,
there can be more light
than this dark night
full of flowering trees
your red-rimmed sleepless eyes,
are hollowing out, growing colder
We can't index its pace. We want
to bite back. We're only pausing,
we tell ourselves.
We need time to breathe.
The sickle-moon scythes
stars out of mist.
We listen to the sea
in the trees.
you talk of lack, i think
of somebody in a different universe,
a clichéd day tipping over with sun –
or a different, adequately sumptuous source of light –
the day bursting at its seams, threading
like a line of perforation in a letterpad
& this lack sitting crouched by its side like
an inkpot, unopened;
i think of what somebody
in some other softer universe would say
this is why i read,
why my days are full of glorious words
like the world in that agha shahid ali poem which is full of paper;
it is a lie,
no such world exists,
no such world full of paper:
paper suggests the possibility of words,
what is there that can be captured?
when i think of lack
i think of how these days i don't read, or write, or talk
to people, i only dream of conversation,
even in the tightening midst of people
even when my mouth – of its own accord – seems to
form slippery multi-limbed sentences, i still dream
that rises jaggedly out of the roots
of the words i breathe
curling snake-like to people, phantoms
that drown out all talk of people all their talk
wide expanses of unhad conversations
paring down to a single concentrated moment
like a line in a poem
i think of lack like sleep that hardens into a bee
the next morning, a buzzing glitch humming in a recess of my head
as if through all hours of sleep
the moments have merely gathered
sullenly without meaning—
declension of rain down glass;
i may have slept but inside, an eye
has remained open
staring all night at the ceiling.
i think of lack crowding in;
late in the evening, as i return home,
the road is choked
with a bottleneckful of people
raucously making their way to disperse
an idol of ganesh nine days after celebrations.
as the road throngs with delayed festivities
its unpunctuality spills over,
the road incongruously aflutter with men,
its sheer afterweight of noise
almost only an echo,
as if someone has plucked a plug out of a basin –
men slosh around in circular jostling ripples
sucked into an unidentified centre somewhere
where i imagine
lies the centre of gravity
of your vortex too, maybe.
standing at the fringes
of this unexpected procession
stamping itself into indisputable presence,
i may talk of lack
in terms of an endless judder of people,
only this Morse repetition of everyday waking up & birdcalling
the obscure consumption of light, of laughter,
of words, of people, too,
as they slowly work themselves into flesh &
one day you extend an arm, reaching out
to their fragile slow-withering body & touch & gasp & realise they are,
all this passing right through you,
the here & now of people, their sometimes,
& sifting through your endless heart a sieve