Aftermath

(to consuming six glasses of orange juice)

the next morning in school during your
english exam you take permission to go to
the toilet where you throw up all the white
and creamy breakfast milk. only it tastes
sour and looks like bits of maggoty curd.
weeks later, you get to know two things
one of which will change your life for ever.
first, you scored the highest in the english
exam. second, you became a gossip item.
you still don’t know what affects you more.

because of your boldness and brashness
and bunking classes your ulcerated vomit
is taken for morning sickness. the sourness
extends when you hear hushed whispers
passing around. girls younger than you,
point at you and speak such banal secrets.
in staff-rooms, and in ungainly corridors
teachers chatter of your child, so vividly
imagined in the backdrop of your really
empty womb. slander is a slaughterhouse.

even best-friends seek answers as the
rumours inflame. your anger is mistaken
to be toward a crude imagined lover who
disowned you. you know the nauseous
truth of your thighs: you are virgin. But
evidence will not be revenge, for, so many
smoky eyes implore you to supplicate, to
admit alleged truths. impeaching faces lay
down rules: don’t shout or scream, but
swallow the shame. next, confess the sin.

sin yes they will shred your innocent life to
that yes you may fume or froth or boil or
simmer yes you are their staple soup they
need you just this way yes your fury takes
its toll annihilating you not them yes anger
and hatred seethe in your untamed tresses
yes you know how gossip chokes even the
tethered dreams yes something breaks in
you yes dear yes you start the brute search
for sleeping pills and chaste suicide ideas.

(First published in Cerebrations)

Composition

At that brief time
When you wait
For the audacious cane
To strike your skin,
And the rest of you is flinching
And cringing, with part shame,
And part pain,
Poetry dictates itself
In your mind. Short lines
Rip through, like bullets
From a machine gun.

The poem comes with the
Freshness of a life set free,
Whistling its way,
Painfully, like wind searing
Through the palm fronds.

Then,

The cane thrashes
Your skin, dancing cruelly
And bouncing in wooden joy.
Before you scream,
Or shake, the poetry stops.
And the Muse, is tentatively,
Laid to rest, much before the
Composition is
Complete.

(First published in Sulekha)

An angel meeting me

and may be we will
almost fall in love. . .
I will look into his eyes,
and he into mine—
my one single eye,
(the unfortunate other
blinded by a disciplinizing slap)
and we will agree, adjust
that Love can be Blind.
And he, healthy boy
well-fed, white with his rosy cheeks,
will wonder about me,
pity my bony body, those thin ribs
and worry
and feel my twisted ears
and the scars on my hands,
(reminders of the flirtation
of my skin and a cruel cane)
and perhaps lift my skirt. . .
Before he learns the greater horrors,
I owe him the truth of me—
So, I will say to him:
“I went to school”.

(First published in Muse India)

Amnesia, selective

When memory decides
To no longer bear the burdens—
Of pain, or even plain indifference
She has her winsome wicked ways.

Some day, years later,
Life requires you to unearth
Some event long past and you
Set about browsing your brain
Like a desk-full of office files and then—
Come across a resounding emptiness.

Memories drizzle-fragile
Are not to be found. What
Greets you instead, through
Those yellowing sheets of typed matter is
The blank and ugly blotches of dried whitener
So carefully applied, then. It has a fading smell of
Chalk and chlorine: a blend, like memory, that works at
Your throat. You try to scratch it and the faintest hopes are
Betrayed as the caked pieces of the whitener crumble,
Displaying nothing, but toe curling holes where crummy paper and ink once contained you.

 

Sage in the cubicle

Even your tongue,
Craves for the taste of tears. . .

And you are crying again.
Misery is (you always believe) the only genuine
Emotion and sadness, the way of the real world.

She wouldn’t have any of it.
Sage in the cubicle, healer of sorts.
Three years your junior. She makes soul-talk
Sound as prosaic as aeronautical engineering.

At the end,
Her warning:
‘Stop this right now.’

What will you say of your feeling
Living with a sister who terrorizes
Even manic depressions out of your mind?

(First published in Thanalonline)

Songs of summer

“I am happy, life is good.”

 Heard at the end of a therapy class. . .
 The heavy-duty brainwashing and you
 Remember your crores stacked away. . .
 Your Harvard airs helps in large doses
 Soon, the colors peel away and there is nothing
 To do than wrestle with your yearnings.

“I would like to make love.”

 Wanna fuck? It is easier saying it this way
 For something that you paid for in cash
 And cheques and credit cards.
 Forget the lesser action, the lack of poetry—
 What mattered was how you let go
 Of your hate and heat and hunger
 But never had the courage to talk
 To her of love or loneliness. . .

“You are trespassing on my territory”

 You guarded it with LoCs and walls
 And barbed wire fences where hatred
 Danced like high-voltage electricity. . .
 You killed creatures and cleared forests
 And wiped away the darker people
 And those of dreamy tongues with
 Your agenda of a war-a-week, the
 Worlds-to-win and vengeance-to-wreak. . .
 Your Mushroom clouds and wmds and
 Poverty drafts and armchair chivalry and
 A collective manhood of nuclear warheads
 That explode and penetrate. . .

“She’s mine.”

 To make her yours and yours alone,
 You pushed her deeper into harems
 Where she could see the sunlight
 Only from the lattice windows.
 Domesticated into drudgery she was just
 Another territory, worn out by wars. A slave
 Who maintained your numbers.

“Let’s make love.”
 
 ~all that you thought~
 What’s taking her so long to undress?
 Quick! Sooner!
 ~all that you said~
 I m gonna fuck till ya faint. . .

“Oh how nice to have made love.”

 ~breathless~ Iminahurry. Cyasoon.~panting~

Here are the words, again—
I am happy. Life is good / I would love to make love.
You are trespassing on my territory/ She’s mine.
Let’s make love/ Oh how nice to have made love.

On sunny green fields these are the only
Six sentences the male of a grasshopper can ever say.

But what have we done with words?

Marijuana murdered him

Noon
A gray rainy day—
On a road less traveled the patrol tracked down much:

Him (him is now an it, a crumpled cruel corpse for women
To beat their breasts about); the wreckage (four black wheels
That speak of despair and a mangled red car-body awash yet
Soiled and the cold apparitions of smoked glass and steel);
The crime record—

He stole at home he found no work he pimped his sis he
Mortgaged his mom he raped a girl (the myth reads so: like
A crow calling its kindred he invited the last of his friends to
Join the feast, the fest, yes the plunder between her thighs)
He stabbed his professor dad he lived on air and alcohol
And insulin and morphine—but it was the marijuana that
Murdered him as he screamed at the vengeful rain that
Teased away his nirvana, the excuse of an existence. . .

No pair of exacting eyes to see the trees drive into a rage into
His car that once swallowed whole black roads but for the
God on his dashboard temple who had since returned to
Formlessness, to a hundred and eight tiny crystals that held
Psychedelic rainbows that outshone all the trapped sun. . .