Tag Archives: memory

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.

 

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Meeting the prophetess

Leave your books behind.

Since memory,
Like knowledge, is a traitor,
Erase every hoarding of your horrible past.

At last, when you enter her world
Of fraying edges and falling angels
Don’t barter words where touch will do and be the truth.
For once allow her silence to sear, strip your life-layers
Because she who knows the truth will not know the tale.

(First published in Thanalonline)

Prayers

In an arid land of arid human minds
Caste, yet again authored a tragedy.
He, disease wrecked, downtrodden,
long-ago skinner of animals, sets out.
Ten days of Typhoid, and a partial recovery.
Enough reason to thank some God.

He drags himself clumsily to a nearby temple.
Sadly, of an Upper-caste God.
Away from the temple, he bends in supplication.
Says his last prayer—Unwelcome Gratefulness.
To a God who (anyway) didn’t help him recover.
Innocent Acts of Undulating Faith spurned
Anger. Retaliation.

An irked Rajput surged forth
and smote the untouchable with a iron rod.
He, warrior caste lion couldn’t tolerate
Encroachment. At the temple. By a Dalit.
Deathly howls of a feeble-voiced
rent the air, fervently seeking holy intervention.
God, Lifeless as ever—watched grimly with closed eyes.
In resigned submission, the sick man’s Life was given away.
Caste—crueler than disease, emotionless, dry, took its toll
Confirming traditional truths: Dalits die, due to devotion.

Unanswered questions remain;
Agony is not always a forgotten memory.

Life teaches: there are different Gods at different temples.
One solitary thought haunts recollection day and night.
Where did this poor man’s sixty-five year old soul go?
To Heaven – to join noble martyrs who died for a cause?
Or to Hell—where the Gods reside, making Caste Laws.

(First published in Kritya)

Love and war

two thousand years ago
our word for love
was the same.

women and men
wrote their songs of love
the intimacies of inside

and they spoke of how
love was tireless
love was a fantasy feast
love was no disease
love was no evil goddess
love was a harshness, in the parting
love was
             ‘the thing that made a girl’s bangles
             slip loose when her lord went away
             grow tight when her lord returned’
love was (they sang)
             ‘bigger than the earth
             higher than the sky
             unfathomable than the waters.’
love was.

no names were named.
you did not know
             who he was
             or who she was
             or when it was
             or where it was
only
love was.

and there were
the poems of war,
the war poetry
poems on the outside

(and perhaps
because the bards
wore lotuses of gold)

there are
the poems
where the names were named
where the kings were praised
where a bard addressed another
where the guide sang to the patron
where the poet sang to the courtesan
where mothers spoke of tigers in their wombs
where the kingdom was
             ‘an unfailing harvest of
             victorious wars’
where the old women
             ‘threatened to slash their breasts
             if their sons died in battle with backs
             turned in fright’
where the end spoke of
             ‘the blood glowing
             in the red center of the battlefield
             like the sky before nightfall’

and because it has an end
war was a history.

love never has an end.
love was. and will be.

If everything comes crashing down

And both of us become strangers onto each other
Do not worry about me.

We will look beyond eyes and run into each other
As usual, for the rest of life.

I do not know what you would
Treasure of me in your mind.

But in billboards planted
Across my fervent heart,
I will celebrate you as the man
Who made me woman.

And there are the small things that I would always remember:
Your affinity to catch colds; my rising fevers on seeing you
Your headaches, your backaches; my avowed helplessness
Your falling asleep while waiting for my reply
Your asking me to remain with you for all of time. . .
All your delicious lies. . .

Over the phone,
               the sound of your drinking water,
               the soundlessness of your yawn. . .
               the camouflage of who you were talking to
               the new meanings you gave to worn-out words

Yes, all of this.
And that once,
You called me a goddess.

Monologue

I speak alone because
I do not know his answers.

                    And yet, you want to be heard.

I want to tell him that I have
Closed and sealed my skin.

                    Baby, I told you, love can hurt.

I have exiled my heart.

                    This is a lonely, lonely world,
                    Even with a lover.

Since I know the difference
Between believing and being in love

                    Oh! you know nothing.

I have stopped
My frantic search
For the Buddhas

                    Only they came to you,
                    In ones, twos, tens.

When I thought of
Yasodhara, his wife
Left behind alone and
Large with child . . .

                    What about the good things, eh?
                    Recollect them. Remember that
                    Memory is a mere vending machine . . .