Constructing A Poem

There are words dancing in my mind tonight.
The sky composes a waltz that only I can hear,
And thunders with a will to burst open.
We breathe together
And watch as ideas fall and disappear
Like motes of dust beyond the oblivion contained
In a sunbeam.
When I shiver from the inability to see through the dusty panes of my heart’s extent
I do
See that the world is ending somewhere tonight.

My friend rolls all his sorrow
and smokes it with tobacco
Under the night sky they painted over a billboard.
He is bored, so he lets his mind wander
And wonder
if he will be able to count the lights in the windows while he’s falling.
There are twenty seven storeys,
Stacked on top of each other:
Tin cans that rattle
with the emptiness of lives that clink at the bottom
Like small change.

My friend wanted to change the world.
His eyes were set with stars named after every
Child who did not learn to smile:
He went to the beach as one and fell in love with foam,
But try as he might to cup it in his hands
It became the sea and flowed away,
Wanting to be one with its kind.
He now tells himself that his depression had a mother
Who never picked up its calls
And figure skated on the edge of his consciousness
Waiting for the ice to thin.

My friend wanted to win
The confidence of his own heart
To be the voice that fills up the entire room
And leaves no place to sit.

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Where Boys Do Household Chores Too

He brings the bread.
I serve the cooking.
I can bring the bread,
but he will never do the cooking.

A cuckoo cries out somewhere but I do not
Have the sensibility
to look out, or keep still
till the sound, or the bird,
or both, die out:
Maybe she is raising her voice,
Else reprimanding someone who did.

I can rest my unease knowing
That the language of birds
Is not understood by my kind.

Us women, we do a lot more
Than cooing.

The Big Bang (alternatively titled ‘Inconclusive Poem’)

We will explode. It may not be today,
not a few days hence. But certainly
sometime in the future,
We will explode.
Because our composure in
life is lent to us, temporarily:
Look how complacent we are
with being nothing, doing nothing.
This satisfaction we find
in idling away sounds
like the slow trickle of ambition going out
of our lives
and falling flat
into nothingness.
We will explode.
Because in that nothingness, all lost ambition
takes form again – of disappointment.
It trickles down
and pools up
right where we can see it, like a dark portrait
of ourselves.
Like a time bomb, ticking away
(Only, time bombs change themselves
elementally
before they give way; and we
are fireworks propelled by the mounting
pressure
of feeling around for reassurance. We
will combust with
out changing a thing
– nobody else will light us on fire,
the fire will stem from within).

The world was ended by a flood once. We
are already 70% water, carrying the flood inside of us,
like a souvenir from the past. We
Are dams ready to let loose
Even as the rivers we carry are pools
of stagnancy
(Staring back at us, living paradoxically)
– Everything is a metaphor for life.
We were born to this world and it has ever since been
One step ahead of us:
The earth is 71% water
Most of which is the tears it sheds
for our future:
One we look forward to, but don’t bother
To look at. But Atlas
has too much time on his hands
Time more perhaps
than the weight on his shoulders
From holding up a sky pregnant
With clouds as heavy
As our despair in merely rotating
on the same axis,
day after day.
When Atlas decides to shift
The sky to his knees, we will see
how one escapes any punishment
By mere volition, and let
the flood gates open, because we
don’t believe that free will exists.
When we
Decide we can’t help it
and continue to punish ourselves
We will explode.
And explore
the world as fire and dust
Water and rust
covering the debris
of our caged past, now shattered
and liberated
(For atoms disjointed from one
another
Will find something to bind themselves with)
We
will find a way make something of ourselves
When there’s nothing left of our selves

But pieces halved
and halved again.

A Pawn’s Impression of Chess 

Am I the teller 

Of a story? 

I try to grasp it with both my hands 

And all my mind 

But it often, 

Inexplicably, 

Floats away. 

Sometimes I feel 

Like a story 

Of the tellers. 
 
 
Who was I 

Before they gave me my name? 

If I didn’t choose it, 

It is anything 

but mine. 

Indeed, who am I 

Without my name? 

A lost pronoun 

Irreplaceable and mourning 

the loss of a word. 

Symbols, they say 

Are for the symbol-minded 

But I’ve questions in mine. 

Are the questions my own 

If I am not? 
 
 
I feel 

Like a tune 

Composed with care, 

But not yet written 

And still unheard. 

Real, 

But not quite. 

There was a queen long ago 

Who was birthed 

In the mind of a poet. 

When they wrote her down, 

They made her history. 

History can be forgotten. 

So can music, 

If it isn’t put to pen. 
 
 
I feel 

Like a gamepiece: 

Wooden, painted, 

In the hands of another,  

Taking a two-step 

And then one at a time, 

To be sacrificed at the altar 

From which a More Important One 

Can be saved. 

Indeed, I feel 

Like I could be pawned 

For something 

Of more immediate value 

In the future. 

They never call it 

A herd of soldiers 

Although that it is. 
 
 
I feel 

The world is beautiful – 

But feeling 

(The world is beautiful) 

Is not the same 

As knowing 

(The world is beautiful) 

And know I not: 

The tellers never 

Wrote it for me. 

You see, the story 

Can only read 

What is written for it. 

The story never writes 

(The world is beautiful) 

Itself. 
 
 
 
 
[The title and primary metaphor for this poem is inspired by the literary criticism on Lewis Carroll’s Through The Looking Glass. ‘The Queen’ refers both to Alice Liddell and to Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s Padmavati, who has recently become subject to national controversy.]

Artifacts

My thoughts are creepers 

Which grow, leaning against reality,

Watered by the night in all its darkness 

And dewdrops in the form of stars that twinkle:

Cool to the touch, glistening with hope

Wrapping themselves far too tight 

Around me – alive and also not, 

like a goat for sacrifice. 
I blink. 
My hands are free to wander 

Above, around, beneath, below:

Against the grain, and sweat from bodies

From which I pull all of my despair out and hang 

It out to dry in the heat of the sun when 

My thoughts shrink back into their pod

disappear from the recesses of mind 

Like acetone off linoleum.
I inhale. 
My mouth unveils my verses 

And raises the hair on the back of his back 

And my neck to stand in ovation, respecting 

The distance between us, like water on the edge 

Of a waterfall receding – slowly; to the rhythms

Of instruments facing extinction, sacraments

Of single copy smudged by fingers of overuse 

Like the language of love. 
I laugh.
My eyes are suddenly a fertile

Ground for tears, a fabric ripped apart 

From the seams of feeling by the agonies

Of life: such is the story, that if I wove every tear 

In this stained tapestry together, close into 

A circle, and hung it with feathers from 

Birds that sing of murder and sleep

It still wouldn’t catch a dream. 
I turn around. 
I walk away. 

With No Last Rites 

You and I, we sit around and kill time.

 
We are living. We are living every moment for what it is – a moment. There is no making a name for ourselves, no saving our stories for later, just the comfort in how panic evades us as we watch time slipping through our fingers to fall into the past. We are living, looking onwards without so much as a single backward glance.

 
Our fathers turn 50 this year. They are left with wrinkles on their faces and in their minds, like souvenirs from vacations of a past which they no longer remember. They have lived, too. They can tell time better than we do.

 
The weight of human life after fifty years of living is crushing enough that we start to forget – age is a number with a penchant to unlearn. And so I say that nobody will remember us fifty years after we say our final goodbyes. The world will unlearn us. No books will bear our names. We may not even fill the compact pages of history, stay off the record with our reticent lives pushed between the lines – did you notice how we never bothered to read between the lines?

 

We have lived, but nobody will remember.

 
We say that it does not matter. You say that time will stop existing once we die, anyway. I hear the clock nod in agreement every second of the day. We stand in our graves-to-be.

 
And we kill time.

 
Till one day, time will take its toll: it will make itself known when our bones rattle. It will brush against us, pulling us away from the future, stacking us in the shelves of the dusty past.

 

One day, long after we are done killing time because it will die with us, anyway;

Time will bury us, forever.

 

(Based on a line from Epitaph of a Small Winner by Machado de Assis)

My love is a rainbow, my love is the rain 

My love makes me want to play again. 

I’ve been looking around for reasons all along, 

and have only found them 

in his eyes:

I like to think now

how all the time that I can’t see them 

is just because he’s blinking. 

He blinks so much that I can’t breathe

And I feel so much 

That I can’t blink, and

miss it – or him

I can’t miss it

Or him. 

My love left behind a puddle

that reflects rainbows 

in the sun. 

The summer heat 

will have to fight me 

before it takes him away.

I will let my fingers 

wander over the keys again,

hoping that the sound 

can describe what 

his smile feels like,

And that it somehow melts into the sound of his voice:

The slight tremble at the end of his sentences 

And the end of his fingers 

At the beginning of his touch 

And of my hands 

in his hands 

and our hands 

Dancing to a rhythm 

That only they know of.

Will rain let the dust 

settle back onto ground 

Like eager footsteps?

Black 

against white 

against black. 

Can song bring people back home?