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.

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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. 

Chester Bennington

It is hard to remember that it was real people who put a soundtrack to my childhood, when all I ever knew of them was through song and showreel. 
My childhood has hung itself and died. My childhood committed suicide. 

This is one of the rare, tragic times when we realise that a person is much, much more than just a person. A person is a thought. A voice. A shaper of lives. A saver of lives. 
And this is why we mourn them, and remember them, and the parts of ourselves which they saved without ever knowing.

In the end, a child grows up to lose their parent, and childhood grows up to lose its song. Remembrance is the most powerful thing in the world, but it can’t bring these back. 
”Goddamit, Chester. Why did you have to do it? Your words saved me, why couldn’t they save you?”
We all wish they had. We’ll always wish they had. 

The 27th Letter of the English Alphabet

My article for the Hindu College Literary Society blog. This was fun!

Litscape

By Vartika Rastogi

Even kindergarteners – well, the smart ones, anyway – know that the alphabet used in the English language is made up of 26 letters. However, what most people aren’t aware of (unless they are major nerds, of course) is that there used to be a 27th letter out there before it got kicked out of the clan. Like senior citizens sent out on retirement for no good reason but old age; the Ampersand (&) started to lose its status as the last letter of the alphabet in the early 1800s. But let’s talk about its rise first and the fall later:

Back in the first century, Roman scribes were just as bad at practicing their cursive writing as we are today. Often, when they wrote the word ‘et’ – which means ‘and’ – they linked the individual letters e and t together. Over time…

View original post 583 more words

Alzheimer’s 

People often talk of the Autumn as a beautiful phenomenon of nature, but I can not bear to look beyond the death and decay that plague the season. Death, of course, is of such a nature that it is overlooked even as it is impending, beckoning all with one black finger of oblivion. It wears the patient smile of a champion, knowing that it will claim each one for itself in the end. Decay, the sister, is no less clever, appearing to trail behind death while in reality she lays hands to the soul and hollows it out long before death can touch the body. Autumn is just an elaborate dance of the victors who know their competitors are so fated that they hold no chance. 

The autumn of my life has fast approached. My gut tells me that my consciousness of it right now is the last green leaf on the tree. 

Perhaps it is age that makes me so painfully aware of the existence of the stench of Autumn – it fills my lungs and the places that exist apart from my physical self – even as I exhale. The naïve and uncorrupted once had a habit of coming to me for counsel, because I must know a lot having lived for so long, and their words often sent me into rambles of thought which made me curse sides of me from the past that no longer existed. I had no heart to tell them – or myself – that I have lived more in the safe arms of my dreams than I have lived my life. 

Now, I am no longer sought for counsel, and even if I am, I cannot tell. 

My head is always abuzz with thoughts racing against each other like trains on either side of the subway station, and of late, I have been letting go of them. I miss the trains. I no longer hold on to the stories that my mind knits together like sweaters to warm my freezing soul, I no longer note them down. I refuse my stories to the world, letting them decompose in the heat of my own head. Sometimes they recede to the place where thoughts go when they are no longer thought of, indiscernible like radio static. Sometimes I don’t know how to describe this because the words are wiped off my vocabulary. Decay is getting the better of me. Sometimes I can feel it as it hollows my mind. 

I think too much when I find myself able to. I think about the lifetime of thinking that will be lost when I die – of course I think about dying a lot, and I imagine my undocumented thoughts turn to nothingness like millions of twinkling stars being sucked into a black hole. My eyes give way to involuntary tears that fall on my cheek like comma splices, punctuating each line in the train of thought which I can see myself failing to chase. I tell her about this and she says it makes no sense to worry. She asks me to say her name. I stay silent because I cannot tell her that her name is one of the first things that got lost in that wretched black hole. 

A boy with her eyes takes me from my bed to an armchair by the window every afternoon. I try to remember who he is every time he whispers ‘I love you’, but I recall nothing. I try not to look beaten and smile at him this time, hoping that he understands. Beyond the glass pane of the window, I can see the fallen leaves glittering under the glow of the sun. To my eyes it appears a sorry sight, the aftermath of the grand feast hosted by atrophy. A couple of leaves are whisked from the ground by the wind, the messenger that calls upon death to arrive and take its toll. It is indeed age that makes me so aware of the stale breath of Autumn, and perhaps the fact that it is all around me. Maybe I can smell decay because it has taken root inside of me. 

The signal for the approaching train goes off in my head as I blink my eyes. I observe my thoughts turning to incoherent screams and then to radio static. In the last few moments I have in my state of consciousness, I am scared of losing control of my mind. I think of the irony of my situation and my hand starts to tremble again. As I stare at another leaf fall from the tree outside my window, I can feel myself float away – away and towards the sun, like a hot air balloon on a whim to be a rocket. 

Barriers 

The writer’s block. 

It’s a big room that reeks of solitude. The door is open just a crack, a suspended beam of sunlight filtering through and making dust motes look like trembling stars. A boy sits by his typewriter, his fingers lusting to stroke the keys. He taps his nervous feet against the linoleum floor, trying to imitate the drum pattern of an old favourite song that he had long since discarded from memory; but which mysteriously reappeared in his conscousness in moments of despair. A dot of light comes to rest on his nose, making him wonder why he cannot absorb its energy. The memory of what he had meant to write eludes him.

The boy flails his right arm in frustration, but the words still hang on to the inside of his sleeve. His gaze runs out the windows and into the vast blue skies, naming the faces he sees in the clouds. He wishes that they would talk back to him.


Introversion.

The street is wide and curves out of sight over a hill. A girl stands on the sidewalk, counting the number of cars that rush by. She listens to the noise of their horns and screeching tires as if it were musical, and lets her eyes follow a certain red Chevy till it can’t possibly continue to. Every once in a while, she focuses her eyes on one of the cars, and loses track of the numbers. Then she starts to count again, from scratch. When the traffic slows, she snaps out of her passive trance, and tries to raise her hand up to signal for a ride. In her mind, someone sees her waving and stops.

The cars keep driving past the girl, seeing nothing. The wind blows her hair over her face, and they are streaked wet with her tears. Her hands are still by her side, for her strings are pulled by something entirely different from her mind. The puppeteer is not her friend.


Love. 

The old brick house stands in stark contrast to its lush surroundings at the edge of a teak forest. It is the solitary red structure in the otherwise unbroken plane of green. A woman sits inside, her wooden chair rocking in sync with the ticking clock. Her breathing resonates in the silence like the heartbeat of the house. Her hands shake as she muses over the past with her eyes open, memories projected in technicolor onto her cataract-ridden irises. A fly buzzes past her arthritic shoulder and lands lazily on a covered dish of food. The people in her dream never let the food sit long enough for the flies to appear. The people in her dream resemble those in the dust-covered picture frame which rests in her lap.

The woman calls out her sons’ names, and is met by the creak of her chair in response. She sighs and closes her unseeing eyes. The people in her dream come home to her.


Death. 

The air is bursting with the sobs of a little boy. He stumbles around, a single syllable fumbling on his virgin tongue.Tears flow down his reddened cheeks and streak his white clothing a wet, salty grey. The faces around him weep for his sorrow, but the sounds he makes are the loudest. Many arms reach out to console him but he doesn’t care for their affections, for the warmth that he seeks is amiss. He moves about, heading for the bright yellow blaze a little ahead of him; but the tall legs of strangers who stand in his way appear like prison bars holding him back. The boy slumps onto the dirt ground, his tiny hands falling to his sides. His sleepy eyes close for a second. When they flutter back open again, they resemble a bursting dam giving way to the beginnings of a flood.

A yellowing leaf performs somersaults with the wind and comes to rest on a stack of neatly piled sandalwood. As the toddler’s wail of ‘Maa’ breaks the pregnant silence yet again, the burning corpse wishes it were alive.

Ashes to Ashes

The battlefield was bordered by a manicured hedge ,

And all the violence which seduced men into abandon 

Took place outside it where the fallen

leaves had blown to with a gust of hot wind.

Most warriors would choose a battle ground clear of trees, but ours was oak-panelled with marble flooring that wouldn’t let the blood of the brave and broken soak through. We lit the torches and the bedroom candles, and watched the flames dance on our skin. Lamps dripped oil into puddles on the floor as we looked on and breathed in the heavy scents of ambrosial sconces that crystallised in our lungs — naïve little soldiers, we didn’t know that armour was supposed to be worn on the outside.

The light from the scented candles cast shadows on the wall behind it — the wall offered no protection, with the offender and defender on the same side. The hungrier twin of candlelight rose higher, uncaring for the velvet curtains which protected themselves from the fragrant flames with help from the winds. The curtains rose and fluttered with their benefactor, and from the doorway they looked like war flags, waiting to be dyed red with violence and to be trampled upon.

By us.

 

Weapons sanctioned by the office of wrath were invisible 

To the onlookers, who wondered why there were

hints of a smile on our dirt-streaked faces even though 

We were being drafted to the army of the enemy.

 

We were knights-in-training and we thought that our wooden swords were harmless, but splinters from wood could hurt almost as much as rusted blades buried in one’s back. Our naked backs were smooth, except for the welts where realisation had struck us hard. We wanted to survive the onslaught and so we encased our hearts in iron cages and called it an armour; we donned heavy helmets so that our minds were actually prisons. Canons were loaded as our fingers caressed each other and found only cold, hard metal where a heartbeat once was. We were knights-in-training, and so, we mounted our high-horses, not caring that all of it would crumble to dust when we really went to war.

The candles had reached their last drip of wax and in some parallel universe — some other battle — we would be smearing it over the slightly sweaty contours of each other’s backs, because the wax never left welts like those whispered lies did. The sweet fragrance was turning pungent and we couldn’t help but wonder if this was supposed to happen as the candles burned out and the wicks turned black. The fire in our eyes wasn’t a reflection of the sputtering flames in front of us. It was almost cruel how the torch burned brighter as the candlelight was eclipsed.

The cry for battle clung to us like icicles in the cold 

which remind one that touching ice often feels like burning

And as it, perhaps involuntarily, escaped our throats 

We were anything but we, with you against me

Offences were many, and our perceptions pierced by the shards of broken glass behind which we were each other’s attackers. We could crush the shards underfoot, if not for the candles we had lighted that smelled like death in retrospect. The whispers, which escaped us while we were against each other and the oak panelling, had now escaped their wooden sanctuary to haunt us. Our union boiled over us till it was just invisible vapour weighing down our breaths — it was here that I understood the fact that I couldn’t vouch for you any more, for gaseous particles drift apart to infinity.

In all the wars we had waged in our heads, we had only been two sides of a coin, the tip and hold of a spear, but now they were two separate weapons — a dagger and a stick. We were two separate weapons, pointed at each other, like busts of Caesar and Brutus carved out of the same stone. I could only find myself choking on my own destruction, while you were building a bunker with your pillows and closing off the gates to trust. Like a deer in the headlights, I was caught off guard, denied access to both your doors and my own. My ammunition and the strength to use it was locked behind my mistrust of myself — and surprisingly, after all the drills, not of you.

Surprise and cowardice had me taken aback, but terms of war 

were clear as day: the battle would start irrespective of how I

had prepared, for unlike more pleasant things 

It didn’t take two to declare.

 

You kept on building bunkers apprehending a devastating fat man or little boy to drop whenever I flew over you in vain, for I didn’t bother getting into the aircraft at all. I was a failed soldier, a sham warrior, and while you settled on a fight for survival, I only wished I could do the same — wished, but never acted. I was sucked into a hurricane-like dilemma and swirled inside with the hope for it to end in a black hole.

Every night that I had pulled away from the kiss first was not a preparation for a possible coup d’êtat , but a declaration of my inability to train for war. The arrows we had aimed at each other in smaller skirmishes came back as missiles — launched, as if, by mischief rather than purpose. You decided to fight against what you could see approaching for afar, the several crushing tonnes of heartbreak and rust. I let it go through me — ashes to ashes, dust to dust.