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.]

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Creation

Creation is beautiful.
I pick up my brush and try to paint a dream
Layers and layers of imagination
Till it’s plastered thick enough to be real,
Tangible
Till you can feel
Like you do in a museum of art
Where you go against the labels
Which say ‘do not touch’:
You touch
You touch the dream again and again
You take it in your hands and mould it
Till the sculpture is as perfectly
Expressive
As the poetry you like to read
– the poetry I lose sleep over
Trying to get the words just right
I fight
The entire world to keep it alive
And coming
Flowing and gushing
A waterfall of words
Stringed together to make your soul sing
Like you do to the music I play:
The piano
Is black
And white
And anything but grey
when I play
Tell me
If you hear the colours
That I thought of
And I’ll paint you a portrait with them alone
And you’ll tell me
it looks like Van Gogh
And sounds like The Weeknd
Because they’re the only names you know.

Creation is ugly.
Some mothers die in labour,
trying to give birth to the ideas
They’ve carried inside for so long
Like a song
My art
The book you’re writing
Which never comes out
Because nobody fights to
protect the baby
Once it’s born
Everyone wants a free
copy
Or tickets
and paintings to hang
on the walls of their rooms:
They’re decorated without the guilt
of freeloading
You’re downloading
All that music for free
Well, what you don’t realise is that
Creation
Is expensive
Exhausting:
Takes the baby months in gestation
And the birth of a brainchild isn’t always painless
We’re penniless
You and I are friends and
Somehow, I owe you my art
Because of it
So you ask me to paint you
In colours of selflessness
And irony
Have the ideas forced out of me
Words coloured carnelian red dripping
from my brush
My body cut open in
A c – section
Because that’s how an artist must display
Their affection
For a friend
And for art.

You tell me how mothers like me
Are proud
To see their brainchildren grow into
The respectable,
decorated
with accolades and recognition
I’ll tell you how they ache to be respected themselves
to for once be nicely painted by society
the colours bright and flowing
and not having to resort
to self portraits.
I’ll tell you how artists
Give the last drop of their milk
To save the child
Which nobody cares for
Till it’s in a pageant or
on TV
And the net worth is a million bucks.
I will paint myself starving
And sing about how you can see my ribs
More than my soul as I play
And you still won’t get it.

The Finish Line 

 

To the future –

I hope you and I are flying.

 

I write about the race against time

Which I keep running for, and I’m

Wondering why it never seems to end

As my aching feet of despair portend:

 

I long for hands to hold, and to be held,

For stories of happiness unparalleled

But alas, no hands are held in running race –

There’s hunger for victory, not love’s embrace.

 

Oft I gasp for breath, wonder if anyone else

Can see it, or feel the music of my pulse

Which rises and falls and makes me a whole,

A river running to peacefully end at its bowl.

 

But I only run in a want to stop running

I run in search of an undefined something

Not found without life and much ado;

I draw the finish line, and name it ‘You’.

 

Time builds its course up and up

And a faint determination helps me to lollop

Through it all – even the rough affection

I run along, not losing direction.

 

I write of you, a glimpse of colour in the grey

Flashing, beckoning to meet me halfway

Promising you’ll stay put, patiently wait

Where you would, even If I slow my gait.

 

And I shall let destiny be the ink to my pen

And guide me to the very moment when

On your shoulder I will find my shore

And run I will no more.
 

While My Guitar Gently Weeps

A hundred miles an hour doesn’t seem fast enough when the race is with your own mind. I would call the night beautiful, the black sky blanketed in a million twinkling stars; but I only see it blur past me as I speed down the highway. I could call myself happy, but the drugs don’t work anymore. Maybe that’s why I did it, I think. Because the roaring crowds and the flashing lights weren’t doing for me what they once used to. Because I wasn’t being sincere with my music or pouring my heart out – I wasn’t using my heart at all.

I drive further into the black night, guided only by the distant stars and the headlights of my car. I can barely see what’s in front of me, but I drive. “I don’t have the passion anymore”, I say aloud, my voice drowning under blaring radio and the screaming winds. My mind recounts many such lines from the suicide note of a certain rock star as I drive on. Those are sad words, I think, but they aren’t mine. I take a right turn and a deep breath. I know I have the passion, I just don’t know where it hides.

As I step down on the brakes, the verse to Piledriver Waltz suddenly cuts off, giving way to radio static that sounds just as scrambled as my thoughts. The car screeches to a stop at an intersection as the traffic signal turns a prohibitive, angry red. I turn off the radio and push a mix CD into the slot. Its quiet whirrs are soon replaced by the sound of John Bonham drumming away in Bonzo’s Montreux. I sigh. The album was called Coda, the conclusion to Led Zeppelin’s illustrious career. I wonder if my announcement was too sudden, like Bonham’s death had been. I wonder how my PR team was handling the media since I had announced my motive to quit, mid-performance. I wonder what they were saying about the broken guitar. I think about what my manager had told me after my impulsive decision. “The fans will never recover”, he had said. I wonder if I ever would.

This way or no way, you know I’ll be free…’ sings Bowie, as I tap my fingers absentmindedly on the stereo. I look ahead at the fork in the road, wondering which way to go. The answer should be simple, but I can’t make up my mind. As the outro to Lazarus starts to fade, I consider taking the road on the left. I could go back. I could return to the arena and tell them it was all a joke, have people call it a publicity stunt. After the buzz dies down, I would probably return a bigger name than I had been before. I chuckle, mentally toying with the idea of it, and ignoring  Tom DeLonge’s soulful cries as Adam’s Song plays. I stare ahead at the two roads and the big yellow pole of the traffic signal between them, and think about what I would really be going back to – wealth and fame that I felt dejected and disillusioned by. I remember the cold, hard loneliness that would always be there, even when I was standing at the receiving end of adoration from thousands. No, I tell myself. I am done here. I had been considering taking it, but in the glow of my headlights, the road looks sinister. I know it is, too.

I turn to look at the path to my right. I know this road, it leads to home. Yes, Home, I think. Home to the suffocation and bitter sadness that drove me the other way in the first place. “Home”, I whisper, and roll down the window. Cold wind gushes into the car, but I still feel warm and stuffy. I couldn’t return home in a million years. I glance out the open window. The light is now amber,  and the stars look dim in comparison. I realise that I still have my foot firmly planted on the brakes, the engine still running. I think about all the songs I have sung and the liquid topaz eyes with strands of gold which inspired most of them but which no longer see. I breathe in and try to remember the song I played to an audience of four thousand last night. I can’t remember the name. I breathe out. I know where to go.

As the light transitions to green, I hear the first few bars of How To Disappear Completely play. I remember that Radiohead had been the first concert I ever went to. I smile. My eyes scan the two roads that lay in front of me, my mind settling on a final decision. The car lurches forward in the direction of the traffic signal as I close my eyes and step off the brakes, waiting to crash with the pole.

Verse Chorus Verse

Everytime I see someone perform live,
I feel like I belong. It’s just a vague feeling.
It’s there when they take a familiar song

And make it their own

It’s there when the performer takes a deep breath

He closes his eyes.
The first verse starts 

And someone in the audience lets loose a slow smile

Some lose it to an expression of awe and wonder

And one by one, and all at once

They get engulfed by this energy

And this magic – If there’s any in the world,

It’s here.
It’s when the crowd starts with slow hums like static 

And slowly rises into a cheer in harmony with the tune of the song

And the performer is the artist.
He opens his eyes 

Looks into the audience for the first time

And this is the moment the artist

Finally finds the reason 

why he started in the first place 

It’s like the song finally found its key. 
And then the artist 

Gives a little foot tap 

Maybe a slight shiver 

And lets it all out.
There is passion out on the stage 

And down below in the crowd that screams back in recognition.

He closes eyes again 

And every other eye reflects only him.
And when there is silence to follow

You know what fills every mind and every heart: 
I feel like I belong.

It’s a very overpowering feeling.