A Pawn’s Impression of ChessĀ 

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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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. 

An Emotion

I am no great conversationalist, and sometimes I have exchanges with people which I end up concluding in epiphanic letters to the known and the unknown – to people, places, objects, thoughts or emotions. So, when I ask you about whom you want to be, and you think about what it really is that you want and respond with ‘happy‘, I have this to tell you:

Being happy is an emotion, not a second skin you can slip into and forget to ever take off; and emotions are volatile – especially this one – and you can’t ever mistake them for the complete person you are. You have it in you to be happy, but happiness is a wanderer – it comes and goes.

I think you have to be okay with happiness being fleeting, with it being just a mood and not something as permanent as the indestructible refuge of the house you build for yourself in your mind; because the bricks you stack upon each other to make it stand aren’t mud, sand and cement – they’re sadness and loneliness and ecstasy and love, they’re the gold and silver of your experiences, and they shine and sparkle differently when the rays of the sun hit them from different angles.

It is important for the sun to beat down on your mind from different angles for you to know just how radiant it is. Each little memory you keep in there is like a tiny memento from the game of life which you see in a new light every time your eyes gloss over it. Maybe happiness can be the dust that settles on these mementos as time passes by, maybe it can be what you find beneath the dust when you pick them up in your hands to reminisce. Maybe happiness can be the reflection you see in the many mirrors that hang on the walls inside as you run along to whichever corner the butterflies of everyday life lead you.

Maybe happiness can be a passing moment in the journey you take – the glimpse of the face you catch in the sideview mirror as your car speeds by it – and not the destination itself; because it is already yours and you just keep letting it loose to take itself on morning walks, because happiness is all the more happier when you find it again and again.

The Poet

Far beyond the maze of words 

That ensnared him into loading his pen with ink 

And made him run it over

Sheets as fresh as blades of grass

There is a boy who doesn’t want to write:

His whole life was about putting his thoughts to paper 

And letting them bleed till they materialised into 

worlds that existed only in his head 

And sometimes behind the doors he closed.

But now he lays down the gun 

With which he shot down his demons 

Whose blood made the stories his heart sang for him 

And says that he 

He doesn’t want to write.

He hid his journals somewhere out of sight 

And thought he could let the pain out of his mind 

And try he did, and die he did 

The death of his brightest smile.

Like a bird who built her nest into a cage 

In the confines of his own mind,

The grey walls bare and unforgiving 

His palms pressed against them, feeling for a crack 

Waiting for some light

The boy says he doesn’t want to write. 

His faith hangs onto a fraying rope

Despondence breaking the dams to rush into a river 

Of sorrow, of the inability of words 

To tell himself what he wants to speak

Or to tell me, through his letters 

The little windows to his soul,

The musings of his mind, if it were musing at all.

Sometimes his mouth opens 

And he lets me trace the words on his lips 

They sing, to the tune of his melancholia 

That dejected, he doesn’t want to write. 

The boy sits alone in his cell 

Mulling over the things he left unsaid, unwillingly

Rolling them into a dough of handicap 

Eating them up, to keep himself from retching 

The liquid remains of his shaken hope

Heart suspended from the very same rope. 

Now the tears well in his beautiful eyes 

And the ink of his poetry runs dry 

He curls his mind into a fetal position 

The poet says he doesn’t want to write.

And so,

I’ll do it for him.