yes, yes, I know we come alone go alone but when we come may it be to the sounds of love
and arms roped in an embrace and when we go, and when we go may there be at least one
person next to us, the one who has loved us for an instant even, or someone who has maybe
one lonely night prodded the moon and broken a bit off for you
no one should have to die alone
but you did, and at that instant, what was happening outside? Were there birds in flight, those
tropical ones that disappear, a stroke of colour in a flash or did a half moon rise or did bats
speak to each other in sonic whispers or did a woman murmur in her lover’s ears not now not
you didn’t have to die alone
and what about the others who knew you, the husband, the friend, the lover, lover turned
friend or friend turned lover, where was he? where was anyone? the mother the father the
sisters who are meant to love, the brothers who are meant to protect, the aunts, the uncles
where were they in their worlds not knowing, not knowing, you were slipping away
you cold and alone
and so we think, we wonder asunder, how did it come to this
did you call the moment or did the moment call you
illicit whispers from worlds away cracking the earth into two?
Read The Healing in The Bombay Review
And I dream trees
The kind you rest on
green soothing peace
The kind you climb on
sun and shade, shadows born
like the words of your song
I dream flowers
of the tropics
busy petal clusters fragrancing
the body, a bracelet of jasmine
a necklace of frangipani
my very heart and ribs
as if frangipani, as if you
I dream skin
soft golden, you saying
I want to know
your skin, all of you within
My fingers feeling
the hollow at the base of your throat
and calling it home
I dream duvets
Bedside windows looking onto city streets
shapes curled in past sunrise post sunset
imprints in the down
our bodies our selves
wrapped in growing memories
as if fields of bluebells
and then I dream lights
the ones soft molten
clothing skin golden
The ones shining bright
covered eyes, bared souls
the ones winking in your eyes
glowing warm bed-laden sighs
while outside a city shimmers
kisses on the waters.
Three poems translated into Chinese and published in The World Poets Quarterly February Volume 93, Feb 2019
A certain way (and other two poems)
As an immigrant,
I am expected to behave in a way
a certain way.
Colour the walls with turmeric,
fill my soul with lament
for the land whose shores I have left
to become richer economically
Fold oil into long black hair,
dream the stars of the eastern skies,
in this land, the land I call my own,
but never to be my own.
Wrapped in sarees, sapphire blue, sindoor red,
meant to be nostalgic about the
monsoon spray dazzling my eyes
calming my burning skin.
Instead, my mind
soothed by the nourishing cool green
of the land I live in,
energised by the glowing orange sun
of the land I come from,
decorates ice cubes with spice.
With silver anklets, red stilettoes,
the shortest, blackest dress,
I sip prosecco, spear olives expertly,
pile plates with rice and chicken curry
while in the garden
lavender, jasmine, clematis, and marigold,
spread their roots, dance their petals
into the pale grey wet skies
and the searing sunshine.
Uproot, grow, take root
parallel truths, a little of this,
a little of that.
For an immigrant,
there is no certain way to be.
SCREAM THROUGH NATURE
No orange skies
No blood-red clouds
No sun screaming through haystacks
I wake I wake
I ask why
I work I work
I ask why
I walk I walk
I ask why
for this scream through nature, in my head, in my bones, in my blood, caving in, exploding out, within the veins and the arteries and asking me why, especially when it’s morning, when that sun rises every day, expected to rise every day, and with that, I do too, to have the same, do the same and walk out where I have been to before, every day, and I think I mustn’t, I shouldn’t, for surely there is a sky above, grass to run on, there is somewhere to escape, walk out and you will be free, open the doors and there you are free, yet free to do what, free for what and whom, and then there is nothing, and while the thoughts and I try and the screams stop and there I am walking out again, the same path the same way the yesterday and today and tomorrow joining hands together in some macabre dance and I do the same as yesterday, and over and over and over again
Read poem at Visual Verse.
The lilies brood
darkening thoughts of what is past,
of what may never come,
dread rising silently
in stagnant roots.
The lilies weave
pink, purple, blue, flickers of
dreams, of wishes, of holding
bits of the sky in their bodies.
The lilies wilt
drooping lives, death the sentinel
The lilies bloom
magic on paper, colours in the water,
impressions forming, growing, breaking
the canvas ablaze with a day, a season
and just for a moment
the lilies hold
eternity in their bodies.
(Based on the waterlilies series by Claude Monet)
Read more of my poems in the September 2018 issue of Setu.
Not knowing, Migration
The Banyan tree and the Oak
know the same language
is not an answer
nor a question
birds leave and return
Passport engraved with a stamp
coloured, dated. I
booked a ticket, landed in a country
closer to the poles from a country
closer to the equator
I didn’t know
I would collect theories and words
on my back
like a feathery creature
feathers firm on the body
plucking one out draws blood
Wonder why, how, I became
so many things at once
Emigrant, Immigrant, Migrant, Subaltern
theories to luxuriate, nest in
I didn’t know
that I am invisible
when I enter a room
I didn’t know
the philosophers, post-colonists
have labelled behaviour
branded my very soul
Hybridity, Provincialism, Orientalism
my shadows, my silhouettes defined
before I knew
Two- headed Janus
looking out, looking in
from where we came
to where we came
I didn’t know
I thot i was I
I was i.
Read Not knowing, Migration in The Lake.
An almost tropical rain arrives
I watch from the window.
Quiet roads, quieter cars.
The almost tropical rain
adorns the hanging planters.
Colourful flowers, petunias, azaleas, fuchsias
but fragrance less,
so the rain awakens nothing, hidden.
There’s even a hint of hailstones in today’s rain.
But, to be truly tropical you
need to emerge from the hunger of heat
the acridity of drought.
You need to rise deep from ponds brimming with lotuses
form clouds that spray down at will, lustily.
An almost tropical thunder today.
But to be truly tropical you
need to have been conceived in despair
spawned in hunger.
You need to have it in your belly.
The rain beats down today
it is not the same.
The Skin of Tradition
The foreigner watches a wedding in fascination
large bindi squatting on her forehead
red saree colouring white limbs.
The elders enthuse at how she
sits relaxed on the dusty ground
reveres the sacredness of every chant
embraces chaos in wondrous happiness.
The Americans, Germans, English,
French, Italians flock here, hearts one
with conch shells; cross-legged,
slurp white rice and dal from banana leaves.
Yet I, I ask for my fork and spoon.
Yet I, born in a small town, tempered by heat,
coloured with tradition, married saree-clad
in front of the fire, complain of the fumes,
my eyes burning. I, brought up within these walls
make it a point to question too much:
Why should I, why must I, bow in respect,
hide in shame, follow rules and customs,
forget myself? I question for years.
Later, in London, that city I call home,
forgetting that at home tulsi plants sit in courtyards
white chita is drawn on Thursday
to welcome Lakshmi.
‘A city without temples scratching its skyline
cannot be home, ever,’ they pronounce.
I question for years.
The answer, thought but not mouthed:
You can appreciate culture
fold your legs in supplication
bend your head, fast all day in a temple
knowing tomorrow you will be home.
Today is a thrill, like climbing Machu Picchu
like rowing down the Okavango Delta.
When the blood that runs in you today
bled on a pyre hundreds of years ago
soaking chrysanthemum garlands;
when, had you lived in a village
fifty years ago, you would be
behind a veil waiting, watching;
when not that many years back, a marriage
marked you with blood red sindoor in black hair
closeted rooms, opened legs
breeding healthy sons
if not white widows.
Since you know all this, the legs don’t fold here
in the dust, in the sacredness
even though they do at yoga in the gym.
The heart that belongs, never accepting, runs,
runs the farthest,
to shed centuries of old skin.
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