Love & Politics in the Cynical Age 

I’ve never been good at writing political poetry

– words with the power to challenge the politics and pressures of the status quo

the fire to enkindle revolutions

the depth of thought to provoke debate

I have always considered myself too distant for the task

You see, I am, rather unfortunately, a man of heart;

The only battlefield I’ve known is my soul,

the people I know, soldiers on both sides,

The truest parts of my life

are shaped by the emotions of the moment – 

anger, sorrow, joy, loss, hope,

all experienced in transcendent time,

all in shades of variant intensity

on the tapestry of the infinite space of that singular sentiment – love.

Yes, I’m one of those people

and this is a love poem.

But isn’t love, in its very existence, political?

For what part of our lives

isn’t touched by, affected by, changed by love?

What moment in history has not seen people fighting

for their right to be human – to love, and to be loved?

Look, at the refugee couple fleeing wartorn lands,

their clothes caked with dirt and the dust of the beloved they left behind,

huddling in the tent that was now their home.

A moment of intimacy passes between them, in the midst

of a new life they had not written into their vows – 

but they swear now, to each other and to the world

that no weapon might tear asunder their love,

and in the midst of painfully hollow words uttered

by ‘leaders’ far away from their chaos, their kiss

is real.

Look, at the father, exhausted beyond belief, 

carrying his young son, asleep in his arms,

wandering unknown streets, still not shirking

the dignity of money earned, but his eyes

betraying the anxiety of where his son’s next meal will come from.

Love may not be all we need – 

But love does not exist in a vaccum, for the people

capable of such incredible acts of love will always

find their way out of strife,

for the love of strangers sees the love of the parent – 

and there is no stronger unifying force.

Look, not just at a few, but at the millions of tales

of love that trump the tales of hate, in every corner of the world,

with no regard for borders or walls or parliaments or politicians

or right wing or left wing or Hindu or Christian or Muslim or young or old

or gay or straight.

Look, and tell me if love can be

anything but political

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Hangovers are the Worst

With every sip of golden whisky,

Every drag of green medication,

My human foolishness

Faded away, replaced

By reckless abandon and joy

Lived wholly in the moment.

Shot after shot, erasing

My bond of slavery

To memories;

All I was,

Was a vessel relieved

Of mutinous emotions

Seeking to sink me.

 
And the night passed,

Aided by anxiety relief –

No one knows when I passed out.

 
My hangovers have never been

Physically painful, but there is always

Residual sentiment,

My quickened pulse as much a result

Of the alcohol still in my bloodstream

as anticipation of the impending wave

Of nauseating consciousness;

The occasional regret, with awareness

Of my wasted misadventures.

Bitterness, that I must resort

To intoxication to bury myself.

Loneliness, that despite

The swathes of people

Engaged in extreme sociability,

I could not reach

For a drunken hug/kiss/fall.

Clarity, that I must pick up

The empty bottles and burnt papers

And carry on, my fantasy of freedom

Over, my heart no longer slowed down,

Seeking only to keep me alive.

My cup has runneth over, my heart

Has spilleth its secrets, and now,

I cannot forget.

A Letter to a Lonely Pessimist

Your loneliness is not you;

The emptiness you slip into

is not your being.

You have crawled out

of pits far deeper than this and you

will continue to climb if only

you let go.

Your darkest days end

with the golden liquid,

but you must rise

with the golden rays,

for there is a tomorrow

you don’t see yet.

It makes little sense

for me to speak these words

to you, I know –

my tomorrow is still on the horizon –

Perhaps, they are for me

as much as for you.

All I hope for, then

is that we awaken

because this long night

has run its course.

The Dancer 

For Ashaa

 

The dancer’s first steps

are of uncertainty;

the stage is known to her,

yet it feels unfamiliar

to her feet – the lights, the faces

the enchanting playing of the mridangam

are hers to revel in,

but alas, therein lies her fear,

her moment in song and dance

are hers to capture

or to let peter out.

She steps out from behind her curtains –

Tha thai tha ha

she finds her rhythm

her every step enunciating

the syllables, her salangai clinking,

her mind at one with her

body at one with the strains

of the nattuvanar’s voice,

her grace stunning her admirers,

and as she strikes a figure

of sheer, magnetic poise,

the audience melts away,

replaced by the mirror

she spent unending hours facing.

Now, all she sees

is all she is –

the dancer

Sleepwalking

The space between

the serenity of sleep

and the upheaval of wakefulness

is a strange place,

where consciousness treads

ever so lightly,

its presence vague, and muffled,

a mere distraction from guiltless acquiescence

to the tender trappings of quiet repose, with

a mind – and heart – tethered

only to solitude,

to the freedom wrought

of selfish separation.

This space, alas, seems ideal

but for a short while,

before serpentine restlessness

coils itself into my psyche, crushing

the peace out of this detachment.

A safe space unravels, as

the relentless pace of the life I

must wake to, overtakes

those moments of calming spectatorship,

and I am lurched into

the forever-catapult of everyday living,

into days I live

in exhausting limbo, for I

never truly wake, my heart

still nesting in that cavity

of unattainable solace,

in an unwilling sleepwalk.

 

Phases

Love begins

a beating heart

exploding out

of a body split open,

soaking in blinding light

intertwining with another

in hitherto unfelt touch,

inner chasms leaking

hitherto untold words

 

Love becomes

a steady pulse

wrought of shimmering passions

and frayed nerves;

two pieces of an uncertain puzzle

grating away at each other to fit,

two ships in the night

finding anchorages to stay

 

Sometimes, love ends

everything kept locked away

spilling over,

searing hearts

burning bridges

to ashes

slipping between the hands

of former lovers

permanently

 

But sometimes, love stays

reborn, a phoenix,

with nothing left to hide,

everything laid bare –

tongues, bodies and souls.

Exhaustion, giving way

to understanding,

towards peace, for truly

what are incendiary flashes

to a sea of tranquility?

 

And for those fortunate few

love lives.

 

Rug

Plant your feet
on the rug woven
with the innumerable threads
of every moment you lived through
seemingly inconsequential on their own
sewn together to create
a revealing tapestry of
your life, dyed with
the bright colours of
your joys, your successes
contrasted by the garish colours
of your strife, your failures;
pretty, it is not,
but on it, you stand.

Alas, this weighty rug
may still be pulled out
from under your feet
with little forewarning, and you
f
a
l
l
crashing with a thud,
your head throbbing, disoriented,
you stare at the ceiling,
a kaleidoscope of possibilities mocking you

And yet, you recover,
as you have
several times prior,
and each time,
the thud gets duller
and the rug
not as far.
Reach out.
Rise again.

For Swathi

I will not apologize to you
My words will not fill
The holes he left, emptying you
Of life, and emptying those
Unfeeling spectators, of humanity

I cannot apologize to you
I have never known you
Except in a crimson blur
Behind layers I cannot touch
Frozen in terrible permanence

I wish I never needed
To apologize to you
I wish those blind witnesses
Never had better things to do
And your murderer’s heart could bleed

I hope I will never need
To apologize to another Swathi
I hope I have the courage
To let your blood stain my shirt
Instead of the morgue’s sheets

I will not apologize to you
For I do not deserve
Your forgiveness

Note: for context, http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/female-infosys-employee-hacked-to-death-in-chennai-2874289/

A Plea

I am a terrible poet. 

My words do not

Weave beautiful tales

Of tragedy or triumph, 

Nor do they conjure

Vivid images out of ink. 

My vocabulary is pedestrian, 

Far from poetic.  

My words have no grand ambition.  

They are maddeningly self-absorbed;

They speak only for themselves. 

I do not write poetry. 

I merely translate into text 

The thoughts

That keep me up at night,

Which creep into my mind

On busy days when I

Face a severe drought of spare moments,  

Which have me clenching my fists 

And my chest 

In pain I am certain 

Is far lesser than most others’ 

But real nevertheless 

(How I wish I 

Could keep them at bay)  

I accept all accusations 

Of my writing being one-note;

Alas, these are the only notes 

I seem to be able to play, 

They rest too heavy to move beyond. 

I am not a poet, 

I could not claim the immensity 

Of the nomenclature. 

All I ask, 

Is that I be allowed my indulgences, 

My attempts to give form 

To these incessant whisperings

Of troubles I want no part of.

The day I have no need for the pen, 

I swear I shall drop it.

Until then, please let me have my words; 

Without them, 

I fear I shall succumb

To my malaise far too easily

 

 

Salem

She mounts the distant stage
Her visage blurred
By the haze of this heat wave.
No matter, when banners abound
Proclaiming her benevolent leadership
She waxes emotional
Of her empathy, her altruism
I believe her
My memories molded
By her triumphant monologue,
The sea of unwavering support
Beatifying her very existence.
In the heat of the moment,
It makes little difference
If her words are fact
Or fabrication.
This is all for our good,
She says, commanding us
To pay no need to the vengeful lies
Of the opposing vultures
Who only despise
Her maternal omnipotence,
The bastards.
Passions rise in a whirlwind,
The summer day no match
For her ferocity;
The crowd grows frenzied,
Louder, expansive
Overtaking all rationality
Apparently defying the elements themselves.
I am one
With this congregation of devotees
Chanting, chanting, chanting
Then, I am none.
Mother Nature, it seems
Is bemused by my naivete.
And I lie, my mother far away
Her offspring rabid,
With no voice to spare
For one lost among the thousands,
They surge, and I wither –
The sun scoffs at my face –
Too late I realize,
My mother is a liar.