Part 16

Things break in predictable ways. The shard, the
jagged edge and the dust cloud follow a rule, a
pattern, a story. The way day breaks over and
over again without complaint, the way a promise

is broken without a sigh, without ceremony,
the way silence breaks without a word, without
a sob. The way we broke without ever being
whole. I didn’t turn around. Not when I was

gathering parts of me that weren’t parts. Not
when I was mending parts of me that weren’t
me. How does it break, a thing that was, that
never was anything? The way a tree snaps and

falls but no one knows, no one hears? Or the
way the monsoon sky, sapphire in the morning
light, curdles into viscous grey, for a while? I
shattered like a mirror, no longer a mirror but

a thousand mirrors, each seeking the whole
of me, each holding a part of me, reflections
within reflections, the way a solitary star
implodes and swallows the entire universe.

Interlude (7)

A special interlude post. Four updates:

1. Part 14 found a home in the Via Negativa Poetry Digest. Grateful to Dave Bonta for picking it. It’s so wonderful that parts of the story stand up as individual poems and find little homes for themselves.

2. Am sharing the reading of Part 7. Reading the poems is actually bringing me closer to them – like discovering them anew. Hope you enjoy the audio.

3. A reader @curiousindia (Instagram) created a picture using an AI art generator tool using keywords he picked from the title and different parts. Fascinating to see the result! Thanks so much @curiousindia Certainly one way to represent the mood here!

IMG-20220928-WA0006


4. On the heels of an old poem that I shared on my main blog, which was inspired by Wallace Stevens’ ‘Thirteen ways of looking at a blackbird’, I found myself writing this new set – alternatively called ‘Thirteen hacks for people writing poetic memoirs’. I wonder if I follow my own advice! 

Thirteen ways to tell your story

1

don’t say a word —
at least one other person
knows the syntax of silence.

2

don’t block the sunshine
with your words:
shadows tell a different story.

3

the rabbit hole of the past
has only one exit.
you have to come back
the same, painful way.

4

write poems soaked
in metaphors,
let readers find their
own stories.

5

you are the hero of your story —
bruised, broken, brazen,
beautiful. every word has
roots in your nervous system.

6

look in the mirror. often.
what do you see?
what are you writing?

7

a story cannot grow skin.
raw, bleeding, exposed,
every eye that falls upon it
must cut it a little more.

8

your story is a tragedy.
even you
must die in the end.

9

wait till the crow
returns before
you segue into a confession.
more can be said
under cover of dark.

10

nothing is so big
that it won’t fit
into a sentence,
a paragraph, a chapter.
50 years is only a
few pages long.

11

brevity is the red
wheelbarrow. Basho
spun the entire
Universe on a
17 syllable axis.

12

facts don’t wear
euphemisms. when life
sucks, call out the
fucking cheat.

13

tell your story
as if no one is listening.
trust me, no one is.

Part 15

Bolts of silk and brocade, young women,
ornate silver jhumkas flashing as they
shook their heads, hennaed hands and
curly long hair, one holding up a swathe of
peacocks spun in gold and twilight blue to
her breast, another draping fiery orange,
the colour of a star in heat, around slender
hips, the beginning of a giggle, hugging,
so much touching, an older woman, a

mother, an aunt, clutching a sequinned
purse, the air thick with chemicals and
anticipation, bangles jangling as dreams
awaken in sensuous mulberry pink. Looking
through a shop window into that many-hued
ache, I straightened the years that had fallen
on their sides like plastic dominoes. It might
have been nice, like that, the adults indulgent,
youth, somewhat innocent, somewhat lewd,

thrusting hips and limbs against softness,
life’s probability ratios worked out by the
length of a zipper, the transparency of fabric
and a familiar call in a stranger’s eyes. It could
have been liked that. A maroon-brown saree
with zari borders for a willing bride. The motif
of celebration. Of auspicious starts. It should
have been like that. They say the longest night
is woven in bitter yarn: black warp, black weft.

Interlude (6)

So, a couple of updates:

Part 13 was included in Via Negativa’s Poetry Blog Digest! Thank you, Dave Bonta! Always a delight to be part of his weekly compilation from poetry blogs.

And here’s my reading of Part 6. To me, it continues where the previous poem (Part 05) left off, you can hear about it in the introduction. And as always, guest readers and artists are most welcome. Leave a note if you’d like to read a poem or share related art or if you are working on a poetic memoir as well!

 

Part 14

Born in one town and raised in four others
before I was ten, I feel like the earth, unable
to say where I started. Was it night first, at

the beginning of the first rotation? The only
certainties are the ceaseless movement and
gravity. The inability to fly. Standing on the

beach in Chennai, I wondered if this was still
the womb, readying for the real birthing.
If my own vastness, bigger than that sea, was

still forming. One rain, one deluge, was not
enough. This ocean knows everything, her
sand is coarse inside my mouth when I talk,

inside my thoughts as they spawn. All I know,
I learnt from her brown-blueness, lapping
around my ankles like a warning. How to

talk without speaking, how to listen while
still retreating, how to let go even when the
full moon is drowning in your belly. I asked

her about flight, she rises to the sky and falls
in endless cycles. Is leaving home the same as
dying? Is she born over and over again? How

will I know if what I am now is sea or cloud
or rain? She whispered warmly to my skin for
a moment. How to be alive without being.

Interlude (5)

Sharing my reading of Part 5 today. I think the little introductions to the poems will weave the parts together. The connectors that didn’t make it into the poems. Listen and let me know your thoughts. And guest readers are most welcome. Do give me a shout if you’d like to read a part or two. Or share related art as a guest artist! That would be amazing as well.  

 

Part 13

Gathering reflections from a river
gone by. Remembering like a
reluctant rain. The day of the tragic
assassination, trying to get home from
school, in a city paralysed. Learning
what it means to be stranded.

The day the towers fell, horrified,
watching from home, some miles
out of Boston. Learning, without
wanting to, how easily far can
become farther, brown can become
browner. A different difference.

The day I moved, rebooting life
in a tiny rental, trying not to hear the
ticking of the clock. Learning that
alone doesn’t mean the arithmetic
of one person inside four walls, but
the square of all the reasons why.

Shouldn’t memory games have hidden
algorithms for winning? Get out of jail
cards? The day I was given a choice that
wasn’t a choice. When I should have
walked away. Taken the loss. Learning
hard what happens when you fuck up.

Always spinning back to that chorus
like the song on the radio. Funny
how sounds echo in an empty house
as if they too have come a long, long
way, as if they too, diminished,
are looking for the nearest escape.

Learning that when life stops, life
keeps going, but when you move
on, the grey tide withdraws, the sky
feels scrubbed, the sun is an altered
light, but you remain where you were,
where you were stopped. That day.

Part 12

The moon is different. She knows
that molten mother-of-pearl is on
loan till dawn. She lies awake, she
paces the sky, she does not smile,
she wears the borrowed radiance
like an ice-cold shroud. But in that

dishonest moonlight, ask the koel
how she sleeps so well— knowing
she was abandoned in a stranger’s
nest when still an egg, knowing that
crow was not her mother, knowing she
was different from her brother, from

her sister, knowing she holds a
different song in her breast. Knowing
she too will succumb when her time
comes. Have you ever heard the
moon refuse the light? Oh, but she
shrinks, she tries! Ask the koel how

she sleeps — how she wakes up and
sings so well, how she wakes up,
refused twice, broken twice, how
she wakes up, her red eyes still
bright, her sweet voice still true,
singing so eager, so joyful, so well.

Ask the moon to turn away. This will
get ugly, there will soon be a price.