Interlude (11)

So, obviously, this is not the first time I am trying to tell this story, or parts of it, or some version of it. The most sincere attempts (though the countless failed efforts were sort of sincere too) are contained in my two chapbooks, The night is my mirror and On Turning Fifty. Looking back at those poems now, they are beginnings, threads, tangles…some kind of gunky birthing miasma.

In a poem titled “On the fear of ageing” (from “On Turning Fifty”), written back in 2019, I have said this:

“How can I tell stories so big that imagination,
trying to escape, slips into a quagmire of
threadbare verbs? How can you listen to
stories so small, they stick between your toes
like ellipses till you cannot walk?”

and this:

One thousand stories to
tell. One thousand and one excuses to keep
my silence and not enough nights now, love,
not enough perfect nights left to tell them all.

Funny how things pan out. If you ever want to read the chapbooks, follow those links above.

And here’s the recording of Part 11. I think I was more emotional reading this aloud than when I wrote it. Poetry is a funny animal, that much is for sure.

 

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Part 19

The farce I built around myself
became the armour infecting my skin.
Lies corrode. Poison dripped into my
veins. I become my own marionette.
Making myself dance and sing. The
show can never stop. No one can ever
know. I tasted of iron and falsehoods
and the desperation to get by. One
more day. One day at a time. One

night at a time. I avoided them. The
embarrassed smiles. The curious eyes.
The apathy. Those who claimed to
understand. Those who didn’t. Is it easy
to play victim? To play survivor? Is it easier
to be nothing? Not telling is not a summer
storm, is not a cold wind that passes by.
Not telling, letting it fester, digging at the
sore, screaming the pain, denying the

pain, unable to be right, wanting to be
wrong, hating to be wrong, not knowing
the fix, not saying a word — is a monsoon
that lasts forever. Know that a wet can
exist only when something has once been
dry. A life can exist only when something
has died. A story, a fucked-up story,
can be told only when bones are buried
so deep, no one can ever find them.

Part 18

A lone tree in the middle of a vast
expanse. A pair of coucals, its largest
residents. A family of raucous bulbuls.
And every morning, a brahminy kite
sat on the highest branch as if
surveying its kingdom. Squirrels ran
amok and at the beginning of the rains,
a peacock would swoop in and show-off
its glorious plumage. That tree was a
separate universe. The clouds loved it.
It loved the sky. Something a lot like
peace fell upon that island of solitude.
But if you looked hard, there was beside
it, a pit, now slowly filling, crawling with
life, but a pit, as if there too, was once a
tree. A lot like this one. An ordinary tree.
The moon knows. It saw that tree one
night, wrenching itself out of the ground,
roots and leaves and all. Walking away, its
head bent low, not crying though, not
crying. If the lone tree knew where the
other went (because roots talk to roots
underground, you know), it didn’t tell
anyone, not even the one mynah
squawking for an explanation. After a
while, the bird stopped asking. The tree
stopped knowing. Only the moon knew.
But the moon is always complicit. Weak.
The universe stopped calling the pit, a pit.
The universe stopped calling the missing
tree, a tree. Nothing happened, said the
shape-shifting moon. Nothing walked
away from nothing. Nothing became of
nothing. Erasure is the way the world copes
with history. The ease of negation. The
amputation of time. Never. Nothing. No one.

Interlude (9)

Here’s my reading of Part 09.

Because this series is made up of stand-alone poems, I must reiterate that they are all linked, somewhere in there is a complete story. Or so I think. And the readings, perhaps, help weave them together. At the beginning of each reading I am trying to briefly introduce the poem and connect the dots, from one to the next. At least lay out a map, of sorts! Listen and revert with your thoughts! 

Because Part 09 is about finding poetry and falling in love with it, I am sharing this picture of a page from a diary that I was writing in, maybe in high school. My early poems do make me cringe, but also smile. There is no way I could have imagined a blog, a book, another book or a half-way decent poem then!

20221015_105011

 

Part 17

I don’t remember how my name sounded
in your mouth, how your mouth tasted

inside mine, how you looked when you
stopped at the foot of the bed, how you

moved, how we moved, how we crashed,
how the force was felt for days, for miles.

The ripples have been brushed away and
water is once more sky below sky. As if time

is rearranged. As if the past is erased and
what remains is a future frown of recognition,

not by knowing, not by remembering, but
like a cold wind that passes by, skin contracting

from a primal impulse. As if the aftermath has
decoupled from the event, result separated

from reason. As if memory is a discounted
inconvenience. What is the order, the protocol

for forgetting? The smell of damp skin before
the length of a toe, the hesitation of a lowered

gaze before a laugh line, every single laugh
line? Or should we forget all at once including

the way purple sheets wrinkle around a
body, asleep inside a dream inside a dream?

Interlude (8)

Happy to share a comment on the story so far, emailed to me by a reader. Thank you, Krishnan, for following the story and for the much needed encouragement. Just what I needed to keep moving ahead with this challenge. Much, much appreciated. 

Also, here is the reading of Part 8. Do take a listen.

 

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.