Part 49

Some twenty years since I spoke to my
mother. It still feels like a cold, rainy
December that will never end. The chill
creeping up from the marble floor, the
damp seeping in through the walls and
that incessant drumbeat on concrete and
tile, like a foreboding. It was her way: a
monsoon sky, overcome by persistent
cloud. An umbilical cord is not designed to
be an enduring bond. The womb is not the
guarantor of expectation. When you first
learn about disappointment, when you
first realize nothing is certain, when you
first encounter the taste of misgiving, the
days grow a mouldy, chemical flavour.
Doubt becomes a halo around your frame.
A chalk outline where you fell and never
got up. There are pretty myths about
unconditional love. There should be stories
about ordinary estrangement. The eclipse of
affection. The way water does not think of
itself as wet. The way the grey sky congeals
as it descends further. The way light does
not always see. The way good and bad are
forgotten in different ways. The way some
mornings you wake up, red-eyed and sore,
still curled up tight, in that foetal position.


Interlude (40)

1. A bunch of poems found a home in Via Negativa. Thank you, Dave Bonta, for picking them in your weekly compilation from across the net. The links to the posts are here:
Part 44: Poetry Digest 2023 – Week 17
Part 45: Poetry Digest 2023 – Week 18
Part 39.2 – Interlude 38: Poetry Digest 2023 – Week 19
Part 47: Poetry Digest- Week 20

2. I wrote what I felt was a companion piece to Part 48. Lets call it Part 48.1 for now. It is in a form called Liwuli which has some strict rules.

Part 48.1


Hold on tight through crazy monsoon nights, thunder ripping the heavens apart, everything, everything in such unbearable tears.

But the greasy dark
stains my hands,
my eyes, my days, my years…

Absent moon, what about my share of light?

Part 48

Some twenty years since I spoke to my
father. There is a mandatory progression
through which silence, while still wordless,
becomes a hum. Wears a sound. Swallows
emotion. Thickens. Ripens. Is heard but is
still unheard. Like traffic. Memory evolves
differently, blurring, fading, like the outline
of a frame on a wall when it is moved after
a time. Removed. Years of being, now a
discolouration. An empty rectangle. A past.
I took it badly, even then. I take everything
badly. Subtraction diminishes me more than
it should. Like a wrong answer. There is no
good loss. What can be compensated for is
not loss. You have to reassemble what
remains. A jigsaw of infinite pieces with
several parts missing. Always a hole. A void.
A background score. Always an incomplete
story. I think of him as a perception. An
abstraction. By elimination. There are pictures.
There are books. There are things still waiting
to be forgotten. There are things that cannot
be. Behind the curtain of night sky, there are
stars imploding. Behind the mask of day, there
is a darkness, hoping. The state of the moon
is not a choice we make. Questions grow old
when they stop waiting for answers. We find
new ways to rationalize whatever is missing.

Interlude (39)

Taking off from the previous interlude post, am sharing a poem that becomes Part 39.3 of this series. I think the poems, in their own ways, explore the same feelings. This poem, titled ‘The Station’, first appeared in the ‘Abridged’ in July 2018. (Abridged is a poetry magazine published in LondonDerry, Ireland). Here’s the poem:

Part 39.3

It was the same dream. The train rumbling through nameless
villages when something ran across the tracks and the driver

braked at the very same moment that someone pulled the
chain, the carriage swerving violently for a time until it broke

apart and fell in flaming morsels down the throat of a dream
that was gulping it down, laughing. I woke into a murky twilight

peering through the windows. How does darkness consume us –
starting from the feet, lapping gently at the ankles, then climbing

slowly, until the pelvis is numbed and eyes cannot see the palms
that move to blindfold it? Or do we abandon light from the head

down, so we never see the legs that are trying to run, never know
which way they wanted to go? We pulled slowly into a station and

I scanned the platform, hoping it would be, hoping it would never
be. How long is long when you don’t know that you are waiting?

Part 47

I don’t have the answers. But most deliberation
is rhetorical, isn’t it? Is this life well-lived? How
good should a good poem really be? What if
Icarus had never tried to fly? But you dare to
ask about failure. About rejection. It takes a
lifetime to solve abandonment. I can list my
mistakes. By severity. By consequence. By
date. By regret. I can find things to blame.
Beyond a god, beyond physics. I want to say
despite, still, even though. Words that taste
like cement dust, sticking to the roof of my
mouth. When I reached the Cliffs of Moher, a
thick fog covered everything. Cold, damp, not
a glimpse of rock or sea or sky, as if something
had bitten off one edge of the world. Isn’t a
lot of life just like that? Opaque? Ill-timed? A
function of disconsolate variables? Like us.
Ordinary. Incomplete. There are no reasons to
wake up. There are no reasons to continue.
There are no prizes for winning. You find a
level that is just enough. That works as long
as the tea is warm. That is good for a couple of
verses. That is as short as a long sigh. Enough.
Despite god. Despite physics. Despite the mist.
Seeing enough though there is nothing visible.
Living enough though it counts for nothing, at all.

(County Clare, Ireland)

Interlude (38)

Two things today. First, a very kind review of this series by Bob Mee on his blog. You can read it here.  Thanks so much, Bob. Greatly appreciated.

Second, a new poem. For now I’m just parking it as Part 39.2.
Part 39.2

(The anatomy of a wound)


How does a wound
wait for an apology? How
does a sky wait for
desire to become cloud?


How many things just wait? How
many things don’t know they are
waiting? How many things
don’t know they must wait?
Who is keeping score? Who isn’t?


You wait for an apology like
you wait for the last
bus, in the rain. Like
the yellow wash of a
passing headlight,
hope is soluble
in water.


To stop waiting is not
moving on. To stop waiting is
not happiness. Rain waits to
fall, inside a cloud. Its
darkness is not its doing.


The wound does not forget.
Nor does the sky. They
mend their holes and paint
themselves bright. Somewhere,
the sky is always holding on
to a rain cloud. Look.


You don’t measure
this waiting in time. No one
waits for months or
years or a moment
or a lifetime. Tell me in
weight. How heavy is your
heart this morning?


The average fluffy
cumulus cloud weighs
about a million pounds.
A wound goes deeper
than a cloud floats high.


Scab is night. The cover.
The masquerade. Dawn
scratches the scab,
There is blood on the
horizon. Every day.


Is waiting for an apology,
a type of vengeance? But let
us not talk about forgiveness
just yet. Listen to the
rain, it is the way
drought tells its story.


An apology has to hold
the whole universe in its
hands. It has to be heavier
than the wound. How many
words make up a universe?
How many words make up
a universe that is forever


Will you wait with me?
Right there at the end of a
sentence. In the rain? After the
rain? We can wait in silence.
Or we can talk. It won’t
matter. Waiting, always
waits alone.


You have to pick a side, though.
You don’t get to choose both
sun and rain and imagine
you are making rainbows.
Waiting, by definition, is


Silence is not an
apology. Silence is
not the voice of
waiting. Silence
is the wound.

Part 46

Chinese fishing nets catch the burning sun as it drops
into the Arabian Sea. Nearby, the church where Vasco
da Gama was buried. Fort Kochi. Like a point of
convergence. The past bearing the water that bears
its dolphins and catamarans and secrets. I saw where
the ships left the mouth of the Tagus River near
Lisbon. And where they went around the Cape of
Good Hope. History lapping against curvature, human
imperative battling the most compulsive force. Here,
the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic: a line, a wave, a
separation, a coupling. The messy trail of discovery
and spices and blood and gold. We connect points
on a map with our feet. We connect stars in the night
sky with our need. We connect lives, yours and mine
and all those who sat here, glasses raised to the dusk,
with the extremities of a sigh. Searching for stillness
in the relentless movement. Searching for a way out
of the binding stillness. How far must we go to know
how to return? Beyond this water, more water. Beyond
this life, one more breath. Beyond this time more
time. Beyond that, the beginning, beyond that, another.

(Fort Kochi, India/ Lisbon, Portugal/ Cape Town, South Africa)

Interlude (37)

Writing this poem felt good. As if I have now said what I wanted to. Am parking this one as Part 43.2, still reluctant to leave 2014, perhaps. Should have just written travelogues back then after each trip, but no, a late-life poetic memoir is more fun (and more difficult), isn’t it? 🙂

Part 43.2

I talk. About connectors: a place turns into a
sensory memory, a moment becomes an emotion,
a colour hides a dark side, inside. You tell me there
are other ways to see the world. A now. A noun.
A parenthesis. Perhaps, it is the burden of poets to
dip the universe into a vat of feeling. Until it is flailing,
until it is screaming, until it is dead. I say that Prague
felt like a storybook that could have a trapped princess,
fire-spitting dragons and white horses that could sing.
That I walked on punishing cobblestones, on clouds,
on strangeness. Sometimes, I want to explain. How
to open yourself when you see an ornate door. What
the water feels under a famous bridge. What to forget
when you close your eyes and listen to the old
saxophone player busking in the town square. Like
wires crossing. Blur. Dissonance. What to feel when
the story ends in ways it shouldn’t. Because it should.
Because it can only be, in the way it cannot. From
Vrtba Garden, I stare down at the city. I want to
explain. How to feel when you find the unexpected
in a place you weren’t supposed to. A blue sky. A past.
An eternity. How (not) to explain when you don’t.

(Prague,  Czech Republic)

Part 45


There should be a name for the way
your skin feels against mine. Not
in any language I know. A word from
an alien lexicon that I can hold in my
tongue, incorrectly, in wonder,
swallowing vowels because some
days are too much, but some days are
just enough — enough — syllables
sliding under each other in
unfamiliar ways.


We broke that word. We let it fall, let
it shatter into infinite sounds. When
a word is destroyed, a tree grows
from every whisper, bearing
poisonous fruit. When a world
is destroyed.


What is the half-life of a


What is the etymology of a word
that is no longer a word? What
is its meaning in a world that
is no longer
a world?


Now this hush, this indefinite
non-articulation, this silent road
stretching from the back
of your mouth to mine. Mouths
without words, without


I cannot speak of the word, without
the word. The cesspool of metaphors
and spaces, four verses where
there should be a single pirouette
tracing rings in the sunshine. Your
body against my body, you skin against
my skin. Just enough. Syllables
sliding. A world bereft of its
word bereft of its world.


The average temperature
of the average human
body is
98.6°F. Silence
is its


We see flecks of silver in the
night sky. Jupiter. One dot. Venus.
Another. The moon. Dots against
Dots. Some things need distance
to be visible. To be whole.
We cannot make up a word
for distance we cannot
comprehend. We cannot
make up distance
without a word, without a


When silence freezes, you
can walk on it. It eats up your
footprints. Quiet leaves no
markers. There is nothing
to show you the way back.


The night is loud. Insistent.
I talk to you, without you,
in sentences without words.
Without the word. Word
fragments arrange themselves
as silver dots in another sky.
Another world. Silence tastes
of warm ink inside my mouth.


The average length of the
average night is
measured in


The word ‘word’
comes from the German
Wort and the Dutch woord.
‘Silence’ comes from
something broken. That
used to be a word.


That used to be a

Interlude (36)

Let’s just call it Part 03.1. When we talk about angst and pain, poets tell us, thank god there’s poetry. To find the words, to let it go, to move on. I want to know, how many poems will it take? Someone scribble a prescription please… 1 poem, twice a day for 30 days. Or more? How much poetry does a god really need?

(You probably don’t remember as far back as Part 03 but the first 4 parts were just setting up the premise of the series. If you wish to read that poem, here’s the link.)

Part 03.1

I can’t tell you where I am from. Not
the way you wrap a nostalgic tongue
around a hometown or an ancestry that
runs a long way in two directions. Not
the way a person, who still owns the
house or field of his grandparents,

points to a fading portrait or a bunch
of keys. I am from everywhere, I
say and you know that I know that
you know it is bullshit and that is
how we spell unbelonging these
days. You ask how it is going with
this person or that and I say yeah
and smile and this is the same
word and that same nothing and
I know that you know that I know
that come evening, we will be
somewhere: a home or a kind of
home, in a place that is kind of our
place with someone — or someone
like someone — and who is to say
this is not where I’m from or this
is not how it is going because I lost
the rule book when I got lost and
when I came to, they said they
found me, I said I found parts of
myself. When I came to, there were
no rules, just some abstractions,
some realities, some things that
still need mending. But you see
me standing in a circle of air and
you break-in and ask where I am

from. As if there is an answer. Is
this how we must know each other?
Why, next you might think to ask
about my mother. Or my father. Or
maybe you will ask, as if about
the bloody weather, how I am doing.