Vigil at AKU

I submitted a poem for the Winter 2010 Issue of AKU‘s alumni newsletter and I’m very happy to see it there.

Vigil at AKU

There were long balconies before the small hostel rooms
and it was barely light enough to see the heavy clouds
drift before the sun could break another day.

Another young man sitting on one of those rooftops
smiled and reassured me saying it will go well,
and I inspired appraisal and air in the same breath.

There were biscuit crumbs and long bones on
a crumpled white bed sheet in my room, and the room
itself was full of dreams which often emerged from

teabags or sugar tins, a set of strings or a dusty book,
and slid into the closet, hushed between a row
of shirts, or inside the knot of a tie I could not tie.

That was the problem – where to look for them, especially
when the wind blew bleating wet and stark, and there
still was a faraway place alive with things that made

it home. They were dreams but all were not as roses.
Some were monsters that I thought if I ever saw,
I would want to die. And most of this time, although

I was not there, as it were, in a world without me,
the indian-red building heaved with allegories
of young minds in sleep and awe, as the body in excess

came apart in their hands. It was strange to know thyself
as body, or to think in those days what beckoned me
to the sounds I did not know and words I could not say.

6:49 pm 11 June 2010

Autumn Eve

The sun, a windfall red and cold,
sets like an afterthought
of last night’s precious rain.

What creatures have not been here -
and I have been with them -
heavy of heart and lighter of years.

That is how the savors of a circle
hemmed in time may burn
a long time, incessant like incense,

rising as falsely as fairies
from blades of autumn grass
on which the future faintly dews.

If the flurry of things is pressed like
lives into leaves of a yellow book,
if silence has a backward sweep

over the loudness of palm lines,
the birds may also seem to sound
our logoi like their songs.

12:17 pm 12 October 2010

The Seagram Murals

The muses in these murals
are seams of days,
the singing ones who

do not stop the brink
and second skins
from staining sounds

carmine, black looms
from warping profuse
poppies with sears –

they knead expanse
into ceaseless shape
along the course

of arks and bones,
along the jaded side
of light, they levitate

the breeze, their ages pry
the imprint of a psalm
and lavish haze on eves.

5:16 pm 26 September 2010

My home, my selfhood’s dream sleeps on a stage

My home, my selfhood’s dream sleeps on a stage
made up of songs left by the words that flew
along the windkept course they always knew
as letters lifting off from page to page.

I sight preambles immanent in age
and even out the odds within the hue
of sea and sky impelled to find the new
in old and smelting ripples of this rage.

It wasn’t what I thought I loved alone
and that much else besides kept creeping in;
their beams were firm and shaded by the trees

that grew from small beside the sacred stone
where I still know the petals that could sin
their claims to wings and spell the surge of bees.

11:01 pm 29 July 2010

Harmattan – The Doctor

Harmattan haze surrounding Abuja National Mosque. | Wikipedia

Do we need exotic leaves
to cerebrate our love?
It is already taking

root in the soil’s oblivion
where everything remerges,
from sallow swans to scribe.

Who knows what blew
whose temperament
in yesterday’s upheaval,

where a lovely dust storm
rose around the brick
kiln chimney smoke,

as super scaffolding
around insistent beams
of billowing homes.

6:05 pm 22 June 2010

Large Whites on M1

Pieris brassicae - A Large White on a Buddleja davidii | Wikipedia

As they were,
in my mother’s lawn,
I see them

whitening
in wheatfields
before harvest –

on errand,
on a motorway,
in sunburned surprise.

I could not sight
flowers enough, or much
proclivity in place.

Where is the sign,
and where the cool
cloud and calm?

Car wheels roll
on tarmac worth
a nebulous plane –

and even so,
with peppered wings,
in tepid air,

the butterflies
don’t seek
a safer space to fly.

4:33 am 28 April 2010

Ganesh

Ganesh in Candlelight (closeup of a carved Nepali Sarangi) | photo by Taimur Khan

I rose and counted the carnations,
their numbers rising like their fragrance
to the lungs of wasps and drones

who know this sweetness –
the knowing feat which is
rewarded, and the favor

outlasts the end of season.
The hand I hold out is not
so helpful; although my eyes

brim with adoration, I pluck
a flower to foster some
sensibility, some other way.

The will is clumsy when it
bears fruit in my hands,
when I, for a brilliant moment,

want to make my views (not seeds)
prevail – views that are, inherently,
neither good nor bad, happy or sad.

It’s also true that insects
scent and seek flowers
not because they love them –

their lives depend on that…
Love, beyond the need of it –
to love and only that –

is not the sunbird’s thing,
that’s twittering even now
on my windowsill to mold

this April heat into
something else in me.
But that does not explain

the solicitude or rage
of elephants, or how,
when you hold a mirror

to them, they know it’s them!
How do they do that!
I spend so much time

looking,
as they make their way
to battlefields and temples.

3:41 pm Wednesday 14 April 2010

a[p]p[l]ause

Voksenåsen, Oslo - 18 February 2009
Voksenåsen, Oslo | Music Workshop - Afternoon 18 February 2009

a[p]p[l]ause

it’s not the [m][sc]ansion[s]
[n]or an ancient [c][m]ode
[bl][f][w]inding [f][v]ault with [anot]her

it’s [h][n]ow the [g][ar][lan][d]s g[l]o[w][ing]
and eyes [fl][m]eet[ing]
[un]certain human [b][pl][w]ays

we [dr]aw[e] a[n][d] [h][n][qu]ail[ment]
[w]it[h] a [sc][r]olling [p][wh]eel
[s]logans [c][h]old [h]and[s]

[s]well up | but [w]here
what [t]urn or ph[r]ase
or sentience s[ome][ums up]

sounds of words [fr][tr][w]ill
of birds what [y]earless[ly]
[h]ours [qu][s]ickening

s[ome][ums up such] [he][p]art/sort
in/of you
and/in me

[1:58 am] [7:10 pm] 13 February 2010

Degas once said to Mallarmé that he did not know what to write although his head was full of ideas. Mallarmé replied that poems are made of words, not ideas. Symbolists like Valéry go to great lengths to establish the concept of pure poetry which, he believes, is impossible in an entire poem because the use of certain words and connections become inevitable while they also take something away from the poetic content – or the music in it. The perfect poem approaches the state of music, and Valéry even considers musicians lucky on this account because they just have to start playing and it all happens without the hindrance of words. Inspiration – that many other poets like Ghalib and Ghani and adolescents make much of – has very little place in Valéry’s world. He professedly constructs a poem, over a period of years, which will have the desired effect in the mind of the reader, and merely the intensity of the idea in the writer’s mind is not enough. Also, a poem must not be a vehicle for philosophical ideas if it is to be a good poem, and so on.

No matter how much conflict there may be in the words of these poet-thinkers, it does not appear problematic to me because they/I thrive on conflicting impressions. As Nehamas argues, there are no ‘concepts’ in beauty and hence no absolute rules are possible to establish the merit of any work of art or way of life. As I see it, good poems are suggestive of many ideas and impressions, full of surprises, like good jokes and lives, but can be read and lived more than once because they are more than narratives even when they ostensibly tell stories. Connections which we may ignore in dialectic will haunt us in verse – given sufficient love of words. No doubt, a good poem need not advance a moral or win an argument but it can surely win a[p]p[l]ause. If we call the heightening of poetic sensibility inspiration, good poets are also master crafts[wo]men in their own ways. Whether it is a traditional form, the music in their ears informed by tradition and talent, a borrowed idea or a banal word or phrase, or something else, they make themselves heard – most often in their closets and on ‘dove’s feet’.

Having said that, a[p]p[l]ause is a deliberate deconstruction of some lines which qualify for being an expression of love and free association as shown below – a matter not of being good or bad but sudden inspiration and typing:

Click

it’s not the scansion
nor an ancient mode
finding fault with another

it’s how the glands go
and eyes fleet with
a certain human bay

that we draw the pail
from a common well:
coordinates

amalgamate – where?
what for? – to sound
sentience as sound:

some are words, some
trilling birds, some
earless quickening

some sort
of you
in me.

1:58 am 13 February 2010

The point (as if I knew what the point precisely is) of making an effort to transform and present a spontaneous outpouring of symbols in a multivalent way is to share with you how one may work with words that clatter in the mind. There are so many possible turns a line may take and change the meaning of the whole, and there, I do feel with some elation and unease, the blessed sureness of chance and uncertainty playing upon our eleven odd senses which we try to organize into life plans, overt action, and word schemes.

aagahii daam-e shuniidan jis qadar chaahe bichhaa))e
mudda((aa ((anqaa hai apne ((aalam-e taqriir kaa

let intelligence spread the net of hearing to whatever extent it might wish
my world of speech has no intention/meaning at all

Ghalib {1,4}* see more interpretations here

Happy Valentine’s Day!

8 October 2005

There are walls in many homes
on which some moss has grown

to keep those imprints leaning
along their lines and watch

the birds fly past their inner years
made of rooms and hills,

their courses quake in tempered dust.
The iris froze inside the day

and took no note of its falling
asleep with serpent curls

or flaming swords, flowing youth
and funerals. Lives are grave and

Graves are green with life,
gloom lazes in the summer grass.

Give up, live on, good man, good girl!
Go on and grieve! Give on and glow!

11:11 pm 8 October 2009

Season’s Greetings

I wish to make a poem with the languor
Of cool autumn, sleepy nights, and the
Blessings we have learned and freed,
Of easing around the stillest nest,

Stretching and yawning – some call it sloth,
But Sappho is now Sohni’s facebook friend,
Coursing continents like a classmate
Playing away with virtual doves next door.

It could be like a peachy Sopwith Camel
Flying over rolling fields, fuming with
Its cough. The view is pale and misty warm,
The morning bold enough to be on holiday

Is watching birds on fun flights flapping, wondering,
“Who knows what else or where impressions yield!”

2:32am, 5 October 2009