My Body is a Letter to God

my body is a letter to god,
on days, when i write to her,
she snoozes her mailbox
and sends back unlearned
birdsongs to sing, when i
mess up the rhythm of the
songs, my body hibernates
like god for several seasons.
after my autumn and spring
pass by, leaving only melancholy,
leaving for my body – ideas
of how it should have looked
but how much shame, it is
different, my letter wakes
god up and she sings back-
prayers do not recover the
bodies that have been abandoned
by their souls, god wept as
she traced my body vein by
vein, “your spirit is a temple
of sentiments and stories,
your body is religion – hollow.”
i crumbled my letter and dug
it deep in my fist, as i touched
my blemished, fat, unloved,
untouched, abjured body,
it bloomed and goosebumps
like flowers rose with a desire:
“make love more often, aren’t
you home finally?”

~ P

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Breathing in Bombay

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when i first arrived in Bombay,
the sea had sung and i surrendered,
all the broken nerve twigs in my body
expanded how timber wood does
when it rains incessantly, i looked
carefully at every face drenched
but creviced around me, each mouth
had a song that was gifted to them;
when i first arrived in Bombay,
i surrendered, for i figured out
what does it mean to inherit songs
from the sea and the rains to fill
in the gaps of your aching swollen flesh,
in Bombay it means to begin living
after you’ve died in some other city. 

~P

Tonight is the Dying Kind of a Day

After staring at my computer screen for long hours,

I stood by the sink waiting to puke, maybe, I thought – whatever I’m choking on would throw itself out,

But my mute had become cancer, it spread inwards. Even my silence was eaten up, nothing came out of the throat that once sang fire songs and bullet hymns. I could sit without moving for half the day and the other half, my nerves wouldn’t stop banging themselves hard on my flesh, turning me into a hurricane.

A few hours back I wanted to write a poem about how I never realised that Amma, she came with a ticking clock,

My one hour of ignorance now causes her four hours of anxiety, my Amma who could dance on songs of Rafi, now lets her heart settle with echoes of sad songs.

People too come with expiry dates but unlike medicines we want to keep the people around even when their rescue dates are quite near, people were better medicines, always.

In the morning, I wanted to write about an old house that I miss, the chirping of the birds outside my window,

They bring to me the smell of those curtains, yellow leaves dipped in raindrops, the swing that was safe, the slide where bullies didn’t push you hard, the rope that sticked to my body more than my own soul, the blood that left it hollow forever after.

A minute back I wanted to write a poem about how an artist forgets to get back home even when he does return,

How do people count projects and assignments, schedules and meetings more than they can remember coffee mugs and reasonless conversations?

Yesterday night, I wanted to right about the things that were suddenly making me cry, a micro second of tears and hours of chocked breath neither reaching my tongue nor gulping itself down my guts.

Wearing a jacket that smells of you and ointments that I use to cure cold, not able to figure out which side to sleep, an aching finger or a soundless still soul that won’t utter even a murmur of its pain, what counts?

I wanted to write a poem about people who write stories about choosing adventure over love, I wanted to write about why I chose love over adventure and that seemed like seeking a validation. And then, I wanted to write a poem about validation.

There are days when I can write poems like layer by layer I’m ripping my skin off and it doesn’t even pain, like I’m throwing lillies over my head and they come back turning into rainbows, like every drop of blood in me breathed poetry.

Then there are days when I can’t even spell POETRY, in a single attempt. I read Rumi like I’m reading a nursery rhyme and I read Wolf and Plath like I’m reading an article on trend setters.

I am a sea of strangers beating each other off to scoop out the bitterness,

But all they see is dust grooving with the air: my nerves still jammed worst than a busy red signal. I sometimes think I don’t have a way with winters, maybe I should be in the mountains high on vodka whole day long, at least my spirit won’t freeze to death.

If being fragile ever meant being vulnerable, I could call myself the poetess who could be a goddamn goddess but —

being fragile doesn’t open wounds up like buds waiting to turn into flowers, being fragile shuts the graveyard even stronger,

being fragile some days only means a louder silence, poems moving in circles in stomach like a hullabaloo, tongue tied up and a soul that slept on half bottle of pills without its alarm clock on.

// tonight is the dying kind of a day //

My New Emptiness is Called the ‘MAKESHIFT SOUL’

A hundred poems have I written on emptiness,
there’s one on the back of my old math notebook
one on the birthday card I made for mum
one on the red wall of my terrace –
it’s a one line poem – “WHY DOES IT NOT END?”,
there are many poems floating on the shimmer
of water in the off-white bucket in my bathroom,
there are several in my laptop – incomplete,
several half eaten in my stomach,
half chewed in my mouth
half read hanging on my eyelids
and half sung, sticking on the tip of my tongue.

People are continuities, people are patterns,
they continue each day something of their yesterday,
I am half dismal and half glory, with life one day long.
I have endurance of a woman who’s gaining weight faster than she’s gaining courage to be a shameless “cheese lover” and a constant “gym hater”,
I have patience of a kid who has no idea why did they teach him how plants breathe and not “HOW TO TEACH YOUR MOTHERS THE ART OF BREATHING FOR THEMSELVES”,
I have love of an artist who cannot decide if having a muse is another form of tranquility or hysteria.
The impermanence of how I feel changes colours
faster than a chameleon, from sunlight to midnight,
I am twenty million people; my days end with a text from an old friend that says “I know you so well”
and a text from my psychiatrist that says “YOU KNEW YOURSELF BETTER TWO YEARS BACK”.

This is how my newborn emptiness looks like,
about which I’ve never written a poem but only broken
jingles that sounded worst than nursery rhymes.
My new emptiness is called, MAKESHIFT SOUL,
I sleep with a fear of “who would I be tomorrow?”
My mornings begin with a note – “you can do this!”
my nights end with – “would i try it again tomorrow?”
The worst thing about emptiness is you don’t know –
you don’t know at what point does your ship finally sink,
your bones are half water, half blood but your flesh
wants neither of the two.
Despite what your heart wants to feel,
emptiness is merciless, it continues throughout the day
to splash both water and blood right on your face,
leaving you naked and drenched in an unknown guilt,
an unknown fear, an unknown face –
in the middle of the night, EMPTINESS LEAVES YOU UNKNOWN AND BEREFT OF DESIRE.

As the colour of my skin changes by the night,
my feet more cold and painful, my hands warmer than I want them to be, my spirit descends to an unknown field.
Of such fields, there’s no address, only yearnings.
Like mother earth, I too am a life,
there are things about me that do not change,
I am tired of making them survive, because emptiness –
emptiness does not tell where does it hurt
emptiness does not tell what does it want
emptiness does not tell of whom does it long
emptiness does not become home or a grave
emptiness stays like a parasite, it eats,
IT EATS LIKE YOU’RE INFINITE
AND YOU HATE INFINITY
FOR THE FIRST TIME IN YOUR LIFE.
~P

I Too Call Myself ‘I’

I have no joys that are not yours, no
aches which are not yours, I too call myself I.

There are no rains, that I’ve not seen
turn into melancholy, sitting like a drought
on the window side, waiting for a single drop
to wash the air off your stains, but you
occupy everything, everything.

There are no afternoons when I’ve not burnt
brighter than the scorching sun in the sky
to light my own house and look for a touch of you
lost but breathing, shivering for the warmth of my chest,
your longings falling like tired embers.

There are no nights that I’ve not spent sitting
depleted and curled within a hundred layers
like a mongrel, trying to dig into the end of me,
where my grave must be, where my birds weep
to go to sleep.

There are no seasons when I’ve not looked
for the face of spring, how many years have gone
autumned, perforated, pining for dancing horizon,
to feel once what does a dead tree feel
when flowers break out of its emptiness.

I’ve ached too but they called it a manner
of a woman, an emotional freak, a damstrel,
whose tears the world can see is cowardice
and a man’s pushed down the throat is courage.

It is I who’s lost like the wind of anguish.
It is I who’s betrayed, once beloved
and in the end a bereavement.
It is I who has sucked air out of the body to check
if my lungs are breathing pain, in and out.

But they’ve counted on rolling calendars
seasons after seasons, your autumns,
your cold januarys, your storms of despair,
your abyssal, your suffering, your bleeding heart.

You are the pure heir of a family’s name,
soul bearer of another lioness to your beast;
and I a surpassed sorrowed gender,
whose heartbreak must end with a whimper.

But how will they separate from our mournful sky,
this I from you, you from this I. For if we were
a damaged ship, put together piece by piece
one last time,
I will still be I.
You will still be you.
We will still be us.

The first two lines of the poem have been picked from Kamala Das’s An Introduction.

Short Story: The Midnight Encounter

I opened the door with my hands that had by then taken the temperament of a log of wet wood- soaked yet thirsty, beginning to smooth out on the outside but on the inside falling apart like a web of dead blue nerves, shivering like wreckage of autumn shrubberies. I sneaked in with my eyes unable to gauge everything of the darkness, with a thunderstorm in my stomach- as if in a while- I’ll be an infinitesimal part of all the gloom in the air surrounding my shivery body. The stillness of the room was sinking in my blood with adlibbed goose-bumps. I was in those moments when the faintness of a dark space bloats itself bit by bit and makes one feel as if it’s coming towards you like an adventurous swing from a soaring height and it will hit you in the face with absolutely nothing but it will hurt and bleed like a severe accident.

In a fraction of a second, I heard a strange voice, at first the voice collided with my heartbeat and vanished unnoticeably and then it remained the same way- a streak of golden light does in a flickering bulb. Half of my heart throbbed in my stomach and the other half was hung in the middle of my dried throat; my head felt submersed in a huge helium balloon, unable to move, blink or breathe. I heard an unsteady, cracked female voice. As soon as I heard the voice I stood frozen since it felt like a voice of my own- not the voice that comes out of the rolling tongue made sensibly heard using syllables but a voice that’s of a hungry stomach, unconscious and alarming. I saw a silhouette of a woman sitting on my bed.

From the tips of her blonde hair rolled underneath- kept neatly on her forehead, a vintage shirt with fluffy sleeves and a cargo pant- to the limitlessness of her aura – she looked like sunlight breaking out of labyrinth of silver linings of besieged clouds in a bereft sky. She made me remember of someone important- someone I know as intimately as myself; someone I remember like the lyrics of an overplayed song, recipe of the special dish Amma cooked every Sunday, alphabets and numbers I learnt as a kindergarten kid- like the things you never notice but they are embedded like stones in your memory.

Conspired by what my eyes could see, my dysfunctional brain struggled to push my calves to move ahead and look closely at this woman but my bones were as usual stubborn. In a small second the woman disappeared and I frantically started moving in the darkness- suddenly my fear disappeared and I turned into a mad lover looking for a closure to a mystical heartbreak. I switched the lights on to find a neatly folded yellow letter kept on the bed.

“My dear reader, I want to tell you, that night my thoughts had ensnared me beyond the capacity of a cage. The flesh holding me together withered like embers falling from a forest fire. I looked at the mirror- I saw my flesh torn apart, rotten and dull- I appeared to myself like those scary sketches artists draw of half eaten bodies. That night- like owl’s talons clenching my heart- I belittled every reason of my life, then I saw a never-ending sea through which I dawdled- with each footstep my body becoming heftier and that sea was my pain: the pain was me; I had become it and I had to go for I could see nothing else but this sea going up and down holding my pain across its waves. I had to drown my own sea. In the moment of my own murder, I was free. I saw the sky- after years of looking at it, I saw my widowed sky and a regret ached in me. I wish I had been the seeker of its vastness since the beginning of my life but I was free of this colourless world only when I turned blue in the shadow of the sky casted upon the sea. I am Sylvia Plath, your Sylvia. You’d grieved when you first learnt about my loneliness, you’ve loved me even when I never touched you, I never spoke to you but you told me how they try to shut you for your madness. You’ve screamed at nights your lungs out and looked for someone to give back to you- the mute laughter you crave for. This is what I give to you- be the sky and live me from here. Choose the madness, the sky, the sea and come to me, here I lie like a solaced wildflower.”

As I finished reading the letter, I was drenched in sweat, a million voices echoed around me, my presence juggled between death and life in a micro-second. Suddenly, someone jerked me like an electricity wire and a jot of my senses came back.

Marina, my 9-year-old cousin, tried snatching the paper from my hand but I refused to give up as if it were a key to my own grave.

“I want my sketch back, Didi,” she almost yelled at me.

“That’s not your sketch,” I said and looked at the paper.

It was a beautifully drawn sketch of a caterpillar. She had coloured it so uniformly that it seemed like the caterpillar was dancing on that piece of paper- maybe it was happy- its life would last just three summer days.

Life is a makeshift

There are these moments
when you’d want to pluck the earth off the universe
and put it somewhere in the junkyard, forgotten;
never get any of these lives back and find yourself anew
folding into layers and layers of unanswered qualms.

I once ran off places on earth and in my head with a wrong map
each time I was sure, I would take some pills and quit this.
Yes, once upon a time I wanted to die or maybe not
but I walked till here and
I’ve shed my own self, I got the path
and I’m an existence forever ‘becoming’.
I never reach a point where I look into myself
And feel where have I reached, where is the right map?

I do not arrive now, at places, in time, in situations, amidst people.
I roam in circles encountering my silent adventures,
I become a dandelion, a root, a leaf, a flickering bulb,
a freak, a wolf, a nest, a cocoon,
And from each life, I move towards another,
To never let the world see,
What have I made of myself.

I am not the noun, I’m a verb.
I change and I am a process,
Maybe like a feather of the bird that falls down
Swaying and shedding the weight of its broken wing.
Yes, I couldn’t once choose myself over my sorrows
But I’ve made museums with chandeliers
Out of each of my grief.

Magic chambers in my eyes,
I’ve left long back
What people made me think
I must learn to be,
I’ve let my eyes dream of plains, scrapes, slopes and mountains,
Instead of directions, seasons, goals and constructions,
I will be my tomorrow before tomorrow arrives,
It is I, who’s moving and maybe not the time.
You’ll not find me arranged in a single manner,
A concrete, a mere life
Till a breath tears me apart.

"….all artists, regardless of degree of talent, are a painful, paradoxical combination of certainty and humility, constantly in need of reassurance, and yet with a stubborn streak of faith in their own validity no matter what."