Again. Again. Again.

Today’s belly doesn’t care
If yesterday’s got a meal or not.
Got to gulp one down. Again.

Today’s body doesn’t care
If yesterday’s got sleep or not.
Got to lie one down. Again.

No matter my state.
No matter my mood.
No matter the outcome:
Bad or good.

Today’s paper doesn’t care
If yesterday’s got a poem or not.
Got to pen one down. Again.

Without glasses

I look at the lighthouse and realise
It’s a whirling Sufi with a mining helmet
Reminding Almighty’s lost vessels
His light may not always shine on them
But will always guide them safely home.

I look at the moon and realise
It’s a Kamayogic infographic
Reminding dieting stargazers
How much to fill their dinner plates
To attract tides of wedding mates.

I look at the sand and realise
It’s Time on a Zen retreat,
Pausing from its on-the-go job,
Away from all the ups and downs
Of its hourglass office life.

I look at my glasses and realise
I see better some days without them.

Water Fasting

They came wishing to lose some kilos
Of the low confidence on their waists,
Paying dollars to a swanky ashram
To do something called a water fast.

Water fast? What is that? I asked.
You eat nothing, you drink nothing.
Except some water now and then.
And maybe salt for electrolytes.
Himalayan pink salt, mind you:
It’s got Potassium ions too.

Must be very effective, I thought,
Since outside the ashram walls
Sat the professional water-fasters,
Skinny and confidently shirtless
With little drinking bowls in hand,
The water gone, but the coins left
From when someone mistook them
For wish-fulfilling fountains.

Synapse

The meanings we find in spaces,
Between lines of poetry,
And strokes of paintings,
And moments of awareness,
Are merely leaps of chemical faith
That neurons make in spaces
Between axons and dendrites,
Across a polarized chasm.

Or so Science tells me.

Mood Magenta

They draw comic books on anger reds
And write songs on depression blues,
But no one really talks about
The Mood Magenta that permeates
When reds and blues come together.

So what if someone hangs themselves?
So many have died. What is one more?
Why am I so mad and sad?
Why am I so serious at all?

This is just how things always are.
This is just another here and now.
This is just the stuff that makes up life.
This is just another passing poem.

A Trauma is Born

Trauma is born the moment you notice
Your warm helplessness trickle down
Your left leg to your school socks.
It grows every minute you sit
With the gross stickiness that follows.

It beckons to you that afternoon
When you suddenly stop
While passing the socks
Air-drying on the clothesline.
Despite the maniacal scrubbing
And the finger-skin peeling,
You’re sure you still got a whiff of its stink.
You check again, tentatively,
Bringing the socks to your nose.
Not all the way, but close.
You smell the jasmine of the soap,
Tell yourself you are imagining things,
And let the socks go.
The parabolic clothesline sways,
The socks on them swinging
Like your playground bully
With his you-can’t-do-anything smile.
The scent is back that very instant.
Full blast. And you run.

Trauma cries and mewls and coos
Over the next few days,
Clinging to your breast,
Mouthing at your embarrassment,
Sucking you completely dry.
Every night you go to bed looking
At the light bruises it leaves behind.
You hope it doesn’t wake you up
In the middle of the night.
Of course, it does. It always does.

Trauma eventually learns its manners
And no longer calls you wherever you go.
It makes itself a nice cubby hole
In your private wardrobe drawer.
Every morning when you open it
To get ready for school,
Trauma says “Have a Great Day!”
From inside the jasmine-scented socks
You had helplessed into.
You pick another pair. Always another pair.

Trauma pulls your family in one day,
When after weeks, your mother finds
Burnt socks in the dustbin.
You tell her how they had flown away
Out of the clothesline and into the stove.
She looks at the room’s geometry,
The position of the open window,
The angle of the clothesline,
And the four inches of brick and mortar
Separating these from the kitchen.
You realize you hadn’t thought this through.
You shrug and run away.
But she has a crease behind her bindi.

She comes back from office that day
With a smile spread on her face
And a fresh pair of beautiful socks
With miniature polka dots
Of Mickey Mouse silhouettes.
You look at them and realize
You’d have jumped with joy any other day
Had these not been “the socks
That replaced the socks I helplessed in.”
Now she has two creases behind her bindi
And a hundred rupees fewer in her purse.
And you have two socks in the drawer
That you can’t throw out. For years.

Trauma laughs from your bedpost
When you wake up in the middle of the night,
Frantically touching your pants to see
If you’ve wet them again.
It laughs louder when you turn on
The flickering tubelight to double check.
And it just about rolls itself to death
When you walk to the bathroom
To wash your perfectly dry pants.
You know your mother will have
Another crease behind her bindi
When she sees them on the clothesline.
You don’t care. You can’t afford to care.

Thankfully, your father is oblivious.
His deliberate indifference
Is the last thing you need anyway.
But you learn from him this skill
And deliberately ignore the one
You’ve birthed with someone you hate.
Trauma knows what you’re doing.
And also knows what to do.
It has seen you do the same things
When your father did what you’re doing.
An impasse: Always was, always will.
As unresolved now, as it was then.

You try to acknowledge it as it is
And try to try and let it go,
Even in the twilight of your twenties,
When your parents are changed people,
But you still wake up from a dream
Where Trauma comes to meet you
And whispers in your waking moments:
You can’t do anything.

Hobbies

I want to do a thousand things
And want to do them well.
But I have time for just a few
Before I go to Hell.

I don’t know yet which few to choose;
So many to resolve.
Should I just pick and run with one,
So long as I evolve?

I’ve done that with my poem streak,
Though not so well, I guess,
For now I find it competing
Against my fling with chess.

My body wants to get in shape,
My soul into zazen,
My mind into more languages
That I can someday pen.

It’s good that poems write themselves.
I just have to make time
And show up at my writing desk
To catch the passing rhyme.

The rest I have to sequence, though;
Can’t work them all at once.
Let’s exercise and meditate,
So others stand a chance.

When soul and body are in place,
As fit as they can be,
The mind will be more productive
And have more energy.

Of course, I’ll touch the hobbies still
For daily minutes few,
Till such a time when I can bring
The effort they are due.

Side-sleeper

When he goes to bed every night,
He turns his back on half the world
And plants his right ear to the pillow
Listening perhaps for hoofbeats
Of sheepish sleep approaching.

A few minutes or some hours later
He turns to face with a quiet groan
The other half of the ignoring world,
Taking care to keep up appearances
Even though no one had cared for him.

I’ve never seen him fully-guarded:
Never belly-down, never foetal.
And I’ve never seen him fully-open:
Never belly-up, never blanketless.
He sleeps like he fights his days.

One wonders if his dreams, at least,
Bring him the peace he so seeks.

Another Moth

The warmth of her poetry
Does not reach me today.
How can it, though?
I’m already burning
With pride and envy.

I see her and see “potential”,
The word I now reject,
For all I have been is that.
I see her and see “disappointment”,
The word I now accept,
For all I am is that.

Poetry will get her too, no doubt.
She’s doomed and she loves it.
She’s had a taste of that delight.
She ain’t lettin’ it go. No, no.
A moth drawn to the LED bulb.
It won’t kill her like that oven did,
But she’ll keep butting her head in
And die naturally of a wasted life.

Or she’ll prove me wrong
And save me along the way.

Seconds coming

He winds it as soon as he wakes:
That rusted dial on the silver watch
That has long lost its minute hand
And may soon lose its hour too.
Only the seconds tick away strong.
“No matter, no matter,” he says
And winds it again every morn.
I ask him why, though I know the why.
And like always, he shrugs and smiles.
“Why let it die when it can be saved?”
And like always, I nod to myself and then
At the garlanded portrait behind him
Of the man who used to wear it
And of the woman’s beside that
Who had once told me long ago
How the ticking of the silver watch
Was all the memory they had of him
After he decided to hang himself
While his teenage son slept inside.