The drums of death are beat again:
A second time this week,
A fourth instance in thirty days,
A ninth, this year, to leave.
Some old, some young, some middling years:
All too early in health.
All with dependents left alone
To make their way, unhelped.
A widow, a son, a widowed mum,
A daughter yet to wed,
A son, two daughters, and a son,
And now a widowed head.
And those like me with moneyed hands
Do grab the honeyed pills,
Away from beating hearts of death,
Away from any chills.
Is there a guilt in being alive
When those around have passed?
You’re asking him who’d rather live,
Even if he is last.
You spend a week or month or year
In silent desperation’s clutch,
Unknowingly assuming much,
And thinking you are done for good,
Unless you do a thing extreme,
A thing you’ve seen the others do,
But never have you yourself done,
Or even thought of doing once,
But now you want to try it too,
So, Monday morning, you go to
The local Shiva temple door
And touch the bull – its rump or hump –
And say your prayer to its ear,
And walk the way to where you touch
The phallic blackness to your head
And say again your prayer pitch:
You give me that, I’ll give you this,
And walk away, a tray in hand,
A tray of offered fruits and leaves,
And offer them again at home
To members of the family,
The ones for whom you went to pray,
The ones who do not care for God,
Or maybe do when crises strike,
And you convince your faithful mind
You have to have to do this thing
On every Monday following
If _really_ you want to have
Your prayers answered earnestly,
And that is how before you know
You end up starting Mondays all
By touching rumps or humps of bulls
And touching phallic blacknesses
And making barter contract pleas
That come to pass on rolls of dice,
Or not at all, or all at once,
So there is no real telling if
The things you do have causal roles,
And so to err on safety’s side,
You continue to do your thing
On every Monday following.
My simple joy of sleeping in
Begins with recognising that
The actual price of waking late
Is losing handful habit hours,
Which I can anyway recoup
In handful minutes through the day.
My calendar is fungible,
At least in Lego blocks of time
Which I may play around with on
A lazy day with few demands.
Of course, the real joy in this
Is this exact same exercise
Of self-delusion rationalised
In sleepy seconds that alarms
Attempt to steal away from me.
Alarms are off’d, and eyes are off’d
And blissful ignorance is on’d
Until the hour of waking brings
To do this all over again
And smile my guilty-pleasure-smile.
We heard the drum before the cock,
Before the clock, before the Call
Of muezzin at prayer dawn.
We heard the rhythm on the drum
And knew the meaning it conveyed:
Another person has succumbed.
We heard the drum, we filed outdoors,
We saw the man on makeshift bier,
We saw the son in drummers’ trance,
We saw the utter thanklessness
Of people who refused to come
Ahead to help the lonely son
Of him who kept our gutters clean.
I stepped ahead and stood near him,
A brahmin breaking tradition
To partake in the cremation
Of someone from the lowest caste.
I saw the eyes, alarmed and wide,
I saw the accusations rise,
I saw the coldness settle in,
I saw that I had lost something.
In time, the drum elicited
The others who would dare to cross
The lines of caste on grounds of trust,
And thrust ahead without a thought
For all the drama that awaits
The ones who break the street’s decree.
I looked inside the rising flames
For bridges I had burned in it.
The sun was red, then yellow, then too bright.
Eagles perched on their towers, then flew.
Rooftop yogis in tights yoga-ed, then selfied.
The wind blew, then didn’t, then did.
The coucal croaked, then got chased away.
The pigeons ate the grain, then shat right there.
The plants in pots stood unmonkeyed tall.
It’s the most boring morning I’ve had in a week.
Thank God for that!
I’m almost of a mind to end this
Incessant, insistent obsession
To write a poem every morning.
What identity am I reinforcing?
“Poets like me do things like this.”
Or, is it a wannabe attempt to belong?
“Poets like them do things like this.”
Can I really be good like them
If all I ever write and settle for
Is just another tick on a habit tracker?
“Trust the process,” the books urge me.
“Look at your record. _Some_ are good.”
“You have to be kind to yourself,”
My therapist-visiting friends advise.
“It’s not like not-writing will help you
Write better,” common sense reminds.
So, fever-fried or medicine-muddled
I sit my brain down, foregoing rest,
and write … something.
I’m tired of all this trying, m’lord.
Just send me away for dying, m’lord.
I’ve aired the skeletons of those in power.
So, hang me out for drying, m’lord.
If proof you need to hide your hide, I will
Confess me a plea of spying, m’lord.
If, in a week, I’ll lie in markless graves,
I’ll buy me a name for lying, m’lord.
In all the things that will go wrong, I have
A treaty for which I’m vying, m’lord:
My transparency is full and empty.
Let half be my glass of crying, m’lord.
Let half be my glass of crying, m’lord.
This close to smothered mate
In the center of the board;
Material advantage choking.
Timely prophylaxis led to long walk.
Slipping away. Surviving.
Always a way out.
Prescribed combination working.
Too slowly? Net tightening fast.
Cannot resign. Not now. Not ever.
Cannot sacrifice for breathing room.
What win will that be anyway?
Have to draw it out. Infinite checks.
Have to be one move ahead.
Just one is enough.
Or overconfident chump?
Disease reveals me.
Listen to my bones
Crying the glorious name
Of untaken pills.
Stink of life is sweet.
I’ll pick feces any day
Like overnight millionaires:
Bubblewrapped for fall.
No loss to weep
No win to cheer
No rise to seek
No fall to fear
No curse to voice
No praise to hear
No bond to forge
No tie to shear
No will too weak
No breath too dear
No life too far
No death too near