A DOG’S LIFE

Befriending him would have not cost a penny.
The price of admission into his world
just an instinct to be
a child of compassion,
all laws of the universe
beginning and ending
with the soft pats on his head
and his constant companionship,
walking side by side with us.

Such may have been his life.
A short, uneventful one.
I say uneventful
because his nature’s truth
is a shared community
among his always curious
and unprejudiced brethren.

They would have howled in
anonymous mourning
while the others among us
cursed at it as bad omen,
now that night had set
and not even one needed to
retire for the day
with someone else’s burden.
Then the corollary of a species in decline
discarded death of the one
absolutely in thrall of our conscious
need to be good to him.

****

It’s a surprise
he went like he was
never wanted by this world.
Born an orphan,
gone like a leper.

Teeth gnashed in pain,
nostrils round and flared up at us,
crashed by some rotating wheels
that never stop for any mortal body
and hardly anticipating
that running across a seemingly empty road at night,
long before midnight’s coalition of excess,
would end with that most dreadful shriek of his kind,
a kind curating nightmares
about the base instincts of our like;
to hurt and leave,
to not even pause
and ponder the slow decay
and our casual obsession
with making life a sport
badgered by our nihilisms.

That stretch of the road
right before the school
where I spent eight formative years
of my own
was his safe haven.
The place he could always fall back on.
His humblest site for rest and dreaming
being under the tamarind tree,
outgrowing the green expanse
of the golf course
from where it sprouted forth,
like an all-comforting friend
or unaffiliated sibling.
That part made up his chosen family
among others like him.
Small, puny angels
who had yet to cross the first hurdle
of a year on earth.

****

My prayers are for the one
who possessed the good graces to put him on the side of the road,
on the spot
where he lived
and belonged
for most of his days.
I saw him collected atop a thin
plastic sheet.
The only refuge for him.

His rehabilitator must have felt the pain of his untimely end shoot up
in his spine,
the uproar of ants on his breathless body
and hovering glitches of flies,
would have been too much for him.
The facts of this life,
for him
unable to placate himself after this unlikely,
open burial,
must have broken his heart.
He would have loved the little one
even if on occasional encounters.
They may have walked together,
the little one’s pace
and stride always a little more animated
even on his worst days.
The big one’s stooping shoulders
and uncomfortable gait
marking even days without incident.

***

Without a name,
his last wishes existing in
forgetfulness
and knowing nothing of
how death is just a breadth away
from living consensus,
his body has disappeared.
Eaten in full by
the underground world
or reduced to nothing but bones
chewed by some other.

Such was his life.
Delivered to him
by none of our hands.
Taken from him
in the heat of the night
when corruption’s free will
overwhelms all creatures great and small.

***

And I’m just an observer.
However, his final shrieks
mark my mind’s nights
of restlessness.
Because I see life
as a cataclysm orchestrated by us
and my future forecast
is for all things innocent
to find a space
away from here.
Sleep, sleep,
little babies.
Don’t wake up
to face this world.
It has been sold to a lumpen
share.
Rest in peace then,
my darling companion
who could have been rescued by me
if only I knew
he would meet a dog’s death.






WALKER-WANDERER

The world is a cruel place.
For him,
it was a matter of time
before his flight from
the godown
gave him freedom
at land’s end.
Half-grown grass,
clouds of foam on the river,
fireflies in suspended motion
telling him he could live here,
just live
but had to scavenge
among these litters
or eat raw fish
caught straight from the water.

He could cook them,
only if he
found enough fire
to last through tentative,
sundry nights.

This was a less cruel
part of  coming of age
and the scenery of the old,
storied school
was History and Time
in a nutshell for him.
It was open land
where five men came
to clean the river,
bathing, sleeping, washing
their marks of the day.
They lived here till sunset
allowed them to embrace
their damp skins,
soap each others’ bodies
and walk upland among
shingles,
low-lying trees
and bushes
to scan this horizon
as if for an unconscious vigil
before night entered
with the blue-painted
cargo trains on the sturdy bridge
and silence fell upon this piece
of rough and tumble land
like organs piping before Mass.

***

Walker-Wanderer
keeps his distance,
knowing wolves in the shape
of men
looking for young boys like him
at barren spots like these.
He hides
within the thin cluster of trees
that make a mini-forest
beyond these municipal limits.
It is the city still
and yet
so far from
man-made impositions.

Land’s end is a little like him.
Free
Naturally beautiful
and safe from crowds.

***

Walker-Wanderer
is lucky
to have darkness
as an enigma
as he moves about free,
unclothed
over shingles,
minor elevations
and goes into the river
to know what water
does to unburden
melancholy in those stark hours
where the body becomes
a resting place,
a parchment without words or thoughts.
Walker-Wanderer
takes these occasions
to lay on an elevated part
by the same river,
face down
as the moon glides like soft fingertips
over a body without a home
or burden,
a body without fear of immodesty
or exposure to the elements.

***

Walker-Wanderer,
there’s a rustle now
behind the bushes,
a medium form spying you
and your beautiful body.

His two fingers
are making shapes in the air
or is he
attempting furtive contact?
There’s just two of you
clothed by night chimes
and batters of desire
to know each other,
not too hard to discern.
These rocks have both your spots,
in this trough for contented loners,
in the middle of nowhere.

He is not a ghost’s form
because he is approaching you,
lucid and discernible,
not coming out of prolonged
shadows,
or a fog of hallucinatory
midnight dreaming,
in these intervening hours.

He stands now,
facing you
yet you don’t move
an inch.
You stay resting on your spot
by the river,
intent on not stirring
until this human contact
jumps out of its
figments
to become real.

Is his form
that of an intruding stranger?
Is he
fear
or horror’s figments
amassing its own body?
Is he a harbinger
of affection, love
even friendship
or a desire
kept half-lit,
half-burning
in isolation
where men can hold
each other,
either to smother affection’s
true rite of passage
or give in,
truthfully,
without violence and harm,
to something
approaching a recognised
common ground,
for laying next to each other
in peace and silence?

****

Don’t resist
Don’t revolt
when the body
moves in the direction
of water,
water that absolves.
Sleep side by side,
touch each others’ fingertips
and go face down
in the simplest gesture of repose
on the grass-covered mound
just above these smaller shingles.
Sleep like two
long-lost spirits
now finding their spot here,
without violence and harm,
back to approaching
a recognised common ground.

Then move about
together,
one after the other
or alone
over the cushioned grassland
when monsoons
take subdued charge
and the river’s foaming clouds
overflow beyond irrigation tunnels,
leaving behind a water body
where you see your faces
for the first time
in an image away
from mere suffering.

Become nature
till the green
colours this unity
among only two.

Let them see you both
as cowherds,
rag-pickers
or naked walker-wanderers.

I see you both
as a world away
from ghosts
that line
abandoned solitary tracts
beyond these municipal limits.

That should suffice,
for now.

***

EMBERS OF DESIRE, INNOCENCE RECLAIMED AND BONDS OF TENACITY.

Thoughts in verse on the visual imagery and storytelling arcs of some gifted works I have recently had the privilege to watch, in the given order except AN UNFINISHED LIFE, one among my very favourites I have cherished for many years.

***



PETITE MAMAN(2021)

Amber and maple shades
are like us,
twines of emotions
overcoming grief.

At the eleventh hour,
childhood’s miracle
reenacts the lost passages
of two lives
now divided by
an often salient bond.
How about we resurrect
our shared innocence
as mother and daughter
in the image of best friends?

How about I be the ghost writer
of this fable
and make you return
without a heavy heart
and take away
this token
of an unattainable timeline
that we can claim
as our eternal truth?

We were friends.
We only have to remember that
for all days to come.

AN UNFINISHED LIFE(2005)

Sprawling acres
Wooden hearts
Limp souls
and frayed ties.

A child redeems them,
unties the chains around our bodies
and the raving madness of
promises we make to each other
when hit by an undetected enemy.

Grief and longing are spread out
unevenly on human acres.
A little kindling can do so much
as to restore the balance of
failed words
and warm resolves.

It will lead to the spot before
spring
and the melting of hearts.



****



PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE(2019)

At first,
it was a smudge on the canvas.

The waves by the shore
lapping up our tentative first steps.
Candlelight
playing with shadows of a desire,
to be with a known figure
of reason,
rationale,
amity.
Amour.

Then the fire came,
the inseparable
thrust of this world came,
to tell us art was more than
a face preserved in time.
It was a legend we
preserved
for our
ineffable bond.

Now the canvas
is ours.
To bask in the glory
of what we had.
The glory of an union.
A communion.
A credence only we can share.

BENEDETTA(2021)

Blasphemy
is mine.

The miracle of
my flesh and blood
is mine.

My love is kind,
uproarious
and unsettling.

My prophecies
far from deliverance
and yet
apart,
spitting fire on vengeful
ires
and hypocrisies’ belaboured
edge.

Take me as I am.
Deliver me from the evil
that so easily disguises itself.
For we are who we are.
I
among the outcasts
who once received favour.

LIZZIE(2018)

Dreadful evenings set in
with a wilful calm.
Dry blood’s splotches
on the walls
set us apart.

Shush the striking of the midnight hour.
It is a dreadful time
to recall
the outrages
that we were subject to.
The doors that were held ajar
and the hands
that crept up on
hidden parts of our
still pristine souls.

Now the blood is on your hands.
The burden of a crime
on the poisoned chalice
that all drink from
before leaving us
with survivors’ modesty.



FAR FROM HEAVEN(2002)

Paradise had been lost
long before a scarlet scarf
drifted away
from suburbia
and made the last train’s departure
less furtive
and more prone to
leaving a lump
bigger than
the ideas we hold dear
before we see them
bite the dust.

Paradise was here
and the long
cascade of torments
and desires,
flowing along
these residual embankments,
stay.

The moral of the story
sways
and loiters.
The superficial truth
cloisters.
A woman’s work left as a remnant
by a depleting lake.



***

I also switch to the prose form to write briefly about two new releases on a prominent streaming platform that I watched on successive Saturdays.

HALFTIME (2022)

This documentary on a year and a half in the life of multitasking superstar Jennifer Lopez hugely receives its badge of merit from the pithy format. That period from 2019 to pre-pandemic months of 2020 covers the whole gamut of her various artistic triumphs without losing its focus on the physical toil that is a natural corollary as well as her personal investment in the Super Bowl performance that spoke directly to immigrants worldwide.

There are other inescapable elements central to her image such as her body type, appearance, identity as one of the most influential Latinas in the world as also aspersions cast on her singing and acting career, doubts she has slayed with each turn. The ugly spite of ageism too joins the conversation as her 50th birthday becomes a none too invisible yet unobtrusive thread to her career defining turn in HUSTLERS and multiple award notice, including the scrambling and genuine road towards receiving an Oscar nomination.




Within the hour and forty minutes, we get a personable, candid portrait of the individual who has come to define her life choices and by extension a generation, in fact multiple generations, through them. HALFTIME gives her an exhale and holds her accountable for almost three decades of sheer hard work and breaking stereotypes. Watch it.

***

BEAUTY (2022)

From the trailer itself, it was evident this Netflix original feature was an unacknowledged, unofficial portrait of a singing superstar who we know as THE VOICE, also the figure behind the best-selling soundtrack of all time. You know who she is so there has to be no unnecessary room for speculation.

BEAUTY is more of an impressionistic portrait of the beginnings of that VOICE and treads the territory of expectations, familial strains and the first steps towards a glorious future.  It covers fairly humble grounds. Grounds where pressures of maintaining a facade are supreme while passive-aggressive manipulative levers pull and push the titular protagonist around a culture of opportunity.

Gracie Marie Bradley and Aleyse Shannon are almost identical to  singing superstar Whitney Houston and her best friend/ manager Robyn’s real-life tenacity as best friends and lovers. Over the last few years, two documentaries WHITNEY and WHITNEY: CAN I BE ME? have especially delved into that aspect so the repressed embers are no longer hidden.





Andrew Dosunmu, the director, gives his screenplay written by Lena Waithe, a swooning, jazzy pulse, a gestural articulation that never lets us hear the voice but rather observe the impressionistic stillness of this particular atmosphere. The central romance benefits from that approach. However, BEAUTY ultimately becomes an exercise in futility because the abrupt end-point comes with the protagonist’s first major television appearance. Hence, this could have benefited if the runtime was longer or if it was the fledgling first half of a miniseries.  The potential of it is undone by the one and a half hours of runtime along with the increasingly lethargic pace.
The internal worlds and motivations too become very single-minded. 

What I take away from this work are the scenes with Niecy Nash and Giancarlo Esposito as the parents, the two best friends and soulmates defying gender binaries especially with their artistic collaboration and Sharon Stone as the industry head.

There is a lot that could have been expanded with more effective stakes here. Unfortunately, BEAUTY ends up becoming a cipher even with the all-too recognisable back story of an absolute icon and its aesthetics.

***

TRISHNA/DESIRE

Take a closer look
from these wide open windows.
Never was it necessary
for only lust
to close its fists,
slither away
and lay inside
closed, darkened rooms.

Bonds can be multiple,
novel,
often so simple and lucid
that human maneuvers
and a whole life’s agonising weight
cannot bind them in knots.

Some knots have to be opened.
Some threads don’t have to
overlap or get entangled
with each other.
They remain liberated,
free from the necessity of dictated
experiences.

***

There is or isn’t every worldly desire
in us
but an internal echo
that we identify as our very own.
Those of us
who pay no obeisance
to pleasures of the flesh.

For we have taken
as our figurehead
a God
who is found
among the winds,
the birds,
the innocent cackle
of being children at heart.

Recognise us.


****

Turn towards us
and see.
Life wills itself
to move out of closed rooms
and shuttered windows,
to breathe free,
liberated
without holding us captive
to the surrender
of putting hands
on other bodies,
or making us
desirous of a heavy consequence.

Our souls
then
fly skyward,
like a boundless kite
against heavy currents
of the day and age.

Our souls fly
skyward,
onward,
desirous of nothing
and yet everything precious,
like a vagrant heart
true to itself.


***


This poem is an honest and humble attempt at personalising my existence as an asexual, aromantic individual within a world of binaries and hypersexual cultural totems. May all the ‘aces’ find representation in these words.

Invocation

https://livewire.thewire.in/fiction-and-verse/invocation/

My poem INVOCATION is a sensitive ode to processing trauma and the gradual steps towards reaching a point of acknowledgement, on the road to healing the self. It is both personal-autobiographical and universal in its reckoning and tone.

It has been published by LIVEWIRE JOURNAL.

So read it and share your thoughts.