LUCKNOW, MON AMOUR

Being in love with one’s city and having the privilege to be its active resident is a fact of life that never ceases to be joyous.

As writers, getting the betokened opportunity to represent our eternal affinities to our place of birth and residence take on a humbling hue when the venue is one’s own educational home.

Such a beautiful moment came my way on Wednesday, 18th January, 2023, when my host university department, Department of English and Modern European Languages, University of Lucknow, invited me as an honourable alumni to recite my poem LUCKNOW – AN ODE TO THE CITY, in keeping with the city being its theme for a pre-Convocation programme.

Reuniting with beloved teachers and meeting new, beaming faces who represent the bright future of the department resonated on a personal level, as always. Receiving praises from contemporary students and holding a room full of intellectually astute individuals invested for those two minutes of recitation made a big difference. The other performances from students and teachers were the launchpads that naturally boosted my confidence.

Thank you for the memories and to the beginnings of a robust, creatively prodigious 2023 for all.

*****

MT. LUNA

Sister,
look at the moon
fret with you
above Mt. Luna.


He knows the fiefdom of
dissenting clans
is upon you,
somewhere
in a countryside
where poetry
never
had a chance.

The fire in the mountains
is a torrid
metaphor
you have to live with
till December.


If manifest destiny is what
I can put my faith in
then
that hill
visible from your window
at midnights
is a sieve
for all that you feel,
often
even your darkest hours
are there,
thick and immanent,
like the trees on its broadened chest
and the stars
that you count
are
lanterns
according you
the share of light
you need.


You know
sister,
this part of the world
has not forgotten
that you fret
and rain your quiet tugs
on your pillows.
Your brother,
he is unable to walk two miles
with a straight back.
He frets too
because that’s how far
it goes
to sense your smoke signals
beyond hills and fogs.

We have only till December.
Trust in the good God of grace.
This month too will pass.


This separation too shall pass.





RINGLETS

His broken lines in a sentence
are filled with sediments
and the quaint powder
from igneous rocks,
the kind you don’t find
near water under the bridge.

He hails me with crumpled papers,
all glued with the saliva
from masticating them
for a greater part of two years.
The third, he feels,
will be when he
speaks more than ten words.
On these papers are the graves
of dead red ants
and leaves from another season.

When I ask him
to show what remains of his
austere body,
he disrobes me first.
Starved of touch
and scrutiny as I am,
I accept the prosaic
hands,
his lanky fingers
that press my upper body
with their tubular ends.
It’s the way he feels
my flesh and bones.
Then he takes his turn.
I see a veteran skeleton
that has lived out its days
for far too long
without pity or appreciable
charity.

Bodies, bodies.
We don’t vary here.
The sky covers us
without smudges.

He tells me
to touch my injured parts with
spry leaves
and gives me ringlets
cut from a banyan tree.

“Bodies
Faces
These are passengers
pacified
and agitated
by
an unknown
initiative”

Together,
we plunge
into the shallowest part of the river
for a swim.
I emerge alone
back on earth.
To find that the ringlets have now
spread their network across the water,
from this end to the other.
A voice echoing with the disappearing
stranger’s tenor saying,
“the deed is done.
the broken lines
in your sentences
are full.
The ringlets are now spread
among your wishes
and your words are no
more mere mumblings
under the bridge”

***

NOEL

Baskets filled with finger-sandwiches weather the footfall
of receding winters.
Luncheons planned
for year-end unities
go into hiding
along with guests,
lost to the era.
Such a funereal period,
these final five days
have brought us
the misty intimacies
of gloom.

Everything is touched
by this remission of Spirit.
Everything is corrupted.

Everything is corrupted…..
Everything is in remission…..
We circle the same gyre
Fate heaped us with,
in a monopoly of disinterest
we make our own.

***

We have to
dislocate Malice
and make the best
out of discrete indoors.

**

If Christmas
brings a red bloom
and all colours go pale,
bring in a hibiscus
to the central table;
make its red bloom
take first place.

If a hearty festive dinner
no longer passes muster,
pour bottles
of cranberry juice
into your favourite carafes
and pass the season’s cheer
around.

If then
no other face seems friendly
and every screen fades to black
before midnight,
tear through the rowdy crowds,
past the barricades
at the town square,
make it to St. Joseph’s Cathedral
in an act of defiance
against the decibels of isolation
and reach Him,
your only beloved
and friend
as he opens his arms,
in epiphany
of you
finally coming out
of your shell.

***




Book Review: Amrita Sharma’s ‘The Skies’ – Cafe Dissensus Everyday

https://cafedissensuseveryday.com/2023/01/04/book-review-amrita-sharmas-the-skies/

I am so happy to have my book review of good friend and poetic contemporary Dr. Amrita Sharma’s THE SKIES grace Cafe Dissensus Everyday.

A generous soul who has been instrumental in lifting me up as an untiring fellow creative mind, she deserves all the success in the world. Here’s to more worlds, words and triumphs in print and deeds.

A YELLOW CHAMBER

The little sour-yellow chamber
in the park
is appropriately lit,
a shade from the flayed,
intensely private,
guarded secrets
of someone like me.
Keep me under your aegis
because I am not disgruntled
by there being two memorials
in the same direction
facing it.
This is a capacious park
which is why I don’t come here
to sit or mind the thin green
of its contents
or to longingly walk around it.
I take one or two strolls
around
and it helps
to not tell anyone
that I come here.

There’s nothing secretive
about its wariness
from a kind of beauty
that’s disposable
when the rains
get too grey
and too occupied
with making
the mud
particularly sink so deep
in my sandals
that it gets carried home,
coralled like a memory
of this imperfect place
that is just a little distance
from the river,
a little far from everybody’s
gazes,
thirty minutes from home
on foot.
A little too open
for the ambush of
hurtful contexts
and hands with corns
or the smacking of tongues
and wet lips.
I’ve seen them
a little too much.
The skin is not
tantalized
by such sights
or sensations.

****

Bless this little vestibule
living in the heart of the
city’s most beautiful stretch.
I smell in it
an earthy
oblivion.
I see in it
the track of sorrows
dispersed like seeds
in such a forbidden whisper
that its walls
and leftover bamboo scaffolds
too can’t resolve its sacred secrecy.
We don’t need to hush
or bury our grief anymore
under the crunch of gravel
and an unfinished epilogue.

Perhaps this is the one corner
I don’t need to come to
each day.
It’s resigned like that.
Older beyond its years
of standing here
with a quivering spine
and supine
as if everything around it
was built for its distinct
shadows.

I come here.
Not to remember
the crusty bougainvilleas
of May.
But to just be.

The yellow chamber
and this park
are perpetual guards
minding my slow, nimble
steps.
We don’t clasp each other tightly.
We just know
we’ll not forget this
new acquaintance selfishly.
It’s a comfort we can share
throughout winter.

***











THANK YOU, MODPO

*****

I am awed by the certificate of appreciation that was awarded to me by MODPO, a ten-week, beautifully curated course from the University of Pennsylvania that celebrated Modern American Poetry. Hence the abbreviation of MODPO.

I am very happy to earn this certificate owing to my sustained commitment through each week, in the discussion forums where each participant deduced, discussed and shared ideas about the poems, through peer reviews in appreciation of others’ output and in the form of detailed essays on the assigned poems. Each part gave me the thrill of nurturing my own craft and reading masterworks from established names in the canon, many of whom I had known before but experienced first-hand for the very first time.

Most importantly, this course helped me to live up to my credo of ‘being a student of life’ and I’m looking forward to rejoining the literary bandwagon from January, 2023 again, for an extension of this course.

Thank you MODPO for ensuring my mind was adequately occupied with all things poetic. I’m forever grateful to the whole team, especially Al Sir.