I was only eight, but I remember clearly
That first visit to my own village
The village was a house
and all its houses, its rooms
I was eight, wandering by
Some boys made bamboo bow-and-arrows,
I watched them try to string them and fail
Even if the stringing was successful,
the twig-arrow never went far
And I watched them try everyday for hours.
Its stone walls I remember
Scratchy cots, no ceiling fans
We fanned ourselves with our palm-leaf fans;
Until our wrist started to ache
When we shifted it to the other hand,
or handed it over to the one next to us
to carry out their turn.
It was earth unveiled everywhere
Bare to touch, unabashed
Hiding behind nothing for once.
I wandered around,
And I ran into grandfathers —
They bent down to marvel at how much I’d grown,
and did I remember them at all?
It was in one of their gardens where I plucked a rose
and found out for the first time,
I could make petal-nails
By peeling the sticky part out,
The sight of my new red nails is clear as day.
The clearest memories — the most vivid ones, are always unexpected
They’re not of any turning point in our lives
It could be a memory of us brushing our teeth one day
And it stands out clearer than our first day of school.
It’s beyond me to imagine what it was
that caused me to commit an unimportant conversation,
some common occurrence
So clearly, just the way it was.
Shrouded in woods
Flirtatious flicking firelight
A forest scene
A sudden trill
Silence in between.
Feet fall on forest floor
Fail at attempted noiselessness
Move closer to the thickset woods
Clamp down on fear –
Don’t stop, keep moving –
because there, there – do you see it?
There hides your escape route.
The ghost of inspiration touches briefly, slips away before daylight can bring it to fruition. Humdrum begins with the first thought the day brings, continuing on as people talk, listen, forget, repeat.
The clock suffers, laborious
It’s the same clock, seeing the same thing
behind every damned door,
in every damned life
Walking into the night with nothing new
Slipping into the a.m.,
Watching us fall
hitting a pillow
That ghost of inspiration
born out of languid, probing, Bukowski-echoing thoughts
doesn’t dare show face again,
until the time when the darkness behind our eyelids
resembles the one outside
When the words picked up here and there amidst the humdrum
finally unravel into sentences,
Emboldened by post-midnight’s utter silence
It sometimes strikes just before unconsciousness
Padding out silently afterward,
making no difference to an already silent world.
Passers-by glance at, then glance away. She notices out of the corner of her eyes, every stare seeping into her skin, her clothes. Her eyes look steadfastly ahead through it all — out of an impassive mask perfected over years of practice. When she raises her eyes to meet the strangers’ she either finds no one staring back, or the same probing, empty eyes looking back at her out of a common face. Moving among them, she feels their gazes as they pass, and unbidden, visualizes what they saw, what the judgement was, what she looked like to them. What they thought.
Back home, queen once again within her own walls, she steps into her own skin, begins the process of shedding those layers of judgement, remembers who she is again. And she recognizes herself, regains her footing, until the next hooded glance passing over her tears down the security that never existed.
He never learned her, quite. Year after year
That territory, without seasons, shifted
under his eye. An hour he could be lost
in the walled anger of her quarried hurt
on turning, see cool water laughing where
the day before there were stones in her voice.
He charted. She made wilderness again.
Roads disappeared. The map was never true.
Wind brought him rain sometimes, tasting of sea –
and suddenly she would change the shape of shores
faultlessly calm. All, all was each day new;
the shadows of her love shortened or grew
like trees seen from an unexpected hill,
new country at each jaunty helpless journey.
So he accepted that geography, constantly strange.
Wondered. Stayed home increasingly to find
his way among the landscapes of her mind.
The book that a person is never ends — every chapter deceives, changes its story midway, ends up half-complete, or looks like a story that should have no place in the book we thought we knew.