There was no country home enough to collect every
childhood I had to strip off. Just the chatter of breeze
puzzling the quiet rajnigandha. An early knowledge
of snakes that slept at the feet of honeyed blooms.
Some days, a body grows like a cornflower in wheat
fields where crows bend into melted knife-handles.
We pass a way and the distance broadcasts its
snowy whims in the shape of a tousled bedsheet.
विरह (noun, hindi): the realization of love through
separation. Perhaps, milkless tea in a cold basement,
a round of Undertale, pad thai & a map of California.
Here, the bottled vertigo. Here, the fleeting sea-lions.
Here, pins stranded inside arbitrary intervals. A place
without meaning, a road forked by its own cognitive
dissonance. Perhaps, lasciare suonare. To let sound
endure, teetering faint across a mind’s waiting harp.
A song strings moods. A song is the first stitch after
the forehead was introduced to the floorboard.
In a mirror, my breath meets his face and leaves
just a whisper of a fog; this subtraction of inhales
where a threat sits cold in its unchallenged reason. Still
nothing can afford him my surrender. Not even this lack
of a known sweetness arresting the immediate air.
Notes from a Fibromyalgia relapse
Afterwards, I map the bloodwork—
unnaabi’ (انابک) —the reddish
-brown of mashed grapes. cinnabar
in the tinge of a name. incarnadine,
where the ropes are mellow
& nothing can substantiate
the ache with its analysis
in therapy, we laugh and admit
that each of us is a failing Buddhist
our dreams are venal with ardor
each eye is a sieve, a dreamcatcher
raveled in its own blurring prayers
in the lotus position, the frog-heart
scrambles to find a frond for a nap
to be here among the field chamomiles
& lemon balms, sunlight welling up
in the hollows of a cherrybark oak
to know that somewhere a man plays
Chopin for a blind elephant named Lam
Duan: a tree with yellow flowers. to hear
in the green denouement—a forget-me
-not fioritura. to know that I too can grasp
something beyond the signaled clock
-work, beyond time’s measured amnesia
Terminal lucidity: “An unexpected return of mental clarity and memory that occurs in the time shortly before death in patients suffering from severe psychiatric or neurological disorders.”
Dunya: the material world. A steel bedpan. A beaten mattress. A habit of eyes. An absence of touch. Any body’s makeshift paraphernalia.
Of his last what remains is this—mothballs fading into patterns of bhagalpuri silk, a biscuit tin treasuring an old shaving kit, Bata’s rubber slippers frayed at the heel, a bottle of Bell’s whisky, an inconclusive diagnosis.
An anecdote about the time he spent in London in his 20s. “No one rented homes to Indians back then”.
The doctor slept in the back of an abattoir.
A slur yelled out in a bus.
A refusal to be seated in a restaurant.
A comment about the relationship between curries and body odour.
His shoulder dropping its strength like an axed branch.
Survival is planted in forgetting.
Once you reach terminal velocity, it becomes questionable whether it still counts as falling.
Still, blood is no more than journey.
Outside, bedsheets left to sun on the clothesline. A history of unclaimed ghosts.
Time is transparent in this waiting.
Some things retire to their feeble shores— a son in Ohio, a woman in Agra, a second language abandoned to its linearity.
Hum: to sing softly. Another meaning—us.
A soft request to sneak in Mohammed Rafi’s romantic solos.
A desire for music to interrupt the antiseptic whiteness.
A few errorless notes from “Pukarta Chala Hoon Main” measuring the ward’s anatomy.
A reminder that in Urdu, a single word (zaar) can mean both lament as well as fertile ground.