Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Flexing Poetic Muscle

I arrive like an army with a sudden objective.
Like an army with an occupationally
An occupationally indifferent lust
for creative spoil.

And I'm sort of
running on a track
around imagined kill.

Except that the kill's in the centre,
And I'm on the encircling track.
Encircling, concentric,
With the kill just farther than a couple of inches.

So I think
maybe I ought to give up on the
idea of predator and prey
And simply gaze,
with no objective to grab or to tame
Or to make it keel over and respond to names
I call it.
* * *

Not to give things a name
is what a poem is
or along the way...
No killing,
just the imagining one might say.
The futility and staying power
of doing the concentric.
* * *

The first poem is the muck I wrote for a Creative Writing exercise.
The second is my teacher's response to the poem I wrote. I like the last two lines of hers.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Yesterday's Sins

So accustomed was she to stories with twists in the end, that when she put down The Buccaneer’s Arm, she could scarcely believe it had no twist. Therefore, she picked it up again, revised the 547th and 548th pages and looked for a twist.

She yearned for this twist, this recapitulation, this surrendering of her imagination to the vital, bruising command of another’s.

All in all, she confirmed, it wasn’t a good story. Sure, the language was fine, and some of the images had her reeling, but what was the plot? What was it about? She couldn’t say.

Miriam Miss had told her in her Creative Writing lesson that a good story was one that left you with a message you could learn from. A moral. Maybe even a theme, children, that arches above you like the sky and sings to you like the birds in it.

This story had no message, and if it was singing, it certainly wasn’t singing to her. It had given her the unexpected, but in a quiet, deflating sort of way. No Thrill, no Gasp.

Leaning back against the chair in her slowly darkening room, she decided that the air was stale. She needed out. This was a decision taken with the finality of one who has been coached in the culture of fullstop-making, in the culture of ineluctable truths, blue skies, white doves, bright classrooms.

There was a mild sting in the air outside that is sometimes the result of soft rains and moist deciduous leaves. It was raining a little, and she felt joy, thinking of the similarity of her condition to the poets of far-away; Shelley and Wordsworth and Coleridge had indeed taken long mournful walks in the rain.

She walked and she walked and she walked. And her mind filled with the words of some illustrious poem, words that she remembered perfectly. She even recalled the placement of the words, with their divides and semi-colons. Then she looked up, seeing the pigeons all aligned and drowsy in the trees, dropping their nuggets of shit.

She sighed, and the wriggling uneasiness of that book was set aside in some biding, quiet corner.

Presently, a light fog descended, obscuring the pavement lights. She didn’t mind very much. It was that time of day and year when people are indoors, watching the news, sipping coffee, rubbing their necks, cutting their toenails, talking. And she felt pleasantly, intelligently, alone.

Five minutes later, she came across a blur of black against the shifting light in front of her. It was curious, this black awkward form, so alone in that wilderness of light. So Endearing. She quickened her pace, wanting secretly to catch up with this person and see him as she saw herself, lonely and intelligent.

She did catch up with him, for she was a girl of steel will.

Then there was that moment of blunder, of trepidation. She was suddenly afraid. What if he were nasty? What if he misinterpreted her move?

But she was a girl of steel will. As her strides began to match his, and her short quick breaths aligned themselves complementarily with his stretched long ones, she was suddenly confident. And fairly soon, they were walking side by side. She felt that joy again; the joy that comes from knowing that one is doing something of promise.

“Hello,” she said, “are you from the University?”
He looked up and to the right, at her. He smiled and said in failing English, “No Madam, I am working in Sri Krishna Sweets. My parents is here.”

She, more on edge now but still cheerful, said, “Oh that’s nice. I like Sri Krishna Sweets. It must be quite a walk for you, though, everyday, mustn’t it?”
But she suddenly realized that her pitch was wrong and her words were wrong and she couldn’t see the logic of what she was doing.

There was silence and they both walked in companionable fashion, and some of the earlier comfort was restored. Then he asked, “Why you are walking alone, Madam? It is raining and you are not having jerkin.”
She, not fully comprehending, said, "Oh I like walking. It’s a pretty walk. I like to hear the birds in the sky sing.” She had adjusted the length of her sentences to this odd little situation.
But he, despairing now, his words erupting in clutches, said, “But you -- are not having jerkin. You are white.”
She frowned, grappling unsteadily with this new agitation. What was a jerkin? Why was she white? “Oh!” she said,
“Oh oh. No. I don’t have a jacket. And this isn’t really white, what I’m wearing.” She was smiling again.

But he was still in the throes of something stupefying. He stopped, jabbing his arms in the air, and removed his black windcheater. He said, “Take” in a tone of finality. She understood finality. But she didn’t want the jacket.

She said, “No no! I’m wet already. What difference will it make to me? Please. Keep it.” And as they stood there, two abject, flailing creatures, the air was reconciled, and that moist deciduous smell entered their simultaneous consciousness.

They walked on. In silence. And they looked at each other occasionally, never at the same time. At the circle, where their paths were to part, he asked for her number. She said, with no regrets, but with a smile, “No.” And they left each other.

She returned to her room in a state of inspiration. In a state of respiration. And perspiration. And she wanted to write this thing down and convert it into a lovely story that would floor Miriam Miss and punch her classmates flat in the face with its horrific brilliance. But as she sat, and pondered, there was
From this experience, she could extract no structure, no monolith. It only arranged itself to her in a series of vacant disparities that looked at each other occasionally, never at the same time.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Bus Journey

She had seventeen miles of bus journey unfinished.

Seventeen miles can be very long when you are travelling by bus through dark places and when the television in the bus is on mute.

She had a queer bored ache in her. There was little to do and no light to do it by. Bunching her body against the window, she pressed her mouth to the glass watching it blush with steam. Then she extended her tongue, tracing wetness.

Her cousin would speak of the eggs that were planted on bus windows by flies, about how they hatched in the comfort of saliva and how we should never ever ever lick the windowpanes, no matter how cold or dark the bus was. Sometimes the cousin would twist her ear while she grimaced in pain, and say ‘This is how the flies in your stomach know they are not wanted.’

The route to the University was long, scarred by the myriad interruptions of lone telegraph poles, highway villages and water pumps with gatherings of bony women. She usually liked the route; she liked looking out of the window as faces and scenes lopped off into epic and meaningless movie reels.

But that night, it was black. Brassiere black. Black, mind you, and not pink or grey or brown as dusty village evenings sometimes are. And there was nothing to do.

And suddenly, as if sponsored by her stretch of want, there was light just beyond, across the street. It was a marriage function, and an elaborate procession had stalled outside an arbitrarily gaudy hall. She saw cymbals, electric lights, drums, men in white and green, women in every colour, angry wailing children and old old people with dry eyes, wet mouths.

But as the bus passed this, as it passed this brazen piss of light, her eyes changed focus in the way that eyes do when they sense that something around them has altered. Her sight turned instead to the reflection on the pane of her window. And she saw that the man on the seat across the aisle was staring. She had not looked at him before this, as she was in the habit of not looking at men she didn’t know. But she had heard his shrill peacock voice as he asked the bus fare. It had changed the air somehow, that voice. And after, he had sung a familiar Urdu song, one that they would sing at morning assemblies in school.

And the staring transported her back to the time in boarding school when she was brushing her hair in the room, standing across from the mirror, watching appalled as ratty brown strands snapped and fell to the ground. That time when the boy had entered from behind, the little boy who walked up to the mirror, licked at her image, licked the neck and the face and kissed the hair. She, looking up, had only noticed the saliva, thinking of the fly eggs that must have penetrated his blood and hatched in his stomach.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


and somewhere, lines were drawn.
and gosh, all these litanies, these songs.

these lines, poor things
with no one to quiet their misgivings
their parallelisms.

with no one to teach them the poky ways of bending some.
no one to say in verse of gauged symmetry
that horizons aren't lines
and that as they lie, sponge-like, they sublime
so there's no each or other.

and after all
there's no need to be so straight about things.