Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Poet

for Vebhuti Duggal

It was when she had lost
the power to sustain intensity;
the time she started writing poetry.
Now it came only in pithy lines
what had earlier extended itself
into paragraphs of the most heartfelt sort.
It had not surprised her,

this inability to write at stretch.
This inability to be able to sustain
the fervor to the end of the page.
She began to shorten the lines
and make uneven the mood.
She began to rest on words
where she earlier rested on sentences.
Where she earlier only paraphrased,
now she delivered. It was not
the sense anymore, it was the thing.
She knew she was becoming a poet
when she had begun to stare at single lines.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Object of Your Affection

Light travels to the eye.
If you stand in darkness
and look outside at him, in light,
for an instance you would
think he was looking at you
and you would let him do;
for that instance you would,
unbeknownst to him, share a glance.
For what do you do when
the object of your affection
likes you less than you do;
for what do you do when he
looks at you and does not.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

चाँद भी आख़िर कोई नाम हुआ

'चाँद' भी आख़िर कोई नाम हुआ।

इंसान हो, कोई आसमान से थोड़ी

ही लटके हुए हो कि नाम हो 'चाँद'

दिन में चलते दिखते हो और रातों

में तो ज्यादातर सोते ही होगे।

फिर तो सिर्फ़ नाम के ही चाँद हो,

काम के नहीं; पर मैं क्या जानूं,

क्या पता ना सोते होगे रातों में।

नींद, ना जाने, तुम्हारे लिए भी,

बस एक ख़्वाब हो। आखों के

धब्बे जो पड़ गयें हैं, जैसे चाँद के हों।

और वो कह तो रहे थे बार बार

नाम इंसान के पीछे पड़ जाता है

जब तक वो, मानो, ढल जाए

और अपने ही नाम में गल जाए।

Sunday, December 21, 2008

कि वो मेरे पास है

वो मेरे पास
है, मेरे साथ है,

कभी नहीं मान पातें हैं;

भी हम दोनों को सामने पातें हैं

कमलककड़ी की कहानी सुनातें हैं।

Monday, December 8, 2008

oh good it's fuckin' dark, now enter

it said: ‘queer London is a city gone wrong
city doing it the wrong way; up the bum, they say’
no one’s in heat near LSE, no fun, ties are done, of the past
(suits are attractions for near dead Augustans)
you smell real rut if you walk near SOAS, it keeps you
hanging in that tightness before the orgasm
and you enter the hall with the motto:
‘Only the prude will be scandalized in Soho.’
put ninety nine advertisements, few hundreds clones
of each other, and rainbows not torn at the edges
& you have the annual pride; wrong from the start;
the Sodomite hangs his head in shame; this is the age of the name
the Sapphic tries to ignore the name they give her now; it’s lawful shite
but fun in the bun, Russell Square is burning, burning
Clarissa D forgets her way this time; wrongs the eponymous tour
(they are just taking you round and round, you know,
the one’s that promise to show queer London and take you to Soho
have a coffee or two; or perhaps a dildo or a book on our history;
that’s the scene, if nothing else, if you please)
there’s one on Marchmont Street: the myth of the gay word.
but come there’s a party; no met pol in mufti there but
the mayor; I’m aching to meet him, he’s such a cocktease.
let us go in and ignore the sign she’s holdin, bloody homophobe,
but what did it say, what did it say, oh blimey I didn’t see;
something very cruel about us; such an antique, forget her please,
probably an immigrant; did you get the members card, it’s the red one,
don’t look at her, just enter, oh good it’s fuckin’ dark, now enter.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

चाँद दिन में चार बार खिलता है

चाँद दिन में चार बार खिलता है।

इक, जब किताब का पन्ना पलटते हुए

वो शब्द नज़र आ जाए जो किसी का नाम भी है।

दो, जब आलस से पड़ जाता हूँ बिस्तर में

यों कहते हुए - अब छोड़ो थोड़ी देर के लिए ये किताबें

और सोचो, बस सोचो उसके बारे में

कि आलस का ये मौका भी काम जाए।

तीन, जब आकाश में सूरज ना हो, बस बादल हों,

तो इंतज़ार तो इक चीज़ का ही होता है, उसके नज़र आने का;

चाँद का इंतज़ार भी इक तरह का चाँद है।

चार, दिन जब रात में ढलता है, तो भला और कौन

मुहँ फुलाए, कहने को यों की क्यों तुम देर से आए,

तुम्हारा इंतज़ार करता है

Saturday, November 29, 2008

To make modern day portraits

To make modern day portraits
they put us in the midst of cities
full with traffic, concrete, crowds;
us, separated from each other,
and shifted from where we live out;
halted outside the corners of our days,
moved away from our daily habits,
moved into the streets and then asked
to look into the lens of the camera,
as if when we walk daily on these streets,
we look for cameras or into them.
The closed circuit t.v. has none we can
see standing immediately behind.
Here, brought amidst the streets,
for our urban habitats had to be shown;
streets are cities par excellence
and asked for a stationary pose,
as if walking some day we suddenly go
and sit on a half-built wall or sashay
with a rose from the road-side bush
wishing there was someone to make
an image of this,
we become still
before the photograph
makes us so;
it does not capture now
but only
vaguely, we think, confesses
wish to be clicked posturing.

This, then, is to know our presence,
and to show it,
for this we stand, for this
photography repeatedly talks of souls.

Monday, November 24, 2008

For of course the painter was the poet

For of course the painter was the poet.
She who would pore over an unmade picture
and spend hours turning the colours
from one to another so that when he,
the one in her picture, sits down (his hands
forgetting that they were lax a moment ago),
his back stiffens for he has seen him
entering through the door invisible to us;
his eyes have turned darker by a millionth.
She who knew him in this instance was a poet.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

And they left no emotion but jealousy

And they left no emotion but jealousy

to come and froth around me when my lover fucks others,

when the fucker loves others than me;

left no one colour to be seen except green

mimicking the eyes of a lesser devil, trying the part

of the one, in a rehearsal always, already done.

It hides the zealous inside it, the jealous.

Would I be compensating if I sit opposite you today

Would I be compensating if I sit opposite you today,
for the last time we met, I had stolen your thought
and added to it more, more than all you could think,
and left you in that awful state
when someone says the thing you always had in mind
and that someone says it so beautifully, he makes it his;
now all you say sounds vicarious,
now all you do only pushes you closer to a surrender?
Or would I be inviting you to another round,
sitting opposite you this time, not to win or lose;
to call truce, for surely there was something left
from the last time that has passed over to today?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The hard crusts of fruits will split, my love

The hard crusts of fruits will split, my love,

if you wait for the season. The paint will

become paper, my love, and come apart,

if you wait for the heat of the day.

The word will be moved under 'archaic,'

my love, if you wait for two centuries.

I know, there is a headiness when they talk,

and a rush from the heart, but do not start;

it would be an interruption if you speak too soon.

When every moment seems late, you have to wait,

wait, my love, and then speak for all the years.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Conversations II

Yes, the bathroom's bigger than the last one.
That aunt who talked of Beethoven, she's....
No, of course, the Bangladeshi dal is thicker!
Which is why I want to write the essay: 'The End of Queer'.
There are lesser chances of getting mugged if you're cycling here.
You did not get Spivak twice in a row.
It's better for your boyfriend to know your girlfriends.
No, not only about J.N.U, no!
But you've not seen the summers yet.
I want to write the essay: 'The End of Bourgeois'.
In the room the people come and go
Talking of Ashley Tellis.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

'Do not feed the pigeons'

‘Do not feed the pigeons’, it said, in six different languages,
‘They cause nuisance and damage to the square.’
Of course they forgot to write it in the language of the pigeons
because they were too scared and wanted their guile to go unnoticed.
It was all like a bad Cold War film.
The caretakers of Trafalgar (having long forgotten
their friendship with the winged) knew that
those who do not fly speak in six given tongues
and will promptly learn a seventh to read more signs.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

It was that weather when the skies fall down on you

It was that weather when the skies fall down on you.
When the clouds seem to pull towards you; they come
not with the promise of something good, not with the
promise of rain, but as if they want to come close, and
as if they wish to share a secret, without an intention
to make you sad but they also know that you will be saddened,
inevitably. Their colour is not black, as if before a storm,
not red, as if before sunset.
They do not ask you for awe
or friendliness but for surrender. They are the clouds
that will tell you that this is the moment to know, saddened
though you might be, this is the moment to know that steps
taken forward are not always better than steps which retreat.
That move as you might, no one direction will ever win over
the other. That if you wish to know, do not ask us, for we
are only clouds and we can only come laden with drama
and let you know nothing really by telling you that something
is at hand. What that might be is known by you alone and
that is why you called us here, today, near you. We were
floating in the skies and were trying to get heavier with
each drop forming; we were aiming to bring that which
makes people happy, we were aiming to continue
on our usual job as the providers of rain, we wanted
to give such moments to lovers, but you pulled us
near yourself today because you felt heavy and
we could not deny your force. We will look into
the matter of rain later. We have not come to tell really,
we have come to ask, not with promise, really,
but with curiosity. What is it today that makes you
the epicenter of all the clouds in the skies?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

To jump over! - From Geetanjali Shree's 'Tirohit'

To jump over!
An act in which happiness just brims over.
If you jump, the body trembles here, the heart there.
You jump over the wall, the bush, the roof, threshold, boundary, moon….
And as you jump, a rising smile,
untamed for all you hold back, afraid but ruffling out,
gushes from under the veil.

tr. from from Geetanjali Shree Hindi novel Tirohit (2001, Dilli: Rajkamal Prakashan, pg. 90-91)

Friday, October 10, 2008

If you stand on a balcony

If you stand on a balcony
and raise your hand towards the sky,
you will end up mimicking
Michelangelo’s Adam,
and there will only be an old God
giving his hand in your hand
expecting, in return, a faith that Adam-like,
falters once but never again;
sheepishly buying you into a camaraderie.

Or if you lower your hand
and point it downwards,
you will only see a desperate Romeo
now looking unabashed
and ready to ascend, expecting
at the top of his climb, some poetry
a waiting Juliet and wine.
You would have to pretend
that your wait is over.

The hand is not meant
to access the divine
or to endlessly replay one romance;
not to go up or down at all.
You could offer it,
not with devotion
as if to the elevated, or with pity
as if to the downtrodden, to the one
standing face to face on another balcony,
lest he be searching for the sun.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Just when you think

Just when you think
that all is quite done
and ready yourself
for what might be
perhaps only repetitions
of all that has gone before,
you would cross a street
(not with the patent hope
of discovering the timbre of life)
and for the first time,
at the age of twenty-three,
see an apple tree.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I see this one boy

I see this one boy

repeated on the streets of London.

He is everywhere; he carries a bag

slung across his shoulders, walks straight

and his eyes hold back almost everything.

He never wastes glances

and chooses the shortest route.

His trousers cling to his legs;

each leg a vertically drawn out ‘V’.

He pretends to wait patiently

in the queue; he always reads bestsellers.

I take a turn and he is there.

He is the god of the streets

because he seems to share

in the omnipresence of the divine.

Is there an abnormal rise

in the numbers of this boy here,

or is it something in my eyes?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Heartfelt Breakup Song

Go die Mr. Prime Minister
Go die, go die
You flashed your cheeky smile, Mr.
While you made me cry
Go die Mr. Prime Minister
Go die, go die

When you let your words rest, Mr.
You killed me with your eye
Go die Mr. Prime Minister
Go die, go die

It was the perfume of another boy, Mr.
That you smelled on my tie
Yet you could have stuck around Mr.
You could have given this a try
Before you turned your back, Mr.
Using faith as alibi
Go die Mr. Prime Minister
Go die, go die

If summer's past and winter's come
Then my spring is sitting nigh
Go die Mr. Prime Minister
Go die, go die

What were those car rides, Mr.
In the middle of the night
What were those escapades, Mr.
To run out of this city's sight
What was that dark love, Mr.
Amidst all this glaring light
Go die Mr. Prime Minister
Go die, go die

You gave me the bitter truth, Mr.
When I'd asked for a sweet lie
Go die Mr. Prime Minister
Go die, go die

Thursday, August 21, 2008

When you say "I'll call you"

When you say “I’ll call you”
every time we part,
do you expect me to wait
for you to ring,
(do you think I would not
blink in the mean while)
or do you mean it as a thing
somewhat stupid and tactless
like “I’ll take care of you”?
Am I to close my eyes,
expectantly, feigning patience,
or make claims of inevitability
like when winter waits for spring
(love begins then, they say, when
birds have no choice but to sing)?

The Song of Shug Avery

I could take crowds of people with me
and strike the loudest knock on the door
of his church. I could face my father now
and sing the song he thought was his alone;
sing it louder and with a passion he had never
felt or seen. I could straighten my back, not
like a wall that gives and receives nothing,
but instead, like a tree that has roots to take
the water, leaves to give out the air we breathe
(like someone proud who knows her worth).
I could take the song and pin it in his ears,
so that, at last, he listens to his God, to figure out
if He is trying to tell him something, right now.
I could, finally, in the middle of my song,
fall silent; let someone else sing the chorus,
as I step ahead and hold my father in my arms,
close enough for him to hear, when I say,
'See daddy, sinners have song too.'

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Touch 'Chuo' - Mangalesh Dabral

Touch the things kept on the table in front of you.
A watch, a pen-case, an old letter,
a statuette of Buddha and pictures of Bertolt Brecht and Che Guevara.
Open the drawer and touch its old sadness.
Touch a blank paper with fingers of your words.
Touch the still water of Van Gogh’s painting like a little pebble
that starts the flurry of life in it.
Touch your forehead and do not feel the shame for holding it for long.
It is not necessary that someone sits right next to you for you to touch;
it is possible to touch from afar
like that bird which cares for her eggs from afar.

Do not believe in statements like ‘Please do not touch’ or ‘Touching is prohibited’.
This is a long-running conspiracy.
Various high-priests, flag-bearing-crowned-executives
bomb-carriers, warlords are of the opinion to keep everyone away from everyone.
Whatever filth, whatever muck they vomit
can only be cleaned by touching.
For this, touch, even if you upset the order of things.
Do not touch like the Gods, head-monks, clerics, devotees and disciples
touch each others' heads and feet.
Instead, touch like the long grass almost strokes the moon and the stars.
Go inside yourself and touch a softness.
See if any of it is left in this adamant world.

tr. from Hindi by Akhil Katyal
29th July, 2008

Friday, July 25, 2008

In such forms of sickness

In such forms of sickness
and half resigned to bed,
if I return to Narcissus
what would he tell me?
Would he throw back
the same sunken eyes like mine,
or would he ask me
to be content with
a memory of my health?
Would he be angry when
I threaten to leave him and tell him:
'Only the beautiful like you
would dare to stare interminably
into faces their own. What do you
know of eyes-lids which do not open,
of a throat which tears and
legs that refuse to walk.
What would you say
to fingers that shudder now
to twine with each other?'
At this, he would look
compassionately at me
and say in a whisper,
'You do not know.
I have been feverish since
before this world was born.
It is the heat of my fever
that melted my ugliness away
and left me an angel to behold.
You tell me of fingers that refuse
to twine among themselves.
I have known my shoulders
giving way under the weight
of my head, a neck that
always refused to sit straight and
wrists which turned more than usual.
I am now the most beautiful
but I have been in a furnace for this.'
Here, the butterfly tells me
of cocoons and caterpillars.
I burn away, and my Narcissus
tells me of his little singes.
I learn from him to look at myself.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

What is this thing, Teja, teaching?

What is this thing, Teja, teaching?
You stand in front of thirty or forty of them;
students (like we were, like we are) who
judge with a kindness that is always
alotted to one who speaks in public.
What happens to this classroom
when you leave it? Does it become
like any other space or do you leave
some traces behind; crumbs of words
for finding one's way again, strands of lectures
to be picked up, registers to be lined?
Do those students, Teja, do they respond
with the mingled curiosity like we did
or do their words turn differently than ours?
Do they flirt with you; when you pause
for a breath, where do they look?
When you step out, are their whispers
neat enough for you to catch a word or two
spoken, as they leave, about you?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Of course I do not respect the game

Of course I do not respect the game;
I think of poems at break points
or just when the championship's
about to be thrown away by a serve,
I set out to make ginger omelettes.
If I would stay, I would only for the frown
on his face, for the pitiful hurry
in which his body runs from one end
to another of the court at Wimbledon;
the white lines on grass become for him
seams of the world. Nadal beats Federer;
If I would stay, I would only for an undeclared revenge
on the other boys in the common room.

Monday, June 23, 2008

No, those boys in the common room are not dumb

No, those boys in the common room
are not dumb; they are football fans.
Not that I do not understand why they
jump and clap madly at a good pass
or reach immortality at a goal;
only, I would rather give the game
to the team more beautiful, or to those
who forget sometimes, just as they veer
the ball, what it’s all about, these lights,
these crowds, the men they fight; to those
who sweat and look for rain, to those who
win or lose, knowing they win or lose in vain.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Do you know the meaning of tinsel, K?

Do you know the meaning of tinsel, K?

Tinsel; the sound of it like a little bell

and that which weighs nothing.

You can sometimes see through it and

discover the half image of what's behind;

only now it looks as if it's shaped anew

to meet your eye. Tinsel's like chinks of light;

like cracks letting the sun slip through.

K, do you think like this of what we do?

Whenever you tell me things, I turn them,

I shine them till they reflect you like that. Till

they become the very charge that made you say

things you told me in the dead of the night;

over birds' phone-calls and playwrights' chats.

I found out that only you could say them when

I took your words and loved them till dawn;

my tinsel waylays them but fails to amaze them.

Your words, say them again, K, again, again say

till I fall hush and interrupt you only when I may.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

To you, mother

I am not to mention the bad words
anymore because you’ve forbidden me.
You say it makes for some
very embarrassing reading
for you and for my uncles and
possibly for some cousins of mine.

So I have devised a plan. To say ‘duck’
in the place of the thing that’s done;
‘pretty’ in the place of the thing that does
and ‘pompom’ for everything else.

I want to duck duck duck

the pompom with pretty
while duck gets ducked.
O duck, but pompom got
stuck; pompomed while
pretty was being pretty.

(You should not fear for me,

mother. I will always yoke
what can be said
with what cannot be,
the worst with the best;
but you must not worry
‘coz it’s all in earnest
yet it’s all a joke.)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

'Do not caress me,' he said

‘Do not caress me,’ he said,
‘I get turned on.’
‘Do not hold my hand,’ he said,
‘for the same reason.’
‘You can kiss me on the cheek,’ he said,
‘the cheek is but friendly.’

Should I wonder
what is meant
by all that he says,
or should I
show him
behind the maze
of his words
his own intent
(which he knows

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Last Night (II)

Last night
on the phone,
(what was
wrong with you?)
you told me
'Additions and
are always true.'
I am not one
among the fools.
I tried your rules.
I found out
that you and I
always add up
to more than
both of us put
separately together,
and if we try
to subtract one
from another,
the digits
stutter; numbers
do not why
they have
turned into a lie.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

He asks with that nervousness

He asks with that nervousnes
that comes with the knowledge
of the answer: Did you always know?
Or when did you know that I was?
Did it take you long? Or was it
a matter of minutes? When did you
see in the hundreds of things that I
did, the ones I should not have done
(Not at any rate in cafes and classrooms.)?

Now listen: They do not know anything;
those who say 'There is no smoke without
fire', who are comforted in the thought
that the wind always must blow from
somewhere (It has not just arisen from
the under). They always want to get
to where the wind had started. I did
not know, ever. There is no one way
to know: the point at which the fire
began or where the air got to flow.

You say: But there is the heat of
flame; something near ought to be
inflamed. I reply: Don't you know
that there always are paper-scraps
that burn without ashes. Shirts
that singe without smoke. Yet you
look for the one who stokes the fire;
when you sense something burning
you look for the button to press, with
a yearning to extinguish. Sit now; every
thing is lined with snow; it resists flame,
and if you still bother to know: No,
I never knew. I never gave you a name.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


The sun remains of just that shade we always
talk about, till you come to the window and see.

The joke just misses the mark the second time.

My photocopied Eliot is a palimpsest. I know just this much
of another reader: she also underlined 'man with wrinkled dugs'.

'that guy in the physics dept.' smiles differently this
time; I smile with just the usual bit of unfamiliarity.

'Just a little ice please!' he says, pointing to his vodka,
without looking up at me. 'Just ice?', I say, 'there is none!'

Friday, March 21, 2008

They said when you appear

They said when you appear,
the flowers quiver with grace.
Streams make twice the sound
of gurgling; wind triples its pace.
I had never met you. I sought to test;
invited you to my garden. You came.
I saw what they had said was true.
You came with the force of deja vu.
But no unrest among petals; water
gurgled just the same. Of the little
wind which blew, some remained.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

My friends and I look at him

My friends and I look at him.

They find him regular. Sitting
in the shade. Sipping tea
or coffee. Reading a book.

Does it elude their eyes that dancing
around the boy are a host of yellow butterflies?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

मैं दो कदम चला करीब जाने के लिए

मैं दो कदम चला करीब जाने के लिए।
उसने कहा दो कदम और मुझ तक आने के लिए।
मैं दो और चला; उसने फिर वही कहा।

I took two steps and nearer came.
He said take two more to reach me.
I took two more; he said the same.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

You alleged of your absence in my poetry

You alleged of your absence in my poetry.
Not a sentence, you said, for you. Not a word or two.

Did you not mark those turns
in my lines where the sense alters?
You were present where
one meaning falters into another.
Where a word spurns
another. You were in the pauses
where I halted for breath. Perched
at the edge of consternation.
Between unrelated things and phrases
you stood. You were punctuation.
The latter remembered the former
by you. The words were warmer
by you. Sometimes you were the comma.

Monday, February 25, 2008

I have left you behind

I have left you behind. I feel lonely.
What redeems it is the idea only.

(Thanks to Joseph Conrad)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Of my love, I tell him by

Of my love, I tell him by
inscribing it in words, but I
think he does not figure it.
He is strategically illiterate.

I continue to hammer
the point; I flirt rashly
with loud phrases; my sentences brashly
declare my love. He chooses to pick on grammar.

He seems not to know that love and language
go out of step; they dance curiously
with each other, then get tired and sit and think.
colourless green ideas sleep furiously.