Monday, October 29, 2012

I have crammed into the PCO booth

and closed the wooden flap behind me,
and now every number I dial is fear.
It is one of those old phones where
the numbers aren't buttons but
winding circles, so that every digit
is a roundabout way of reaching you.
I never noticed earlier but there are 
so many 8s in your number, only now,
moving these long arcs makes me
realize that you are even further away
than I last thought, that I am to earn
through these crescents my cheap
moment of saying – ‘hello,’ that is
what I will say, will it do, or after
all these years, will it sound astray?
Will ‘hi’ do? Or at last, as we wrap up,
as it has always done, will ‘bye’ do?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Wedding at St. James

The church is the grey of asphalt
And the sky is blue to the fault,
The bride and the groom walk past
At last! At last! At last!

We each hold the Order of Service
The rings, the hymns, the kiss,
We get through the blessing and song  –
get along get along get along

It is writ large on the dome
And we drive it forcefully home,
We say it, we never mind,
‘Love is kind’, ‘ kind’, ‘ kind’.

‘Love is patient’, Corinthians 13
We are mistaken, but more, we are keen,
‘Love is not envious, or boastful…or rude’
So why spoil the mood, the mood, the mood.

We stand, each one by our pews
We try not be mildly amused,
Lest our sense of irony offends, for
'Love never ends', '...never ends', '...never ends'.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

First Books

I sat my cousin down and 
vented my spleen, 'I am 27,
Neruda’s first book was at 19
and within a year, all Chilean air
was full of his love and despair
but when I look at my Delhi,
it seems to be doing just fine,
without the gift of my rhyme.’
My cousin said, ‘don’t start,
take heart in the fact that
there were great poets still
who published their first books
down the hill, Neruda’s an exception,
don’t you see, Philip Larkin published
when he was 23 and so did your
Shahid Ali, whose first book 
‘reached for the star,’ so
get this right, to be published,
age is no bar.’ ‘But,’ I said,
being surly, ‘compared to me,
that’s still 4 years early.’ 
My cousin, all patience,
did not frown, he sat me down
to give me hope, said 'wait, err,
there's she who came later,
Dorothy Parker's Enough Rope,
her first, was when she was 33,
so it is only likely, Akhil, that
greater work awaits you still,
and that some publisher, sometime
will not be ill-disposed to your stuff,
so no more ranting, that’s enough, 
there'll always be time to reach the sun,
when her first was out, Kyla Pasha was 31,
and then with excitement, he roared,
it was 34 for Audre Lorde, but when he saw
that I was down still, he did not say 'don't
be sore, Wallace Stevens was 44,' instead
my cousin dared an example out of cordiality,
he took to tempting an unpublished poet with
posthumous immortality, ‘Forget early books,'
he said, 'all does not go well in life, there was
that quiet one who poured out all her strife
into 1800 poems but cousin, look,
Emily Dickinson barely published a dozen
and never got around to a book.’

(thanks to Bhochka)