Monday, October 23, 2017

An Anatomy of a Star-crossed Lover's Heart

It lives. Observe,
the first faulty
                        scales of justice
                        rusting away
in cobwebbed corners
of knowledge made flesh. No ledgers
tally here: yearning
is always mired in red –

observe, now, the deep vivid warm red
in this antechamber
                       of churning dreams, flushed
                       with furious lust,
fire raging in its belly
as it scampers up the trunk
of the tree of life

seeking out
every last leaf, every farthest
branch, every lurking bract

mapped on this body
mapped on this fragile, fierce body

quivering with a hunger
willing to shatter
all known laws of the universe

merely to meet another deep vivid warm red
if only at the fingertips.

What the first faulty scales of justice
doesn’t know
is that even faulty scales tip over

and sometimes
a thirsting aching dreaming yearning

is a weight the universe cannot bear,
will not bear, for fear
of learning
its laws to be empty words.

The universe writes new laws then:
to dream is to love disaster, to yearn is
to court aching, to ache is to ache more.

Now see how your red falters. See how
it retreats from cheek and lips
and loins and breasts, see
its fire and joy and promise

veined with the blues
of a world
built on stardust and dream-ash
from charred bodies
of lovers
who dared defy stars and planets
and names
engraved upon once newly-clean

ready to bear out new destinies
treading the same old trajectories:

tell me, what’s
in a name but the entire universe
sitting in judgment

seeking a blood price
for scripture and stricture

And so life-blood pounds, lifeless, against
bloodless walls, seeking life –
from right atrium to ventricle to lungs
torn asunder in two

where blood meets breath meets hope

new futures pulsing and flaring
well-worn paths buried beneath scar
and skin

and it is written, and it is so:
lub dub lub dub lub dub
vivere, vivo, vivus

Tapping out, in non-code, against
remorseless rib cage
the song of bone and blood, muscle
and sinew:

I live. I live. I live.

Written for IIT Madras' inter-hostel creative writing (solo) contest, based on the prompt "It was like a vivisection."

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Family Portrait

Cream pooling
on her now-cold tea, mother
holds her ceramic tea mug


of the hairline fracture
along its handle, and

quite used to sister's sunsign
tattooed along its curve:

a rather fat fish, forever
orange, grinning
a slightly loopy grin

and forever apart from its twin

on my sister's mug. Pristine,
fractureless, fewer tea stains,


twenty eight years' worth
tea-drinking —

almost doppelgangers, just like
their owners.

Father drinks tea by the gallons,
and his tea-cup grips
could fill a dictionary I might write.


For now, there's a careful grasping
of steel rims
of steaming hot tumblers, thumb

                                        half a world apart

                          from his forefinger

there's a palm
folding into an umbrella
over railway station paper cups

there's four fingers curling around
a handle, thumb
sticking up sorely

there's also that casual
       of his tea – as varied
       as his mudra-like grips –
                   into the eager hug
                   of a neighbouring glass

the fall easing the fever.

I look at his hands

if he could ever have been
a dancer, this man who lumbers
along and mocks my gait
for being too much like a boy's, and
laughs at my love

or lack thereof

for tea. Former heretic
coffee-drinker, I have now


to the fold of people who swear
by tea for everything: hysterics

or hernia or even heartbreak. But

prodigal daughters, I think, don't
con themselves

into believing
things could be the same

as before: so here I am, odd
one out, black sheep,

drinking black tea

and dreaming of brewing that perfect
cup of lemon tea

and taking it
in a coffee cup.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017


And therefore
this poem attempts to
critically analyze the various
modalities of alienation -

Hold up.
Right there.

Have I told you how,
in my nightmares, words
swallow me up?

The ocean used to sing
in my veins once: now it scorches
the seams of my lungs, first
a slow
trickling in,
and then a flood —

I float and drown, drown
and float.

And as I always do,
I wash up ashore
on this strange land where
names become adjectives,
tales narratives,
and words clump on themselves to become
New Words
choking on their self-importance.

I wash up on the shore
of a strange land with New Words
and stranger rituals, in a land
of ivory towers
built on the decaying bones
of footsoldiers
who dreamt of a seat at the table
only to find
the table didn't want them.

It is a strange land, this,
with a strange alchemy that brews poison
from lifeblood.

Have I told you how, in my
I live a poisoned death, my lungs
bursting from the weight of words?

Are those my nightmares?
Are those yours?
I can't tell.

It is a strange land, and its alchemy
turns gold into lead. You, me -
it doesn't matter
much. We'll all be asked
for proof. For a source.

And when you're asked
for a source,

recall the razor-sharp
of all the words swallowed,
in your intestines, blunt now, reeking
of rage and regret,
and journal them in the annals
of your memory

enclose your whole (paltry) life in

later, enlist yourself in the
of fixed, frozen dreams
in the following fashion:

reduce your name - mangled
by time and strange tongues and familiar
faces alike - to a mere initial

remember this moment
right here
now - and put down the year

"Forget Me Not: A Witty, Even Flamboyant,
Makes You Look Cool(er)"

and as your hands begin to shake,
as even your storytelling
and spins and spins
into free fall
at the sheer artifice of it all


Your memory is not a  
Weekly Monthly Quarterly
built on loud noise
and louder silences

Your memory
is a cacophony of ancient voices
strung like beads on a great chain
of being
and becoming,
threaded into your skin and vein
and vocal cords

until you can't tell where
they end
and you begin.

And in that brittle
battle-hardened voice of your
mothers and grandmothers
and great-grandmothers, in that quiet
voice that quivers with a lineage
of mistakes and misdeeds
and howling misery

but also of laughter
and hope
and fire in our bellies, in that lonely
voice, my love, shout:
Cite me.