Grandmother’s Salt

Finger nails are the filthy urchins from the street
under her skin-
grow up without kindness
to squander with the tidy woman that she sees-
in the mirror, in calmness,
or in jolt.

While the potatoes are food,
lovely food-
being mashed in a saucepan on a cranky
tamarind wood table that’s got its temper
from my grandfather
whose fault

is nothing but getting married to my grandmother
who through the
measured veil of shyness has already measured
her man- but to stir him further, pouring
into the pan
a ladle more salt.

There is no mustard oil at home, no affection either.
But that does not stop her
from mixing his anger
with her petulant nails- mother promise-
she will scratch him dead, blind him or worse
until he halts.

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Fourteen Years

It took fourteen years for the great man
to understand he didn’t love her.
He didn’t love her. He didn’t want her.
He didn’t like her touch. Her pitiful
face aged early and made him cringe
when he was lonely with her: naked lonely.

Oh, she was lonely before- fourteen
years. In the woods of forsaken love,
in the hut of ascetic dreams, besieged by
an immortal king who’d shadowed her
door but withheld lust. She hadn’t known then
in her heart what else to do but wait.

The king was dead. Tonight’s light. Against
the pomp of the capital lamps the great man glowed-
her man- the heart of the heart- the winner king-
face clean, disappointed in what he had won.
This war, oh, this strangeness of life- struggle-
struggle. For this? Let’s be alone soon, Sita.


The Toilet Sweepers of Bangalore Malls

The toilet sweepers of the Bangalore malls are the cleaners of the mess that I am leaving behind. Wiping the arrogance of a man who carries a stack of cash and cards; so that the diligent SOBs can marry well; their sons may someday come to the malls in a car.

I will tell my sons not to trust them.

By then, my boys will grow up to be the savers of whales, the empathizers, the artists, the angels of the world. And the money will be mute.

The sweepers’ sons will get down to see the servant bots have come forward with marigold garlands to greet, and to clean after them. The glistening light reflecting against their translucent blue armors will blind the sons so bright that they will forget that the bots are wearing now their fathers’ all wither skin.


Late Calls

As men turn old:
they begin to call up late-
asking for whereabouts,
berating for replying in less.

In the ear of a stray dog-
How are you doing?, they say-
they say-
to a dog!
who sleeps like a snail-
a goddamn snail-

How are you doing?, they say-
to wake up the sleeping dog-
startled!
The damp smell of its fur
making the old men puke

the percept
of loss.

At dawn,
those men wake up and heave,
and hop,
throwing the arms in the air.
A strange goo of panacea
oiling their bones-

Whereas, the dog sleeps
on a hip of eye booger-
and gets up late-
to attend the phone.


The Shadow of the Arms of a Tree

The shadow of the arms of a tree,
laid soft on a cornish wall-
after the moon sunk into the river,
after the wind strangled the wick.

The coldness of a silent being,
the heaviness of being when no one’s there,
as the night tiptoed into a hedonist’s den-
as the bull-cock was riding a star.

It’s the presence of a ghost in me,
who fears and is made of dark-
it’s his restlessness I carry in my limbs,
it’s his weight that tore me apart.

Living, and living is such a burdensome thing-
Oh, star! Oh, shadow! Oh, unknown!
The terror of waking up in another morning
is in my bones slowly grown-

listening to the scream of the shadow of the arms of a tree
that leapt above far the wall of stones-
to splatter against the zany tiled side walk
for an obtuse thrill and moan.

In pain who thrives and sees,
who came out at night of the desolate den-
watched the blood of the shadow of the arms of the tree,
oozing, trickling, but, then, it called out again:

“The blue star, the dark star, hope
trembling, shuddering, free-
when the bull-cock is done with you,
climb down and stay with me.”


Alone

Two magnificent stairways have hurried down from above to surround an unlit fireplace from the left and from the right in an old manor house. A man and a woman in medieval attire and another man and another woman in modern attire move around the house without colliding with each other.

 

Medieval Woman: (Whispering) Are they here yet?

Medieval Man: Why do you whisper, Martha?

Martha: (Ignores the man) They are supposed to be here, Peppy. It’s time.

Peppy: Wouldn’t we hear them if they were here?

Martha: (Relieved) You are right Peppy. May be they have not reached yet.

Peppy: (About to speak but pauses)

Martha: May be they haven’t found the way. They are late, that’s all. But they will come. God knows we are hopeful, Peppy. Aren’t we?

(They start to fuss around the house.)

 

Modern Woman: (Tentative) Are they here?

Modern Man: Who?

Modern Woman: They are supposed to be here.

Modern Man: (Incredulous) How do you know?

Modern Woman: Don’t you know?

Modern Man: I don’t care, Judith.

Judith: You do, John. It’s that you are not sure.

John: (Annoyed) Not sure of what?

Judith: Of hope, John. You are not sure of hope. Can’t you imagine how new this is?

John: I know how new this is. I just don’t believe they are there, that’s all.

(They start to search around the house.)

 

Martha: How long should we wait, Peppy?

Peppy: (Coaxing) Don’t lose hope, Martha.

Martha: It’s not that we can’t live without them, Peppy. We did, didn’t we? God knows we did. But it would have been so nice. It would have been so nice, Peppy.

Peppy: Yes, Martha.

Martha: (Imagining) They will reach the front yard, and we will hear their footsteps. You will say, “Hello! There you are. What took you so long? We were worried.” They will say, “Don’t ask. Don’t even ask’, smiling all along, ‘We lost our way. We are sorry, we are late.” I will be tickled but be good to them and say, “It’s not a bother. Not at all. We are happy that you could come.” We will hold each other’s hands and fumble and laugh. We will look into each other’s eyes and be glad. And we will say, “Finally!”

Peppy: They may not like it, Martha.

Martha: Why not Peppy, why not? Are not they like us?

Peppy: They are like us.

Martha: Don’t they speak our language?

Peppy: I think they do.

Martha: Why will not they like us then?

Peppy: I don’t know Martha, may be they are changed.

Martha: (Unwittingly) They are changed?

Peppy: I am not sure, Martha.

Martha: Then why do you say it Peppy? To make me feel bad?

Peppy: I am sorry, Martha.

Martha: If you can’t help it, at least don’t hurt me Peppy.

(They stand in silence.)

 

John: How long are we going to wait, Judith?

Judith: We will wait, John.

John: That I can see. How long, though?

Judith: I don’t know.

John: This is not the way to go about it, Judith.

Judith: You have an idea?

John: I have a premise.

Judith: And what is that?

John: That they are not there. Just not there. They were never there in the first place. We hoped and hoped and hoped. We imagined our models to fit observations. We read signs that were just our instruments talking. We heard signals that were plain noise. It’s a dead end, Judith.

Judith: I don’t know, John. What took you so long to figure out?

John: You mocking me?

Judith: The arrogance of logic is the worst form of arrogance, John. It seems so secure.

(They stand in silence.)

 

Martha: May be they are already here.

Judith: May be they are already here.

Martha: May be they can hear us, Peppy.

Judith: May be they can hear us, John.

Martha: Only if you could shout, Peppy.

Judith: Only if we could shout, John.

Martha: Oh, God’s sake, Peppy!

Judith: For my sake, please, please, John!

(They pause. Peppy and John look at their women with affection and dejection, respectively.)

 

Peppy: (Shouting) Are you there?

John: (Shouting) Are you there?

Peppy: (Shouting) We can’t hear you.

John: (Shouting) We can’t hear you.

Peppy: (Shouting) We were ready and we really wanted to meet you.

John: (Shouting) We could read the signs and we believed in you and we really wanted to meet you.

(They stop and try to hear the answer. No sound comes from anywhere.)

 

Martha & Peppy: (Shouting) We are right here!

Judith & John: (Shouting) We are waiting for you, right here!

Martha & Peppy: (Dejected) Come back!

Judith & John: (Dejected) We will come back!

(Head down, without hope, they disperse.)


Anxiety

One thing at a time.
Like love has its omen-
Kindness, its faux pas-
Patience, its sweat-
But one thing at a time.

Like anxiety and a man
Are talking.
Hope is figural.
Their limbs huddle and tremble-
One tryst at a time.

To live is to be woeful.
I am living-
Woefully- with a feral cat.
Conjuring and vanishing the beast-
One plot at a time.