Two Poems Of Exile


first published in Cafe Dissensus Everyday 

 

 

1

years ago I bid adieu to my homeland
the colours of autumn that stained my heart
have long faded and the rivers that ran
deep in the lines of my hands have dried

the place of my birth is a forgotten fragrance
a half-remembered dream whose ending is lost
but sometimes my sleepless nights are sheened
by the light of the winter moon I watched

leaning from the window of the bus I took,
the cool air awakens distant memories
it takes me back to a village
nestled between the mountains and streams

I run shoeless across the fields of saffron
chasing an invisible kite. the fiery chinar
warms my chilled heart, the bare silhouettes
of walnut trees spread their arms in welcome

on the steps of home you await my return
but as I reach out to you, you fade away
like soft summer light when evening comes
it’s been years since I last saw your face

maybe someday when you see the moon
reflecting in the quiet waters of the lake
and hear a boatman’s song echo in the breeze
I will be home never to leave you again

2

the spice shop perfumes the morning
in the streets of the old-city bazaar
as people hurry to private errands
a bangle seller displays his wares
promising good fortune to those who buy
at the tea stalls, people share stories
over a cup of hot masala chai
barefoot children chase imaginary kites
oblivious to the bustling crowd
a cow sits contemplating life
beset by flies it blinks its soulful eyes
women bargain with the grocers
for rice and lentils to feed hungry mouths
amidst traffic chaos people jostle for space
the late afternoon sun drifts towards evening
strings of lights twinkle like fireflies
laughter and singing echo everywhere
flavours and aromas fill the night
and the city – like a new bride
sashays dreamlike until the sun rises again.

New Poem


This poem was first published in Peacock Journal, an excellent journal edited by W.F.Lantry (award winning poet and writer) and his team.

Illusions

I read, I read and I read
until there is nothing more to read
except the newspapers
then I take to the windows
begin to fill my empty hours
gazing into time
that seldom seems to move
on either side of the frame
on the wall my calendar changes
seasons change… people change
but the stillness remains
the silence within me remains
untouched… unchanging

at night the walls become a
presence
and then become walls again
as they merge into each other
to leave only an expanse of black
and then the light
that always hides at the edges
rises swiftly and crumbles my illusion

New Poem – Home


This poem was first published in Peacock Journal   edited by W.F. Lantry and his team. Do browse the journal for some excellent work.

Home

the shadow of the Oak trees
lies heavy on the grass below
no life stirs in the green expanse
that stretches until it meets the sky
with its cargo of clouds

along the distant ridge of hills
dust rises from a winding road
that looks lazily down upon
the slowly moving river
that crosses the land

along that road is our house
the house we loved and shared
until the day we drifted apart
now that lonely house waits
hoping again to become a home

Travel Poem – Memory 2


This poem was first published in Cafe Dissensus blog as part of two travel memories.

 

the stone steps lead to a clearing

on the slope of the mountain
but today I’m taking a trail into the unknown,
I listen to the shifting silences of the trees,
the leaves spiral down and dance
to an imaginary music along the pathway,
they cling to my worn sneakers,
my gaze follows two pairs of wings
chasing each other in the clear blue sky
as I shift the weight of the backpack
onto the other shoulder, I pause
between Cedars and Oaks
taking in the shifting rhythms of the landscape,
the path gently passes through the forest, then dips,
the sound of falling water only makes the silence apparent,
here,  there is no such thing as time,
I inhale the hot fragrance of the day
and share my breath with you,
in your mind I may be only a memory,
in my mind, you are a pause between my thoughts

 

Dargah – Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia – A Poem


 

(Photograph courtesy Jayshree Shukla. Posted with due permission)

Love and faith light up the dense tangle of streets

that lead to the dargah of mehboob –e – ilahi,

and the tomb of his beloved disciple Khusro,

garbed in rose petals, attars, offerings

and a heady whiff of spiced kebabs,

lost words float across the treetops,

arches, patios and tombs, sometimes,

quietly they nestle in an empty nest

or whirl down onto the marbled floor

in an aerial dance—like dervishes,

caught in a mystical ecstasy, their souls

electrified by the rising crescendo of qawaals.

Possessed in a feverish frenzy of longing

and sensuousness, bodies dissolve

into each other and in turn into

the saint and the poet, love rises

as smoke at the end of the lit incense

and floats through the prayers

tied to the marble lattice

I sit in a corner, eyes closed – entranced,

the poet in me loses herself to the scents,

the sounds, the sights, the dust, the birds,

the trees, the sky, the marble, the songs,

and then dips herself in holy water

as green as the greenest emerald.

The sun seeks its path among

the silhouettes frozen in time.

I lean against the afternoon draped pillars

and feel my inner darkness melt

with their lengthening shadows,

the senescent walls soak up the pain

as I trace my fingers over them.

Across the courtyard, time, like a poem,

burns in the dua-e–roshni as the day

meets the loban perfumed night.

Two lovers completing each other

like two halves of a sphere.

It is in this cosmos

that the inexpressible exists,

visible to those eyes which can see.

(Based on one of my visits to the Dargah this is one of the poems in the Delhi Series.  First published in Asian Signature Magazine.)

Poem – At The River Ganges


First published in Learning & Creativity magazine in August 2015.

 

Time stands still on the stone steps by the river;
a silhouette takes a dip and emerges from its waters,
hands folded in obeisance to the rising sun.
A moment of transition from mundane to divine.
A marigold garland drifts by with ash in a plastic bag.

With a conch’s cry, the temple city quivers to life,
a flower boy approaches and with him a frail form
in white, a prayer basket trembling in her hands.
Oblivious, she faces the river, chants mantras,
lights the flower lamp and sets it afloat.

A song comes as a boatman begins his day.
The sun rises from the saffron tinted waters,
lifting the veil from Shiva’s abode. The air thickens
with smoke from funeral pyres and cooking fires,
the skyline of soot-darkened temples their backdrop.

In the sacred city of Varanasi a union of opposites—
suffering and liberty, birth and death, sacred rituals
and the unfolding of daily life. I walk the ghats,
that are alive with rhythmic sounds of cleansing
as washer men thrash laundry against stone slabs.

A holy man—his body smeared with ash—
lifts his hands above his head in prayer,
another, with Shiva-like dreadlocks,
sits in deep meditation at the sunken temple.
The air echoes with the clamour of temple bells.

Pigeons take flight. I sit beneath a canopy
and watch the river of life gasp for breath
at the confluence of the city of light and death.

Poem – Daydream


This poem was first published in the magazine Life And Legends  – A Silent River Film and Literary Society magazine with Kalpna Singh-Chitnis as editor – in -chief . 

The street is sultry, shaded
by a curtain of light, the
mysterious green of
motionless leaves. In the
spaces between fronds are
plumes of cinder red evening
sky. The air, heavy with the
smell and heat of freshly
spread tarmac, is filled with
the clamor of unseen feet.

I sit in my own quiet place,
a private haven, shape shifting,
changing colors as I float
among wondrous hues
borrowed from my dreams.

I am visible and not visible,
present and absent, existing
and not existing. Thoughts
merge, ideas coincide, the
universe continues to evolve.

I, in a shifting reality, lose all
control, just as a poet does,
when he disappears into the
morass of his own words.

 

Poem – Scent Of A Season


This poem was first published in Asian Signature Magazine.

 

Sitting on the verandah at dusk

I count the curling crisp brown leaves on a tree

and feel the autumn trailing in my bones,

a lemon scented breeze stirs my memories…

clusters of saptparni blooms crumbling in my hands,

their scent rising from the white carpeted pavements ,

intoxicating the night above them,

a smell of winter – nostalgia – childhood, love,

adolescence, youth, late night cigarette sessions

around makeshift fires on the terrace,

old monk, spliffs, long drives,

and your breath against mine.

There is more to it that lingers on in Lutyen’s Delhi

memories of a time I can’t forget.

New Poem – ENTR’ACTE


The sun drips from our tin roof.

The white wall of our house

absorbs the old apple tree’s shadow,

turning it into a wonder.

 

Your bicycle rests below fiery Chinars.

In the kitchen a stove burns,

on the table an old copper samovar,

the lingering aroma of kahwa,

translucent sugar, local breads, pickles

raisins and walnuts, all wait.

 

Two low wooden stools, a bench

and copperware gleaming in the sun.

Half burnt incense on a silver plate,

In a nearby room, tapestry cushions,

rugs, kangris and hand woven shawls.

 

Photographs of us posing, silverware,

a curio cabinet, on its top a cigarette case.

Neatly arranged on the dressing table,

silver jewellery, a comb, a kohl stick,

and a walnut box waiting to be filled.

 

Jasmine floats in a crystal bowl

next to the bed, a quilt is folded neatly,

a pair of slippers on the floor, musty books

on shelves. On the wall a calendar,

a notepad hanging next to it.

 

On the rose and green shaded porch,

a paddle loom dressed for work.

On the steps I wait, as I do every day—

my belly swollen, a lotus bud in my hair—

for your return to make this house a home.

 

First published in Open Road Review .

 

Delhi Poems – 1. Lodi Garden


The fringes of the day lingered
on the rampart of Sikander Lodhi’s tomb,
moving on to the walls
that spanned out in a series of arches and columns
that stood like trees of life
supporting what remained of that glorious past.
Patches of light played hide and seek
on the buildings as the sun sought its path
among the silhouettes frozen in time.
I took the nearest path, shaded by arched trees,
the crowd was sparse, but love was everywhere—
on the rocks, behind the trees,
on the steps of the mausoleums,
over the eight-pier bridge,
in quiet corners screened by bamboos,
it even sprawled across the sloppy lawns
oblivious to the scattered graves,
or the cacophonous roosting birds.
Love doesn’t care about the mundane,
nor does the dust of the ancient bones
of dynasties that shaped Delhi.
I passed laughing children as
they teased ducks by the pond
and sat, eyes half closed against the sun,
a blade of grass between my teeth
watching the empty sky
from the shade of a blossoming Kachnar tree,
The breeze stirred the leaves,
their shadows moved,
a pair of cooing doves paused to listen
to rustling whispers
from the parapets dark birds flew like fragments
of charred paper rising from the fire,
a kite watched from the lonely turret.
Leaving the comfort of shadow play
I take the familiar path to reality,
harsh headlights, groping hands,
catcalls and swearing,
dust and fumes choking the city lungs,
the green grass merging into concrete,
the dying river
and night, now creeping across the sky
hiding the many sins of a city
more ruinous than the ruins I left behind.

This poem is part of the series of poems about Delhi that I am doing. It was first published in The Criterion – An international Journal In English’s Vol 7 .  Check out the journal for literary essays, poetry, fiction etc from world over.