I am sharing below a masterfully crafted poem by one of my favourite poets.
I cannot even begin to describe how elegant and enthralling his poetry is! Well, let me try – so much so that I had to sit down and ardently read all of his poems last month, and then re-read them! I felt, in Emily Dickinson’s words – “If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can warm me, I know that is poetry.”
His poetry beautifully captures his thoughts ; his poems make you THINK, or altogether change your perspective about the world around you.
Reading him made me realize that I still have a very long way to go.
Let me just admit it, we are fortunate to read a truly gifted poet like him, whose poetry can withstand the test of time!
Sing me a song, buddies, Make it longer than this night, There is a man at the end of road Whom I wish to never fight.
Make me forget about today, And tommorow if you can, I will live with yesterday, As a shallow, old man, I lived yesterday like today, And tommorow as yesterday, How I wish for the tommorow, I could live as today.
For I am far too tired, Carrying stones upon my back, I will be needing them somewhere they said, For filling all the cracks. But here is the funniest thing, That before I took this helpful stone, I don’t remember having any, Fissures of my own.
Oh I have been a fool, I have, To pledge my life to those, Who taught me how to tiptoe, By cutting all my toes, And no I am not invoking, The vomit of your tears and pity,
In search of blue paradise, I travelled from one land to another. I witnessed the Republic crumbling underneath the feet of my city. The Republic was charred to fresh death, to gray-to-black smoke : forming a layer of empty-hollowed clouds in the young sky.
The city burned in red and orange shades. The morning white light made the beveled glass sparkle against the flames ; the morning white light made your face shine through the silent black nights.
So when you first hit me, I swallowed the blood off my lips, unlike my fractured thoughts that enwrap your flesh in poetry. I traced your marks on my skin with two of my fingers, holding in between a bloodied half burnt-out cigarette. The long night had completely dissolved into my blood, trickling down as drops of freedom in the streets ; but I could feel your lips on the back of my neck, and your blade fingers around it.
Despite the dearth of decency among young dreamers, I read their pathetic and worrisome wordplays. They formed patterns with white chalk lines and cinnamon flavoured talks in my mind. They were as lost as me in the driveways but their warm bodies kept them alive. They knew what they were doing.
I was told not to write bold and brave words ; not to write about spiders, love, nights ; not to be like one of those dull teenagers or scandalous spinsters, buried in their own skins. You told me to shred my thoughts into thin slices of sincere metaphors, but not without painting them with your signature. So I ran away from you with my confessional and organic themes.
There is a cancerous sickness in being together but I am paralyzed with lightning flashbacks taking place in my head. When thoughts tear down the flesh beneath my scars, I feel my heartbeats on the tips of my fingers with you up against my thighs – there is no blood on my lips, no shredded ribbons of past around my wrists.
That Autumn morning, October sky was pastel blue in shade. Streaks of white and gold fell upon the red-rose bushes, upon which a tint of golden crust shimmered as dewdrops began to melt away in the morning warmth.
Sia, a twenty-four-year-old widow, stood barefoot on the finely-cut bluegrass in the garden. The cold and deserted streets, the white garden walls, the mist-soaked grass – nothing had changed. She stood before the red-rose bushes ; before the four walls of existence – before the bloodied walls of her memories.
“… And what did the police say?” asked Mrs. Lily, a woman in her mid-fifties, who lived next to Sia.
“He killed himself,” answered Aunt Reese.
After the funeral last Summer, Aunt Reese made it a point to visit Sia, her only surviving relative, once a month. She would sit beside her, clasping her hands, talking for hours about the garden, its wine-coloured gates, the ever-busy city streets, the weather, the mortgage, the legal matters related to his death.
“The Major killed himself,” said Mrs. Lily as she glanced through the window, “Your niece is very young, Mrs. Reese. She reminds me of Cynthia.”
“When my son perished in ’43 and my man refused to move to the city, Cynthia came to the city alone. Mrs. Reese, I would have accompanied her but the drunkard wouldn’t let me leave! She came to the city all by herself, penniless. She worked in a factory, making uniforms for the forces day in day out. She saved enough to buy us bread every week. But one day, she vanished. Cynthia vanished, Mrs. Reese. After a week, they found her purple body somewhere down the south coast.”
Sia plucked a red-rose and put the delicate flower in her blue dress pocket.
The night he met with an accident, leaving his body permanently paralyzed down below his waist, Sia was alone at home when the telephone rang at twenty-three hundred hours, informing her about how her husband’s car was rammed by another at the crossroad near Raven’s.
“She was the last of my five children, the youngest, the most beautiful. You see, Mrs. Reese, all of them were dead,” continued Mrs. Lily, “and when my man refused to give her a decent burial for she had brought shame to the family… shame to the family that couldn’t even put a loaf of bread in her small hands… I had to kill him.”
Aunt Reese nodded, looking sympathetically at her. Mrs. Lily never failed to amuse her with such wild stories. Aunt Reese’s visits were a delightful affair for Mrs. Lily too. Her visits meant a new chapter, a new adventure, a new condemnation –
“You know, your niece killed the Major. I believe that she handed him the gun,” said Mrs. Lily, unapologetically.
“The case has been disposed, Mrs. Lily. The Major killed himself.”
“I have never heard her voice. Can she speak at all?”
“Very well. Very well, she can!”
“You see, Mrs. Reese, the woman’s soul is dried inside-out once her husband, or father, dies. She’s nothing more than a sun-dried corpse, left behind to suffer the wrath of different seasons, again and again, year after year. That is, of course, if she stays here. If she stays here, she would descend into madness soon,” continued Mrs. Lily, “The Major too left her penniless.”
“The accident left him penniless.”
The following year, after the accident, the war finally ended. There was hope everywhere, but nothing for him. Moreover, the national victory left him bitter and the mortgage completely shattered him. The following Summer, he decided to kill himself. He knew he couldn’t live with those crippled limbs, neither could he let her suffer because of his unworthiness.
Sia’s nurse, María, left with Mrs. Lily, leaving Mrs. Reese and Sia alone.
(“I don’t understand your tongue, María, but you remind me of Cynthia. She was my youngest daughter.”)
Aunt Reese was a petite old woman in her sixties. On third Sunday of every month, she visited Sia with flowers, cake, plain white sheets and an ink bottle.
“… And they decided to close the case when they couldn’t figure out that angle. They can’t tell how he got hold of the revolver,” informed Aunt Reese, “Well, I brought you another bottle of blue ink, dear.”
Aunt Reese waited for a response ; she was an extremely hopeful old woman. The lilac sky outside the window and Autumn leaves falling everywhere, formed patterns in the howling wind. There was hope everywhere, but nothing for Sia, Aunt Reese thought to herself, looking at her pale face.
“I must go now. I am visiting their graves today,” said Aunt Reese, “I will come again. Do you want me to bring you something else?”
The Summer breeze felt balmy against her blood-soaked lips. The warm blood gushed out of his fresh wounds as pouring rain ; the wall behind the wooden headboard of the bed was covered in his blood and gun-shot pink flesh.
Sia reached out to her dress pocket and took out the red-rose.
“For Jason. For Jason. I will lay this on his grave. For Jason,” said the old woman, startled, “Do-do you want me to bring you something else?”
Sia watched her Aunt leaving, and stood at the window for hours. The sky turned from lilac to crimson red, from a deadly red to pitch black in shade over the next two hours. The yellow lights in the garden flickered and the grass came to life, once again the red-roses glistened under the mist and yellow lights. She could clearly see his face in the window pane. And, she could clearly read the signboard above the front gate : Silverstone Hospital for Mental Care, Raven’s Island.
(Neither did she cry at his funeral nor did she resist when they admitted her to the facility. They called it as some sort of feminine depression, some sort of harmless madness, that apparently made Sia lose her voice, her senses. And, all other forms of her expressions too.)