There aren’t days or nights;
he knows it’s the wound wearing
different colours of sky--
the wisp under the flowering thicket,
shadow-member of the town’s brotherhood
of bats and owls,
waking keeper of a sleep where
there are no dreams,
no silly anniversaries.
In his gaze, faces have faded in blood’s mellow river,
having stopped for a while at that first day of the year
when he forgot to buy her a nice gift
and she drank half-a-litre of disinfectant
after a petty fight and didn’t die.
What’s this thing, this New Year?
And a contaminated bottle of disinfectant?
He had cursed the going on of their kind,
plucking coconuts for Bihu,
on hazira at someone’s house,
saying he alone truly loved her
to want this for her.
It’s for a dark love that the body goes on--
frying sweets in tea-stalls,
cleaning drains and sewage pits,
playing part-time quack with secret cures to everything--
this body of seasoned teak burning with death.
It’s for a flicker at which the sky
comes alive inside, and nothing matters--
putrid debts, rotten tooth, ulcer,
girl brought back home from a bad marriage,
boy’s threats for money,
even the woman who couldn’t die
after drinking half-a-litre of disinfectant.
Not even hunger matters
on that glowing planet in his skull.
But when he hurtles back to cage,
he will guzzle twice his share of rice,
though barely even ghost now;
one day he almost died of laughing-crying fits,
choking on food until they shocked him into being
He cried inconsolably for days
until they let him turn the key again,
feel the air go sticky,
cackle above his head, until
night pried open that stillness in his being
where there is no being, no recall
of the body’s indenture on earth.
It rains and words say nothing
of hunger’s precise arithmetic
playing in the June darkness.
The town’s half-naked madman stuffs his eyes
with rice from the soggy page of a magazine,
the whore flashes the gaudy colours
of her youth’s desperate end,
migrant barbers snip away in ancient shops
with blue flaking off walls.
Death is a busy street in a city
which keeps changing its name today
from Orlando to Istanbul,
Baghdad to Dhaka.
The toll rises; I do not count.
There’s the burst of deodars outside,
blazing green with wild forgetfulness,
but a wetness returns jabbing windows
with a night when my love washed his hands off our past
and reclaimed a squeaky clean conscience.
I haven’t spoken much of love or history, since.
Now the crow-wet evening drips
picking on the entrails of life
from the low branch of a tree,
and the scent of earth rises old
with answers from a charred body
they couldn’t identify
and it reeks of the silence of poems.