I thought my angel kind, for she brought me to the altar of my wishes. There, under full moon and pulsing stars, I saw you, your heart, your lips slightly ajar: your wordless pleas for me. I could not believe my luck. A thousand eager and hungry kisses I must have supplied. But the forest of night has disappeared, leaving me broken with your phantom taste and this greater desire for you.
In this silence wrought by her sleep, the world is left with a void. Pink splotched sky. The arbiter goes missing who will say this is evening or early morning. I store as currency my kisses for her return. My scrolls are filled slowly with the markings of time. Her sweet breath will once again mingle with mine. Hand in hand we will greet the lilacs and daisies and honour them with sauntered stares. And these names once garbled in haste are now as butterscotch to the lips of a child. Put your ears to my palms; I do not lie about these things. This world is a dream. We laze patiently for the tide to grant us passage to the other side of time.
She was a melange of cigarettes and perfume and illicit men and late nights squeezing life out of intoxicating substances and long morning reckoning showers and how those nights add years though somewhere still in there was a heart like the sun that would slowly creep up on you.
I feel life ebbing, a sense of something dying, but my heart is a prisoner holding on to the prison bars of my chest yelling to be released and for one last moment of glory run wild and free and barefooted these wheat fields before me. And I’m also that raging river that yearns to find its death inside your lips, and like a junkie alive out of his mind, ruined by the pursuit of liquor and highs and failed love, I’ll happily contemplate the beauty of the sky from some god forsaken gutter though the night is tarnished only in that the stars do not match the fire in your loins. But I’ll returned to this landscape to a choir of birds. And I’m that one bird somewhere in the back lacking form and technique and refined grace but my song is vibrant with the colours that you’ve injected into my arms.
Beyond the clanging of swords, I use the sun to tell time. And by noon my heart has collected a thousand wondrous and curious things. There is beauty after the death of an old life.
This is what we’ve become. We lie here as two divergent ships. And the years and our wars lie here as silent oceans between us. But I am a jewel thief, and my eyes glint with her graceful softness of soul, and the way she gently steals the breath of the world. The tips of my fingers ache to pick up the broken pieces of what we’ve become and put the stars back in the sky where they neatly belong.
We were love dancing in gardens of crotons. And nights were spent by kerosene lamp greening our fingers with pods of broad beans and peas. And our ears were regaled with ghosts and tragedies and the battles she’d fought. And she was the hurricane. And everything had to be uncomfortably clean and neat. Meals were trips to heaven. And the mornings dewed our feet and we’d witness the rising sun. And life was tethered to planting and reaping. And being simple. And being decent. And going to church. And her life as a girl felt like another century. And time would shrink her to fit into my arms. Then she was no more. And now her history lives every day on my tongue.
The Night I Gave Up
Bella. The night I gave up she wore white shorts and heavenly curves and she was lovely and oozed the carefree fluidity and litheness of youth and I will never remember anything else. I saw her waiting for me somewhere beneath the shadows of trees or were they electrical poles and I instantly felt guilty and slightly ashamed and maybe too much like a man struck by lightening. Bella. Maybe I lingered just a few moments too long. Looking at her, beautiful beyond argument, I felt I was looking at something I had no right being privy to.
And I wished I wouldn’t go through with it.
We drove past a cemetery and it was the darkest place on the block and the universe. My mind went blank and there was a lull in our conversation. I have nothing to give, no thoughts, and certainly not to ghosts and causes, even those draped in flags. There’s a silent and bloodless war no one covers anymore. The erosion of life as we know it. No one cares. The dead are accorded oratory to remind us of them. Who cares about the living?
What do I have to give, Bella? How have you not yet seen through me.
Today? Life is indeed too much for me. I give enough to the outstretched arms of the world and still it demands more. More. I do not have anything left in me. I do not know how I’ll make it through today much less tomorrow without losing my mind. I feel myself slowly creeping to the edge, a casualty. But she’s here now. I do not tell her these things. I smile. We live.
I look for small victories and blow them out of proportion just to give myself a reason to live. And the way she moves and feeds my eyes is a gift from the sky. And every moment with her is a year and blaze like the chirping of a billion crickets that drown every other sound from the night. I drink to her, to them, to the sweet oases in this desert of life. Growing up is the slow and painful reclaiming of fairytale dreams. But tonight I live all my possible years in the moments of our kisses.
And maybe this one night is enough for me.
I think of you and my heart is a storm of butterflies. But once my feet had been slow on their way to you. The days of youth would be endless. So I took many an errant path and spent nights in cemeteries of dreamless dreams. And I imbibed away all guilt. I transgressed the light of the moon and ignored the view of the stars from your eyes. But I grew disappointed with rainless days and the sun always being so hot. For once my heart had no room for love and the softness it made in my soul. Now here I am forever in stillness against my will. Once brimming with life it now drowns me. Some great power have stolen my place in the universe. For the mischievous wind upon your skin should be my hungry kisses. And I should be there to hold you amid the coming wintry grey skies and the first flakes of snow.
Home is where the sun never sleeps and the sea always just beyond the hills. The ebb and flow of those gentle waves live in my veins and forever stoke my longing. I think of home and always I think of Rose and the days bereft of her warmth how I thought it was the sea that birthed me. I think of Rose and all my words taste like the ocean. I think of Rose and my pillow becomes the sea. I think of Rose and how her absence has cast my nomadic feet on these foreign shores. I think of her and how I’ll never go back to those places that echo with her shadows and how her footsteps cloaked in memories always seemed just one step ahead of me. I think of Rose and home is a billion impossible places and impossible things in which I tried to find her.
No, I’ll never go back home.
But I think of Rose and every single night the streets of home return to me.
Long ago, in a lost world, a day gave me a cruel dream and I wish to give it back. Faced with certain extinction, we were fate’s acceptance. Everywhere the flood ushered the lifeless in streams passed us. It was a reaping and carrying away of the sins and beautiful things from the world.
We passed through streets some force in all heart-stopping rage now reigned. And it rained down on the feeble. And it rained down on the strong. High, violent, and brown, water bigger than the human soul.
I felt a numbing fear and an ever present nearness to it at every corner. I felt a fear that was beyond the trembling of my hands.
We travelled together in wordless silence, she and I. I searched the faces of others, for what exactly I do not know. I think I saw it, heavy and slow moving in her eyes.
We carried no plans, no hope beyond each moment.
Tonight, I have swum the distance of a hundred oceans. The sky is clear and starless. A crescent moon looks below. Here I’m an alien, an artist using the ashes of the past. My head is filled with memories from that life, that world, and her, and her. I try to squeeze her and our life into today but these things do not fit.
Yesterday has become a bizarre dream.
I am a man of a thousand years. Around me children laugh, they dance, they play. They lose themselves behind screens. They do not carry the burdens of the past. Around me the trees stand dark and dense, sentries guarding a secret world. I want to leave behind all that I’ve become – old, mediocre, a man doing just enough to get by without her.
Birds are the only things of magic left in this world, To transcend the shackles of men. I want to be the magic that flies above all the different ways men encase their souls…I want to be as wild flowers that in bold yellows grow over and in between defunct prison bars and crevices of once prison walls now gardens and laugh at the absurd concept of men in chains. But still, I want to be human enough to every day peer in the warmth of your eyes and feel our shared humanity. I want to love you in all the myriad flawed but beautiful ways only humans can. And yet, This would be my eventual downfall to mortal chains again.
In the ensuing days…
I wept at the lonely echoes of my feet on creaking wooden floors. At the morning sun and how it crept slowly like magnificent black spiders upon the blinds. And At the vast and impenetrable grey forest that held the things I still loved.
And I drank tears with my cereal or mixed it with the memories of days that once bled colours, tracing back steps to breathe them in deeper.
And Then, somehow, after many a tear-soaked day, I would smile.
I close the portals to my worldly desires and rest my hungry arms by my side. I tread softly upon the dank leaves coloured by Autumn in her folly; I have found peace eying the unexplored terrain of my own heart.
The night sky visits me cloaked in foamy clouds and within them she hides the stars. The moon is white and the air is cool and pleasant. Autumn is on her way and I feel her jittery impatience in the coolness of the sunniest days. Without love everything feels like a race to an ending. Summer is almost completely gone. My eyes are transfixed on an almost full moon stuffed with milky dreams, like laundered white linen. I can see glimpses of what is to come when my head hits the pillow. Maybe love, if only brief. My feet continue to go and are foolishly assured in their steps on a path they do not know. When do boys become men and discard rashness of youth? I don’t know. I don’t know. Maybe it’s the moon, but I feel especially and forever a boy tonight, dreaming dreams bigger than myself. I’m that boy again staring at the moon, but this time I can no longer see the long-bearded old man who whispers quiet wisdom. Is it the fault of my eyes? My feet get lost and I’m turning door knobs that do not belong to me. I’m warm with embarrassment, hoping the world is asleep and does not see me ask the moon to grant me wishes that may never come true.
So I savour this night, this precarious bliss, for I love you, but any moment now…hear the wolves hiss, the men who blow breaths in the mouths of animals, the men who command the universe and tell seeds when to live. I would deny myself the ecstasies of this life, except when I look at you my heart is an effusive stream that wants to feed the hungry soil and make it wild with plants and flowers and birds and trees and happiness and deep-throated laughter and freedom and freedom and freedom and then wash away the branded names the greedy wolves have burnt in – everything.
Lock me in a darkened room with the sun outside to taunt me. I turn my ears away and listen to the phantom birds. The slow fall of dusk. Impatient sighs. Wisps of dirges floating up from tired streets. Without you I create my own music and I create my own mood, though I reluctantly now accept that my hungry arms were never meant for you. People talk about accepting change and letting go of love gracefully. But reputation does not comfort me, not of losing you. I thought I saw you today and how my heart leapt, and then how it dived. It wasn’t you. It always is…but is never you. So I say this hard. And I say it fast, for any day now my last breaths will not surprise me. Katya. Katya. Let these be my final words. I love you. I love you. But, for all that you’ve put me through, your name besmirches my tongue.
On your greyest of days, I know where you go. You take refuge in the secret recesses of your soul. You defer all challenges to the strongest parts of yourself, the parts with the hidden arsenals. And I know that some days your strength is all that you think you have, and that you just want to rejoice in it – being strong. If only you were certain that you’ll make it out of this alive. But you’re not sure strength guarantees your survival.
How many moons, years, centuries even, we’ve walked around with these grating words on our lips, even our ears seeming to refuse them. We are the hungry whose mouths have been stuffed with strange hot foods. But we dare not spit them out. And we cannot swallow them either. And mother has forgotten us, and so have we her voice, and her warm smiles, and her lullabies. Though she lives in us, she is but the sorrow in the blueness of our souls that cannot be described with words but the mist that covers our eyes.
She retrieves rhythms from the air. And she plays with words and sounds and dances with darkness and light. As if she were merely a vessel…She likes best the ones that come to her mysteriously, in moments of utter silence, of thought, of mind, like a mystic placing echoes on her lips, like the urgency of a poem that must be freed, that must be written, that must come to life.
One day when you stand there, hiding behind not mattering to anyone, the war raging far away from you, and overseas, your own presence here will be an epithet or a dagger thrown back to your face.
And it will have found you.
And you will have known finally the value of rage and the value of speaking up for a just cause, especially when insults or knives scar your very own skin.
For either you must go to war or the war will find you.
Your conscience will have long forgotten its emptiness, and it will be clear to you what you’re doing there in the middle of this maelstrom of screams and explosions and missiles wooshing by and the cruel joker having a field day and laughing at the ignorance that brings men here and at everyone and at your having to hold defensive force in your hands and rations in a bag and war supplies on your back and the blood from neglected wounds sloshing around in your boots just to live.
For then the war will have finally found you.
And on that day you go numb and silent with stillborn tales on your tongue and on your fingertips, you remember the darkness of your own phantom, and his rage, and the night that brought you to him, hurling curses at your jailers, Anger eating itself, A fire consuming its own heart. For on that day that your thick tongue goes silent, you realise, your fire should not be damned or allowed to burn wildly, but should be protected and harnessed, in whirlwinds, a liquid heat to sanctify all that your hands would touch.
The morning brings a pall – a nameless but perceptible dread, of going out into the world; Leaving you here. Of What it’ll do to my soul.
Once a giant, she remembers those days. How relatively easy it would be. Standing at that raised threshold, her hands on the top of the door jamb, looking down below at the favela. This teeming civilization. Then out on the horizon. The all-knowing smiling yellow sun.
The rumours of the world would come to her, softly, in whispers on the gentle breeze.
And they would be poems.
And they would be stories.
Or they would be visions of how things should be.
She would admire and search out those like herself.
The ones who with keen ears to the wind.
The ones who would trade in words.
The ones with the audacity to think any of this matters.
Even if they be perfectly imperfect gods.
And the question now hangs in the air: How do you fell a giant, so pitily.
It is all in the eyes.
Yes, it is the eyes that must be destroyed first. Always. And thus you have sadly secured the last beat of the giant’s heart.
She thrusts them in his hands, garish blues and pinks and greens. Deep purples. Mauves. Reds. Browns. Greys. “Add these. The world comes in different colors.”
She is the sea. He gets caught in the throes of her waves. He thinks: how he longs for the slow but assured certainty – Of the sun. And then she leaves, as she usually does. Today, the sun on the back of his neck, his face, his arms, he stands there on the beach. Waiting for another wave.
I’m merely arms and legs that swim. To you. A million times I have. Each time I find you, harsh and unforgiving. Still, the lure of your tide pulls me…
There was a circular iron table. And an iron white chair. This idyllic place. Between the side of the road and the beach. But sometimes a perfect place for writing can be a precarious thing. The dangerous places it can take you. That is, without a clean, confident, concrete fictional story in mind. I felt that I should write, but I couldn’t find it in me. The will. The detached stories. I am an alien. Long forgotten ‘home’. A stranger here. There’s nothing to tell. Or remember. Not without weaving in lies. Setting stories in a fictional past. Trying to figure out if the present is real. I woke up feeling like I had spent the night with the back of my palms. The back of my head. Hooked up to some weird contraption. Long thick brown messy cables. Lying on my back. A curtain-less, sterile, hospital-like room. White blinds. A machine. Feeding me dreams of returning home. Standing next to you. On the shore. The silvery sea before us. No words between us. Our bond of nothingness. Silence. Regrets. I spent yesterday in the bathroom. A shower of tears. Some vague sorrow. You. Your nothingness. Your mask. My own. How rootless they make me feel. Where were you when I needed you. To teach me these things. To navigate this. This. Blurriness. But it…You…shouldn’t matter. Not anymore. For I stood there. With Steve. Looking at your lifeless plastic-like face. That second time you left. The first time still an iced-over river of anger in me. Steve throwing up. My stomach of steel. And I’m the softie. But I had nothing more in me to give. Not to you. So I thought. And then we stood there in that chapel. Steve and I. The funeral home. Even your eulogy paid for. The paltriness of it all. How can a man’s life be so empty. Barren. Void of love. Void of people. Void of memories. Void of grief. Void of tears. Even in your passing. No gravesite at which to cry. Everything so easily melted down. To gray.
To pass by the sea & not see it, only when coppered red by yesterday’s rain. To Feel only the wrath of the sun in the breeze.
This I know:
Grief is blindness.
Rome was not destroyed in a day
New worlds seep out of broken things
And When they are thrown away we cling to them.
One day with all honesty. And fearlessness, we’ll come clean with who we are.
Birds with metallic songs in our throats
Maybe there’s no meaning, but life is only deemed worthwhile if we see one
The many books that profess this
Our Eyes are needles that sew narratives in random events
It is all an exercise in contradiction
For Every moment we must cherish the existence of those whom we love
Feel them in the goosebumps on our skins
Yet we must always be ready to trod on without them
As light as birds
Fly with a barren like heart over things that would weigh us down.
Especially when they are broken
For what grounds a ship more than love
And broken dreams
The weight of memories
Stuck in the past.
In the afterglow of some forgotten summer day.
Yet We do not go to graveyards to count the dead; we count the living by the sparks in their eyes
Lit by hope
We must embrace and hold tight our dreams in life’s raging storms.
As gently as white doves ready to be released to the heavens if the universe so demands it
Caught up in this procession, all the disgruntled parts of me resist and yell, but their currencies are muted screams. Whatever this is, it is bigger than me. When I get there, do this one thing for me. Do not neglect me in the dirt. Do not pour me lovingly in the sea. I cannot love you from these places. My love, bury me in your favourite songs. Let me linger for you in their melodies. Let me live for you in those sweet words that find a home in your heart.
I have been before, though maybe not exactly here. The truth of this lies in the depths of my bones. I feel it. My soul remembers vague sensations of the wild expansive freedom from that lost time. Some days I feel it is the wisdom of those forgotten ancestors, who spoke to us in hushed but fervent tones, and in dark nights lit only by the moon and stars and fireflies, that now quietly guide my heart.
It’s turning the key to be greeted only by the welcoming arms of solitude. It’s turning my back to you and the world to find the solitary path to my dreams. It’s the morning commute on the highway, buffeted only by the sea and the laws of men. These things tell me who I am. I am a bird trapped in the form of human.
I am the waking of dust after the first drops of rain. I feel the nervous jitter of unspoken stories in my stomach and on my lips, and there’s this recurring sensation of feeling like a mute. I am the alone, standing with upturned palms to the sky. The stories fall on me like a cascading torrent, and I’m overwhelmed, and I can’t catch them, and I am drowning. I do not have the words to free them. They are just too many. Or they don’t come at all. Yet, a relentless stream of stories always returns and struggles for freedom. In me. Around me. I breathe them. I can’t breathe because of them. They echo everywhere. I hear them in the silence of the morning before the birdsongs that break the day, just beneath the hum of the running a.c., the taunting songs of time whizzing by. But in rare moments of clarity, my nervous hand, like the Israelites hurriedly crossing the Red Sea, my hand streams freely and quickly one of these teeming stories: it’s about someone, maybe a people; no! It’s about this person…this one man, who would escape from burning buildings unscathed. But that was a long time ago. He’s now but a shadow of that man. No more a superhero. He has forgotten what that feels like… 06.02.13
Friends, do not call me a poet, and I do not mislead you with false modesty. That label has the feel of sharp nails on my skin. I do not have the words, the rhythm, or the inspiration. It’s a heavy stone in my mouth. I do know what I am. I’m a reporter, a tinker, an artisan, working from the limited milieu of painful memories. But the truly creative? The world is their palette and beauty sings her name in everything.
Today I gave my heart to the birds that never left my window, & the midmorning sun as it roused trees still saturated with the hue of night.
We are the children of the equator, and its heat lives in our skins, passed down from kins we’ve never met. They are those who worked sixteen hour days in sugared fields, storing the anger of the sun in their veins. And the days are always hot and sweaty, and respite is the sea breeze that washes our faces and cools the nights. Our dreams are about leaving those fields to maybe a better life up north, leaving behind the sun and its vindictiveness.
But we take the sun drenched past and its lessons unknowingly with us. And on those nights, yes, on those nights when the knives of winter inflict a thousand stabs to our hearts, on those nights we remember the dreams and the lives of our forefathers as if they were our very own. We recall calm starry nights alone in an old boat with only the fish and the moon and his reflexion on the sea as our company. Or we dream of that day when we were conceived as mirror images of the galaxy. For they tell us that our minds are the sun that shines on the world a light bright and hungry for discovery. Our hearts are the moon that imbues everything with love and beauty. And the eyes are the stars that guide wayward and lost souls looking for home.
But far from home, as we travel, we are baffled always by the monotonous green painted onto the trees along the sides of the highways. Lacklustre foods without taste. The serenity and death promised in these things.
For this is the lesson and the worldview that the sun imparts: there’s no life in moderation but in passionate embrace of all things, be it love or loss, success or failure, celebration or mourning. To live is to feel everything deeply.
And so it has been our curse that the sun stokes always in us a longing for home, and inveigles himself into the heart of everything: the spice that burns our lips, the music that sways our hips. And this we now know in the core of our souls – we will never be free.
Yes, I mourn every loss. I wish those who leave me behind would love me enough to stay. Yet, recently, there’s a certain calm I feel in the midst of all of this.
An emerging light.
Obviously I want people to love me and stay with me, but I don’t get dirtied up by the experience if or when they leave. I have a sense of peace and acceptance. There’s a small yet enduring sense of liberation that I feel with every goodbye. This outweighs any hurt I may feel from losing those I love or care about.
Maybe you’ll say this is a coping mechanism, to be stoic and indifferent and detached. I wouldn’t accept that this is true. I regret every failed relationship, and deep down inside I hope that there’s a chance that things will work out. I still check my phone for a missed call or text or email.
The difference this time is that I don’t allow myself to dwell on some ideal. I’m perfectly happy with things playing out the way they must. I’ve come to see that one of the biggest sources of pain is that sometimes we fix ourselves on an idea and that we allow for no deviation from this perceived ideal. Life may take a thousand different routes to happiness but, oftentimes, in our blindness, we consider the safe steady one we choose to be the best.
I’ve come to accept that I am not the best of authors and that life itself may be a far better one than I. Better is it at delivering disappointments yet surprises and maintaining suspense and describing details and in the end a far more satisfying experience than anything my limited faculties could conceive.
I run and run and run, and I hear the jangling of keys, of he who tries to confine me to solitary dreams. But she rouses me and tells me that they are but bells, and that as long as I listen to them, and keep my eyes open, I will be free.
We hate fleeting things. And though we drink of the sap, in our core we do not worship lust. Too much the emptiness that greets us in the morning. We want the permanence offered by love.
The truth is that there was always something off kilter about her words. It’s like they almost never work, the way they’re weirdly strung up together. But they eerily always do. It’s as if there’s this fine line thoughts conveyed have to cross to make sense, and she’d nervously or haltingly cross that line each time, putting us the spectators on edge. I fell in love with this. And the things she’d say, things I’d never before heard, at least not the way she expressed them. These things spoke not merely to me but that deeper part of myself that recognizes the truth of things when it hears them….
The land was one hundred and twenty six miles at its longest and fifty six miles at its widest. The sea was always there. Massive and mythical and generous and unconquerable. We didn’t have much but, even when we’d forget her, she’d always be there. Today, atop a hill, I looked out as far as I could see. My disappointed eyes had taken it for granted that she’d always be there, but some things are just too big and can only be smuggled into the future in snippets of memories. But surely she must be out there somewhere in any distance that far thought my disbelieving eyes.
. . .
But there was no sea.
. . .
I can’t look through my evening window from that mountain and see her off in the distance. The ships that would have her. Hear their profane but beautiful calls echo within the walls of those mountains. I can’t pass by, as I would, and marvel at her visitors making their daily pilgrimage, their black hair now red from her salty brine. No, I can’t visit her today and relive that Sunday morning Osmond tried to teach me to be in harmony with her, not to fear her. No, today I remember only the taste of her through my drowning nostrils. The palpable sense of something forever lost. Today the sea offers no comfort to me but taunts me as it did the dog who threw away his bone for a bigger dream.
In a past life I was blind. In a past life, I stood nights on the side of the road waiting for a friendly light. I never once looked up. I saw no moon. No stars. In a past life I heard morning owls and birds but heard only the call of the day. I heard no beauty. No songs. In a past life I saw your hurt and pain, some of which I inflicted myself. I didn’t care. I couldn’t see beyond myself. In a past live I endured days with you but not once took the time to breathe you in. In a past life I lived in a future coloured by the past. In a past life all my selfish dreams abandoned me. In a past life I was brought here.
Lightning and thunder in the distant night sky. I once saw you in the promises of these things, or on a trajectory to me. I speak of a heart once heavy with love. How at the same time it was light enough to fly. Of how I wanted to whisper away my share of this cosmic grief in your ears. But other duties and obligations called you away. I no longer live in those frantic ensuing days. I do not live in the clouds nor in the dumps. Maybe this is a tentative hell. But I won’t paint your absence here. I tell myself I’ll live as Ecpitetus, unfeeling and somewhere in the middle.