Publications

City

city – noun;  a large (polluted, capitalistic, discriminatory) town

history
a concrete horizon, tetris teeming with missing pieces
deeper it goes, higher and higher
shut out the wars below, build inner peaces
roads littered with frantic shoes
stepping over gutters caste in india
passing by hydrants made in thailand.

history
pixels smash off public screens
encoding two words
i want
those pants, that shirt, those legs, that body, those smiles, that sass
i want what i do not have
but will someday
if i keep running
like everyone around me
towards and away from bodies
beside and inside bodies
that side and this side bodies
plastic digital displayed live bodies
running to get ahead to survive bodies
sprinting on the stairway that never ends
i eat without taste
i touch without sense
this is the life i dreamed of
where the starving gap between my thighs fattens
feeding on billboard lies.

history
free discounts, the brown man calls, cheap pizza, the brown man cries
bus tour please? it’s a woman now
from the bronx to broadway and fifth
from malakpet to malabar
each glossy handout pries the slightest opportunity
that her son won’t get shot at school today
that her daughter won’t be raped

history
a park in the heart of the city, green grass, playgrounds
i lounge in the grass
i swing on the dervish tire
i read, because i can
the high rises hypnotize
the dark-skinned man with the hazel eyes
his laminated board – would you like a tour?
i’ll take you to those pockets of surprise
i’ll give you a special dose of reality devoid of me

history
there is grandeur in the idea
i’m here because i matter
because i can make it
some day, i will matter
and then i’ll run some more into the frayed pages of the past
together we’ll tell the future
there was a time when i tried to build something better
but i forgot to look, to listen
i forgot what arises must pass
those that win can also come last
is this the life i dreamed of
i dream again
and recreate the history that is yet to come

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High on Music

Two old men…


They have seen so much
Now they know what beauty is
A flawed sliver of purity
Once clamped in an oyster
But stuck no more.

Nothing matters when art itself
Divines them with its presence

——————————

Kutch singer…


A voice like sandpaper
Shiny, rough, rich
it swishes and tickles
cracks, glistens with smoothness
He is the Lord of all
with his august echoes
Tonight he is King
and the omnipresent air is his Kingdom
The sand is his soul, everywhere but ungraspable
free but unclaspable
I yearn to express gratitude
Only to open my eyes, and see him smile

—————————-

Listening…


I am civilized now, so I bob my head
I am polite, so I occasionally clap
I am modern, so I appreciate
But I do not do what my heart craves most
I yearn to be free, to jump, to fly, to sway, to dance
I remain reserved, but I see a head of gray
Resting on two frail shoulders
Which hanger a shirt too large
She jumps, she flies, she sways, she dances
She is free
She is youth, despite her swollen joints and angular hands
These hands twirl and swirl
Without regard to the long necks and raised brows around her

We spend our lives being appropriate
Only to realize towards the end
That there is no point to it all

She remembers how it was in the beginning
When there were no rules, no walls
No impossible
And when she closes her eyes, she sees her heart beating
Thumping so fast as she is running
Under a warm sun
On the wet grass
She remembers the joy she inhaled
It filled her lungs
And flooded her heart
It streamed through her blood
And tickled the tips of her fingers
It twitched the sides of her mouth
And scrunched her eyes
When it got there

They smile with civility
How nice, an old woman dancing
How cute, how charming
I know the secret they don’t
She is happier than any of them will ever be
She always was.

The Origin of Freedom

The first woman walked

Where, she did not know

The road was empty, dark

She was alone

A promise was made in that silence

I won’t look back

To the hurt, the pain

I won’t look back

To his violence

His menacing hand

Shall no longer haunt my dreams

His vile words

Will no longer stab my confidence

 

The second woman walked

Away from her family

The people that raised her

They did not understand

How she could love another

So different from them

Leave him, they said

And she knew what she would do

She walked away

From discrimination

A promise was made in that silence

I won’t look back

To their taunting smiles

At their sneers of contempt

I won’t look back

At the violence they threaten

I refuse its fear

I won’t look back

At their false logic

 

The third woman walked

Towards self- respect

One in which man did not dictate

What she ate, where she went, who she was

Her husband was no more

But her dignity was intact

They wanted her to regain her purity

Dress in white

Mourn his passing

Live with the burden of his absence

She refused

And she walked

A promise was made in that silence

I won’t look back

To their cultural anchors

I will free myself

From a life of servitude

I won’t look back

At forced purity

I won’t look back

At their blind rituals

Their hypocrisy

 

A fourth woman stood

At the edge of the world

Waiting for a breeze

To take her and her unborn

To another place, a better place

She had suffered

And did not see a world

In which her unborn daughter

Was free of the chains

That bound her

She held her swollen belly

Caressed it one last time

And waited for the breeze

 

Three women walked

Reached the edge of the world

They saw her

She who had surrendered will

And they spoke

Telling their stories

Stories of violence

Of hate

Of death

When they spoke

The woman listened

The life inside her listened

Until, like an emerging sunrise

The woman saw beauty

She saw hope

She saw freedom

She saw life

 

The fourth woman walked

Away from the edge of the world

She walked towards a life

Where destiny played no part

Where she was the writer of her story

The maker of her journey

A promise was made in that silence

I won’t look back

At the memory of duty

Where who I am is decided

Before I am born

I won’t look back

At the limits set on my ability

I won’t look back

With shame at my gender

At their jeering glances

Opportunistic advances

I will not be afraid

And as she walked

With three women by her side

Freedom was born

Invisible Sound

The music he plays resounds

beautifully in my ears.

It is melodious.

It is subtle.

It is smooth. Just like him.

It seduces me to lift myself.

I move my

limbs to the

afterthought of each note. I am

flowing water, and nothing in me remains

the same.

I am motion.

A receptacle to the

messages he flows

into my being. They are words, but of a different nature. They are emotion in the form of

invisible

sound.

He is the Pied Piper, I follow.

He is the artist, I muse.

He is the singer, I listen.

He is the musician, I dance.

Warmth fills my body, as the sweat gently tingles my palms. My arms. It calms. The coolness spirals around me with each spin.

I am not dizzy, just

unstable. Isn’t that what life is all about, instability? We lose

our ground and spend a moment regaining

ourselves, only to lose it again for the thrill of uncertainty.  He strums something

that is part of a memory. I can’t quite recall what the song is,

but there is a sense of comfort. The notes call out like

faded whispers. Like a well worn piece of clothing, it fits.

The Church

To believe in something you’ve never seen is remarkable. I sit in this church and wonder what unflinching faith must feel like. There are ways of manifesting that faith here – lighting a candle, kneeling on the pulpit, singing a hymn, praying. The homeless sleep on the benches that are left of the aisle. Some fashion pillows out of their coats. Others are sitting, head down. From the back they appear devout. Maybe they are. One man draws my attention without meaning to. He is half sitting, his head hanging back, dreams behind closed eyelids facing the ceiling. The light bounces off his fierce salt-and-pepper beard. It illuminates the beautiful brownness of his skin, not so different from the pools of light directed at the stone faces of the holy. Up front stands Jesus, a headful of brown dreadlocks. He appears to be sweating, caked with a layer of dust as if back from a day of working in the fields. He faces the benches left of the aisle, the dozing nomads. To the right, a pious Mary, ashen blonde curls enhancing the paleness of her features. She wears a crown and faces the few who have chosen to come here this morning. She faces a man looking ahead, his palms facing upwards. She faces a redhead in a business suit. She faces a Chinese man with high cheekbones and prominent shoulder blades, visible under a maroon T-shirt. He sits behind the upward-palmed man. They may never speak to each other, but in the spiritual realm, they connect at a level that doesn’t need words. She faces me, a non-believer, sitting in the back, notebook in hand, observing the connections and contradictions in this vast room that smells of wooden floor boards.

Jesus, the story goes, said Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. This church reminds me how applicable that is to everyone here. Life is about bouncing from one meal to the next, and if you have that covered, from one job to the next, or one person to the next. We have spun our own webs of desire and now we’re stuck. Perhaps religion helps some people escape that. I choose another route, one where my experiences – not those of some mythical, virtuous superhuman – dictate my experiences. If I have a problem, my actions alone can fix it, not the love that a candle’s light spreads. In this church, a house of prayer, I see a powerful story coming alive. I see beauty in the stained glass windows framing the walls – a kaleidoscope of orange, blue, and surprising bits of lime green. I see discipline in the mental and physical rituals some participate in. I respect that. And yet this is a facade – a thin veil that shrouds the immense business acumen of religion, its franchising power, its replicability. Like a virus, its growth can not be curbed. My mind is free of this infection but damaged from other ones. To believe in something you’ve never seen is remarkable. I walk up the aisle, knowing that the memory of this visit will fade, and the stillness of solitude is temporary. That is my reality.

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