The Drunkard of Pattinson Rd.

On the radio, something from the 1950s.
You know immediately when something’s from
the 1950s—the hesitancy of voice, the ire
of age; the innocence, nothing more than
a photograph wrapped in quatrain, left
to the whims of verses dipped in fire.

In a city, its eyes the roar of minarets,
I try and trace the passage of love. Lafz,
spoken and swallowed by air or left behind
in the moodiness of books. The words, broken,
bitten and chewed and memorised to heart,
these shy fragments of fractal perfection.

Ardour meanders like the waywardness
of the weather—Gauhar Jaan’s soliloquys,
exhumed, dipped in the nasha of aged Shiraz.
Love is this land’s rich lineage, ink and mythos,
blood, an autumnal empire of things being
beautiful, if only to burn, and some day,
in the lap of auroras, be born again.

I follow the trail of love into neighborhoods
where stanzas line the streets—some the
draped playfulness of Urdu, some the crisp
decoration of Hindi, some the sweetened
kiss of Bangla—dancing my way through
rosewater fountains and gardens bisected in
fours, my dreams by now bisected in halves.

A night, its veins ripped apart. A splinter
of Khusrau, splitting the stillness of time.
This land’s umbilical marks, its legacies
opulently reaped; my inquest of love, now
dowsed in the strange fruit of attar, lune,
and the crescent of uninhabited things.

I carry the overture with me, a 1950s
dream, holding a composition of desire
and Ghalib’s wounded lunacies. I shall
continue my search as long as the song
continues to play. The hesitancy of voice;
the ire of age. This heart bound to the
mischief of air. Dil-e-Nadan tujhe hua kya hai…


Should You Ever Leave the Aegean

The seventh day of August is when
the weather turns. I can hear it in
the stillness, that temporary pause
in the love affair, before the final
departure of disco-pink tourists,
and in time, the undressing.

In this foreign air, in the spasms
of this foreign light, I taste Ghalib;
in the screaming hedonism of his
ghazal, in time, his kindred—Hafez.
I rescue three birds of Sufi; soon,
their promiscuous melodies will have
torn hawthorn-shaped enigmas
in the arrogance of the sky.

Laila is in her blue longing. I miss
her already, all sherbet lips and songs
of strange delights. In time, farewells
brewed in the darkened charisma of
unknown languages. The drenched
telegrams of dreams written and
posted, but never to arrive.

I bite into a poem, allow its tangy
melodrama to fill my sclera. Lungful
of an orphaned chrysalis. There will
be a boat at seven, departing from
the placenta of two ruined continents.
All love is crumpled newspapers.
A newspaper-boat, with a man
stranded within it. This song will
fathom the sea. In blue. In time.


Desiderata, Times Two

Lie, stir. After a while, our bodies are paintings—
carefully composed limbs, a smidgeon of unexpected
light. I lie on her lap, reading from Sylvia Plath.
She speaks of broken things, of tissue and thirst,
translucence, of days lashed with a silent gnawing,
written into the silences of my lover’s book—its
gathering of underlined lines and forgotten leaves.

I wish we could capture certain afternoons and
store them in casks or drawers. Sure, we have
memory, but it might still be worthwhile to have
something whose uncasking or undrawing sends
reverberations into the vulnerabilities of our skin
—an arousal, in stanzas; the inflection of opera.
The tenor, each measure, an errant surge in serif.

Shadows shift about in restlessness. Cadenza,
ravenous for finale, where even touch feels like
tremor, the torment of taste. Perfumed, her
sighs, with the kissed transference of some more
Sylvia Plath. I move the drapes and breathe
in the sea—the lighthouse to the east, reminding
me of home, of how almost everything lies east.

Impious lips; these afternoons of fermented olives
and whispering candelabra, burn, breathlessly lit.
As a boy, I thought you’d be safe, as long as you
could get yourself to a lighthouse. We are the myths
we swallow, its finely-seasoned inconsistencies.
I lick her language and inhale her hair, hoping
against hope, that I can get myself to a lighthouse.


Note: ‘The Drunkard of Pattinson Rd’ and ‘Desiderata, Times Two’ appear in the author’s upcoming collection of poetry, A Moveable East (Red River).

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