Blue eyes, pupils dilating to the fire creeping
up the cigarette butt,
sickly yellow hair, swaying in the harsh blonde
Lines on the face, canyons hewn by rapids
over the century’s bends,
Calvin Palmer, while still alive, wandered the xueyuan’s
corridors like a Dybbuk
trying to follow rules defining space and smoke,
honored by the natives only in the breach.
While still alive, he often remembered
the chilly morning he interviewed
the Grateful Dead (on the best day of his life)
or the day he had covered princess Di’s visit
to his little town or the washed out county
Viv Richards was to have played.
Mostly, he skipped over his stay
at Beijing and the visit to the Great Wall
that never happened during his Exile. No plans.
And no regrets
about making do with just nihao and zaijian
till his end.
The Black Dog
Whenever he barked back
at the German Shepherd or the Pomeranian – tied to their sleeplessness
and empty dinner bowls – my brother,
would often remark that he was, in reality
a dog trapped inside the human body, though,
on very drunk nights, he went belly dancing
like no dog or man ever would/could.
Fire crackers scared him
And he hated the cricket ball.
Late one night, returning from a scrounging trip
to keep the liquor flowing
at someone else’s bachelor party – cheap and hosted
on a borrowed terrace littered with plastic cups
and KF Strong emptys – I found him lying
on a kutty yanai, gaze fixed on a canine silhouette
in the distance. He drank two more
Rounds, on resuming, and cried in earnest
before throwing down the cup that wouldn’t mark
its respect by shattering into pieces,
“Why did that black dog laugh at me?”
P.S: Kutty yanai – meaning little elephant is slang for the mini van with a open trolley/carriage used for moving goods within short distances
In our colony, all dogs eventually came to be called as Mani.
The numbered suffixes often forgotten,
the canine empire, on paper, suffered
no sunsets to the King’s name.
Three of the Manis
that led the pack at different points
in time traced their roots
to Doti (short for Dog like Tiger), the half blood
Combai, which preferred freedom
and the neighbor’s chicks to my mother’s vegetarian
recipes. Doti did occasionally return to his
original masters, if only to taste
a morsel of palaiya sadham and pacha molaga or to retrieve
the rubber ball from Mary teacher’s house (with biblical verses written on its compound wall)
when someone hit six and outin the game we played
in the vacant plot marked by the surveyor’s stones – cemetery to
the property boom that was to have visited the colony
a score years back , and later, to Doti himself, the first Mani
to die of rabies and buried hush hush before we returned from
vacation to hear the story of his mysterious disappearance.