A pleasing serenity juxtaposed
against what looks like pompous battle scenes
blabbermouth teens, like gloating warriors,
bestride heavily prancing steeds,
galloping north, then going south,
armed with a resilience stout.
My mind is overcrowded with memories,
unspooling ceaselessly .
Shriveled memories having survived buffetings and storms,
fretful disappointments, chaos and confusion,
now all a- twinkle , crinkling in merriment .
There they nestle, unfading.
More precious than Persian rugs,
or rare artefacts of antique silver,
they glow in the dark, stark naked, shorn of all artifice,
overshadowed by toothless grins,
one of my granny, one my own,
as I , a restless toddler sat in her lap,
happy in every small bone.
Now, the memory sits unmoving,
as though carved in stone.
Often tossing and turning in bed,
I hear a mélange of sounds.
The winds are bloated with myriad songs,
ranging from ‘times they are a changin,’
to slivers of ‘yesterday once more’,
ah, the ‘sunshine on my shoulders’ still
‘makes me happy.” It really does.
The clock dutifully ticks away,
I hear the rustle of the night
as it picks up the hem of its dark skirts,
gingerly traipsing away making place for a new day,
which comes cracking,
tactfully sending the night packing,
bundling away its golden accessories,
to unpack again after a few hours.
As the dawn dabs a roseate streak
upon the edge of the sky,
traveling upon the puffed up wings of the wind,
I hear the incessant serenades of the waves
from a land I left behind,
purring its incessant melody like a stroked kitten.
A deep lassitude covers me from head to toe,
and lo and behold!
I morph into a tiny lyrical note of that music,
a forgotten fragrance nudging me into remembrance,
a limp effervescence.
But I wonder why, the sunshine in my eyes makes me cry
as I hear the happy chuckle of a toddler,
and watch him trying to grasp the sunbeams
and gobble them up.
The water was rising, rising.
The air whistled, and the ship swallowed the water,
with a furious sputter.
What was that? The startling sound of a raging torrent?
Shouts and screams, frenzied mutterings.
A roaring cataract?
Were we sinking in some deep abyss?
Brains were shattered, thoughts confused.
Was this the end of the world?
We were drowning, drowning.
The water rose to the bunks
and stopped there.
Were we saved? Faces lit up, a light kindled.
Parched throats croaked, choking on their own saliva,
“A swig, a swig,
not of brandy or vodka,
but plain drinking water, please.”
Quivering hands groped for the pitcher,
brows creased in anticipation.
Ah, the ministering angel healed parched lips.
The lingering echoes of the fog horn were drowned
as the strings of an invisible mandolin
miraculously twanged and scattered a merry roulade.
“Do not go gentle into that good night.”
You beseeched your dad; so did I.
“Burn and rave’, you exhorted, so did I.
‘Rage, rage, you pleaded; your plea went unheeded.
The night came.
You reminisced about your Christmas in Wales
Yes, you wanted to snowball the cats, wearing socks;
Shocked I was when Mrs. what was her name, shouted ‘Fire!’
What a liar, she was, shouting fire when there was none.
Mrs Prothero , was she ? And her son, Jim or was it Tim?
But it was great fun, your Christmas in Wales.
‘Bring out the tall tales’, you wrote, and I quote.
Ah, it was indeed a tall tale; a lovely song.
She shouted fire and beat the dinner gong.
What was wrong?
Was she crazy? Ah, my memory is hazy.
Your Welsh Christmas was choc-a bloc with presents,
slinking and sidling, spitting and snarling cats,
postmen, and uncles playing the fiddle, singing Drake’s Drum,
and one aunt merrily lacing her tea with rum!
‘Rage, rage,’ your words were a scream
yanked from the depth of an anguish, extreme.
But no poem, no plea can save a dad.
In hindsight, this I understand.
The night comes, nonetheless.
So does Christmas every year.
I quietly creep into the nostalgia
of your childhood Christmas in Wales
when my heart bewails the memory of another dad
too weak to put up a fight against the dying of the light.
The night comes with a painful intensity.
And Death’s dominion reigns, you see.
Relentless rattle of battle all around,
shards and shrapnel abound.
Under a battered tree
a lost robin, with a wounded leg,
hobbles on, scavenging, rummaging
picking up twigs,
frantic eyes searching for her lost world.
Amid the roar and crash of belligerence,
the rumble of troops,
gaping shell holes, and lusty war cries
she crumbles, frightened,
a pair of hawks circling overhead.
Undeterred, a skylark pours forth
a lyric of ecstatic jubilation,
filling the gaping shell holes.
The robin also brightens, gearing up
to rebuild her shattered nest.
The rattle of battle prattles on,
a babbling incoherence.
Come, let us lace up our hiking footwear;
[strap a set of spikes on to our shoes, fret not].
The trails are slick, and it is freezing cold;
pray, is that what hinders you?
Fear of avalanches? Fear of slipping?
Fear of the turbulent wind ripping
your skin off your fragile frame?
Oh, come on, fret not.
Look at those luscious landscapes,
gently undulating hills, thrilling us no end.
Let your eyes scour the scintillating snowscapes.
Winding pathways, meandering endlessly.
What did you just mutter?
Stop stuttering; banish that clutter from your mind.
Come there, hold my hand, and let us climb higher.
Foggy, is it?
Come, let us sit on this log for a while,
till the fog disappears.
Oh, forget the croaking frogs.
[They are just attention seekers]
Ah, that is a beautiful creek. So serene.
Look, do you see that staircase to a new world?
That faint outline in the fog?
Come, let us hold hands and ascend those stairs
One by one.
One by one, let us touch those peaks.
Look at that sliver of hope, groping,
loping towards us, trying to embrace us
in its sanguine warmth.
See, we are almost there.
How will it come?
Humming a song or flashing a blood splattered grin?
With a sudden fall, or the incredible thrill following
the penning of that final word?
Perhaps with the first trill of the early morning bird?
A slip in the washroom; on a cold day or hot?
Sitting by the lake, admiring the snowflakes?
Hoolahooping through life, or playing a fife,
may be merrily mouthing a mediocre rhyme
slicing through the strife?
Hush! Is that the gas leaking?
Someone’s anger peaking?
A banshee wailing or someone shrieking?
Let me rest for a while, come not now,
let me mop the sweat on my bow…brow, I mean
[oh, these damn typos!]
Let Death be just a typo; Let me go
Yes, till then, let me go with the flow.
While vacationing in the Alps or on a world cruise?
During a midnight tryst with a guitarist tending to his bruises.
When I am working on my breathing,
trying mind -soothing techniques to revitalize my life,
will I stop breathing then?
But at the moment, jauntily assured,
I breathe on blissfully, into another morn.
Hey, let me decide what to cook for dinner.
Oh come on, wipe that ghastly grin, I am no sinner.
Stealthily, on cat feet, come let us meet then, you and I
in sun- sheathed-spaces, when I am done with all the races.
Keeping pace, with the footfalls of snow,
showing exemplary equanimity and grace.
Till then, [when exactly?]
Let me play my role with flair and conviction.
Oh, Death, spare me your theatrics!
Let me tend to this crick in my neck.
What the heck! It pains!
Till the time, I am set free,
let me sink back into this domain of unfreedom.
Till then… [When exactly?]
Lying on the bed, eyes fixed on the hands of
I am an outsider, shadow- boxing with my stalking demons.
Soon open war replaces the shadowboxing.
My demons cackle at their vile power of shackling me
with impunity; they pounce at flat- footed me,
slicing me with mind- boggling bravado.
Woe is me!
But with the first stirring of dawn , they hastily
pack their ammunition in rucksacks,
slinging them over their shoulders , and are gone ,
leaving me, battered and bruised, licking my wounds;
while they hide in crannies , sharpening their weapons,
the fire of vengeance raging still,
encaged in their breasts,
stoked by the December chill.
From behind the clouds,
a diffident sun peers at the raindrops falling to the ground.
Feisty and frolicsome, they are on a roll.
Is the sun just slothful, a little under the weather?
Or just sitting on the fence?
Look there ,it comes back in a fiery new avatar,
the raindrops quiver, quickly hunkering down on shining leaves.
Just a moment back, they had created magic,
they had created music.
Now they lie quiescent, like brats
at the appearance of the teacher.
In a burst of energy,
a lapwing races forth on its stilt – like legs,
and trips on the rain- drenched ground,
regains its footing; retraces its steps, limping.
Its frantic eyes hunt for the pebble
that had dared to hinder its stroll.
Exuberance regained, its chirps are now a high-pitched treble.
” Pee- wit – pee wit , it says , as if trying to prove some point .
Bemused, I listen to its valiant effort
trying to drown the shrill rhetoric
holding sway, everywhere.
A sunbeam travels down to play with a stray cat
drenched in the rain.
The cat, purrs delightedly, glowing
in the warmth of a perfect day.
Yes, I am talking of that memory
which comes again and again
Again and still again, it comes,
humming those long forgotten songs.
Nestling snugly inside a dream, it shivers.
The gull flies overhead, was it feeling cold?
I wonder, blundering forward.
The sun was a miser hiding its gold.
A heavily clad fisherman breaks into a huge grin
as he pulls out a stout trout from the Lidder*.
“See, see, how huge it is!”
His eyes say, but my eyes are fixed on something
equally huge- a boulder.
Ah, the green thatched hut is still there.
Is it really the same? Unchanged?
Furtively, I walk forward, and slip a cold hand under the boulder.
The cottage smiles knowingly, as I pull out
a memory chunk,
[ah, it is still warm].
The fisherman had just hooked another trout.
He was happy too, sheathed in a warm smile ,
defying the cold November chill.
* Lidder is a 73 km long river in Kashmir, India