When I met you, looked deep into those black-velvety eyes,
I knew I found my muse, a Blue jay: ashen, muted grief,
steel-blue quietude, and a mosaic brilliance concealed
except when you glided with your poetry, the Cherry
Blossom tunnel I walked through all those years, stooped, no
longer seemed dreary, and as I read between the lines
you wrote, knowing you and finding me in those spaces,
I stopped and looked up at the steeple of the old Methodist
Chapel at twilight in that quiet cul-de-sac not far from
where we lived, and looked at creation waltzing
with stern architecture with her golden auburn feet,
like you’d put it, I stood there and waited for nightfall
and for once looked at the stars in that simple
yet transcendent way you saw them and I felt
the beauty only you could capture,
but life has this uncanny knack of separating us from the people
we hold most dear: often they move away slowly like
glaciers and that hurt ebbs with time, but sometimes they’re
taken from us in ways we never fathomed and that grief
flows through our veins like lava, burning with reminiscence:
an indomitable regret, I should have done more, maybe
just a gentle hold of that cascading brown hair, or a soft
kiss at dawn, reminding you that I loved you enough,
I should have read deeper and found that though your
verse reflected love, there were these undercurrents of
hopelessness threatening to drown you, I should have
fought harder, but these words are silent sighs now,
just wistful hope like the Minister of the church gave me
when he said, “God took her in that dark way,” but he
wasn’t there when I came home and saw that diagonal
slash, the red puddle that still stains sleepless nights,
he didn’t hear my shaking plea for grace, and he didn’t
see the last love poem I ever wrote fighting both volatile anger
and calamitous sorrow: those last scribbles on a sheet
in which I enclosed the ring I gave you, placing a
pearl back in an oyster shell, and laid it on the brown
coffin, trying futilely to let everything fade.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

In a quest for freedom, I opened the dusty black book of floods and lepers and nail-pierced wounds, but all I saw were Luciferin apparitions terrorizing, haunting and controlling me, making me walk under the sliced moonlight, stepping on thorns and attempting to gouge my eyes out — a penance for the apostate.

In a quest for freedom, I declared, ‘God is dead,’ and ensconced myself in free-spirited nihilism: The absolute freedom of a mote of dust in a universe with no dogmatic, wrathful Sovereign, but I still felt shallow, my bones hollow, devoid of a rich marrow, and I, a fragile, fickle-minded, breakable man journeyed on asphalt while my skin slowly melted because of the existential radiation and all they saw was a skeleton nearing an Ozymandian end in a desert with an epitaph saying, ‘Here lies one who succumbed to the illusion of absolute freedom and the inanity of life. He thought he’d walk like a Sartrean entity spooning purposelessness, but instead, the void within devoured him and he became a Dostoevskian cliché, riddled with doubts and forever confined.’

In a quest for freedom, I sought the black carriage with horses on fire. I swallowed thirty anxiolytics and hoped the dark would embrace me, but the dread of not knowing what comes after made me induce vomiting, the pills floating in the commode like pearls in brown ditch-water and I, numbed and nauseated feared a complete psychic breakdown of the senses or a retardation.

In a quest for freedom, I sought lovers and friends, bedding women and smoking pot with men, but guilt-plagued, I wandered corridor after corridor in my dusty apartment, my thoughts like maggots feeding on decaying flesh — condemning, infuriating and chastising me. I tried justifying my beatnik hedonism, but a deluge of self-loathing bathed me in putrid crimson. Woe to a man who says good is evil and evil good. O, Isaiah! Must you torment me so? Placing my soul in a Sicilian Bull and roasting me until I shriek, mutilated with charred flesh and vesicles.

In a quest for freedom, I wrote and wrote on Facebook seeking cyber reinforcement and validation. ‘Heed my lines,’ I bellowed like an archetypal Jeremiah, but postmodern virtual Israel like the real one didn’t listen and only mocked and bullied. ‘He’s a madman, best avoid him,’ they whispered, and sadly will find no wrath for their taunts which only makes me a false prophet. I immolated myself writing dark confessionals or let raw satire scald the page, but the eyes that read them had no irises, or misinterpreted my lines and made me the killer. O Society! Must you buttfuck me without Vaseline so!

In a quest for freedom, I expanded my mental horizons reading book after book, I purged out my naïvety, but I learned that ecclesiastical adages speak truth: More knowledge brings more sorrow and what happens will happen again and the dead stay dead. The sun rises and sets, the moon’s cadence changes with each fortnight, the living toil and labor. Benighted arrogance leads to acceptance in a world of suits and glory hounds and fame whores, but it’s too late for me. I can’t undo what I searched and found.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

Originally published in The Junction 

There’s a void within me, slowly expanding, engulfing and eating me, bit by bit until I’m a cadaver, a hollow man, devoid of emotion, catatonic, a doggerel scribbled in the void — meaningless, useless, purposeless.

I’ve ambled along potholed roads with a ditch on either side, passed the ramshackle huts in India where the poor shit in the open, I’ve smoked the cheapest cigarettes with no filter and gazed at this crude, godforsaken land, asking the gods for a revolution, a pacifistic one of change and beauty, but then a stone fist smashed my nose in, rebuking me for my idealism.

I’ve sought a mystical union with the Lord, and for a while, I knew love and peace, but my Quixotism deconstructed me again. Perhaps I should have bowed at the Gibranian altar of swords and crucifixes and love laying you bare, stripping you and chastising you that you may know her and yourself and not the Corinthian one of blinding white light.

I’ve sought women, and embodying A.D.I.D.A.S (the Korn song, not the shoe) gave me epicurean pleasure. The hedonistic thrill of smoking pot with her and then unhooking her bra before placing breathy kisses down her neck and spine and then undoing her jeans and pulling them off. I was my god in those actualities with girlfriends or fantasies with women who caught my attention. I still hook up with someone from my past from time to time, but something’s missing. Maybe it’s a higher, superlunary greedy orgasm that I seek, and hell, I verge on blasphemy when I speak about seraph and seed, but the self-loathing brews within and I need a release. The pot feels shitty too.

I’ve sought mindfulness, and the four noble truths and the eightfold path but it’s too dogmatic and legalistic, just like every religion (even those that don’t claim to be) is. Not thinking and breathing I cannot do when seven streams of thought juxtapose, creating something like avant-garde jazz in my addled mind. I crave a minimalistic gentle uni-directional blue stream, but I get river rapids and steep waterfalls and floods of thought branching into every area of my consciousness and its antipodes. I’m drowning, the waters bursting my psychic lungs and there is no Dolphin coming to my rescue or seamen pulling me on deck.

I’ve sought the authoritarian and the existential psychiatrists. The former, yelling at me for being a 30-year-old Caulfield, urging me to come out of unemployment and ‘snap’ out of depression and find the conformists’ path of a ‘steady job’, a ‘steady income’, a steady fucking wife’, and ‘steady fucking kids’. The latter, wrestling with my deep-seated hurt like a patient in the ICU wrestling with death, trying to ‘purge’ my demons before prescribing a blue, white and red pill.

So, here I am in the throes of my dying youth, hoping, just hoping that it will never come to justifying a sacrificed passion like art for the sake of a castrated life.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

Originally published in The Creative Cafe 

I’ve never been to New Orleans and learned what little I know about the culture from HBO’s Treme. I do like jazz though. Now some jazz is inaccessible like abstract philosophy. You can only listen to it from a distance and wonder (in awe or repulsion) about what’s really going on. But play a Benny Goodman record and picture a cobbled street with decaying houses on either side and musicians playing despite the hardship and trial and you’ll soon weave poetry to the rhythm of the clarinet rushing in and slowly fading like an incandescent idea that erupts into stream of consciousness before  evaporating. I can see them now, under a blue sky, playing that old ragtime, creating those classic, tap-your-feet mellow melodies laced with a tinge of melancholia. Artists, just like you and me, struggling, moody and barely functional. Artists, given to booze, cigarettes and the occasional spliff, and a part of me just wants to watch them in solidarity and say, ‘The rum’s on me! To fucking peace on earth while the music still plays. To cigarette-scarred dry throats and husky voices. To sexy alto-saxophones and odd time signatures. To the little beauty left while the music still plays.’

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

For What Pegman Saw: New Orleans, Louisiana

I was drinking whiskey and smoking cigarette after cigarette in this lounge bar the other day. I didn’t pay any heed to the grotesque images on the packs. I already have corroded lungs with nicotine deposits that look like Styrofoam when you look at the X-rays. In a few years, they’ll be a deeper shade of grey with patches of brown like the ugly phlegm you spew out when you’re down with a terrible cold. I guess I stopped caring after a point in my life. I don’t know when it happened, but I’ve grown blissfully oblivious to bitter change and terrible circumstance. I’ll wake up only when it bites me in the arse. They had smooth jazz playing in the background, but it wasn’t loud. In fact, it was so faint that I could hear the drizzle outside. Rain slowly caressing the sidewalk and the cobblestones; forming shallow pools around them like little nooses. I saw her in the distance, smoking elegantly, which is a far cry from my continuous puffing and wheezing. She had side-swept hair and eyes both alluring and melancholic. A deep shade of brown that both packs a punch and retreats in some safe haven now and then. Now, I’m not the kind of guy who walks up to random women in bars, mostly because I’m shy and though I try hard to project some veneer of extraversion, I’m deeply introspective and poke my head into the ground like an ostrich the moment conflict threatens my identity. I wonder how they do it sometimes. Televangelists like Benny Hinn with all their theatrics and flourishes. Pushing people down; loudly, abrasively and aggressively slaying and praying in the wrong spirit. I’d shudder if you placed me in front of thousands of people and asked me to faith heal. I wouldn’t do it anyway, even if you paid me millions. I have a moralistic bend, and that’s probably another flaw of mine. But this time, I did it. I walked up to her. She looked at me with my wavy hair and beard with a lopsided grin. She then bit her lower lip and as I watched her closely, the sensual lure she possessed aroused me. She was drinking absinthe, and I sat beside her, magnetically drawn by some invisible force. We talked, and our conversation drifted from the weather to cigarettes to metaphysics to sex. She ruminated and did it hard like me. It was an habitual thing that made us both self-loathe, and that wasn’t the only thing we had in common. I forget to remember or remember to forget all the depth and profundity because I had just one night with her. We’d decided that nonchalantly sometime during the course of the evening. We walked home to her apartment in the rain, and once there we devoured each other with a untameable, animalistic lust. I remember tearing her clothes off and feeling each contour of her body and shivering and quivering and sighing and perhaps even sobbing. I knew what I had to do when the light crept through the curtains, and the songbirds sang their aubade though. I put my clothes on, walked to the slushy street and smoked a cigarette as I made my way home.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

From what I’ve gathered through the grapevine, he’s now a madman with a theological bend; a disenchanted raging lunatic who incessantly posts confessionals on Facebook. His black and white borderline obsession with God crippled him and now emotionally nomadic he clamors for a like just like a beggar harassing some passerby for change, and once one of his statuses gets one he deletes his account, only to return, months later. His statuses are dark and twisted (or so I’ve heard). He’s apparently so far gone that even if God stretched some cherubic arm out to wrench him out of the pit of depravity he’s stuck in, he wouldn’t succeed. It must be those shady pills he was apparently on in college. Antispasmodics and antihistamines. Trust me, that shit screws you up. It baptizes you in some murky river of self-loathing and soon you’ve lost all optimistic shades of consciousness. You become cryptic and self-indulgent; given to introspection about introspection; talking with a slur and eating with a drool. He messaged me yesterday; said, ‘Hey man. I haven’t seen you since school. Let’s meet and catch up.’ Apprehension passed through me like a dagger making its way slowly upwards through the intestines, rib-cage, and throat. Painful fucking fear. It’s only natural, isn’t it? The guy’s bloody Bipolar or something. He might just stab me in a fit of mania. I’ve heard stories of these loons picking up guns and thinking God’s appointed them to kill people. Crazy, deranged shit. So, I did the right thing that any perfectly functioning, normal man would do and didn’t respond. I still wonder how he got my number though. Technology is frightening in this postmodern world. I have these Luddite tendencies. I’m not on Facebook for that very reason. But I wrestle with my need for Instagram. I have a thousand followers there. I just can’t let go of them can I?

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

I often think of her, the orange tank top and jean,
chock-full of ideas, as she flips through the men
in her life, like the pages of a fashion magazine,
the bass throbs, and she dances
to the rhythm of rebellion with the
men who’d do anything for her, she crushes
hearts like plastic cups, letting essences
spill like soda without fizz on gravelly floors

I often hate her, the shallow acquiescence when
she returns home, the father an archetypal relic
of one-dimensional reasoning, the giving in
to passive control, chasing a will-o’-the wisp,
listening to a voice of ‘reasoning’ talking
about the broadened roads and the parks
with statues of heroes of culture, forgetting
the blood of voices unheard, asking me to look
her in the eye and admit that ions of
hypocrisy create my brown
skin and brownish black hair

I often like her, the sense of distancing herself
from silence that screams
and the pauses between speech that tears
by getting out there and finding her own
while pin-pricks of my self-loathing now
turn into cudgels, breaking me
over and again, synapses
dry, and the false euphoria of caffeine
and cigarettes doesn’t stimulate

But as I walked today, into the
old college that is now a university,
years after I dropped out,
the students with eclectic tastes
and points of view like different shades of jazz,
I found myself slowly tearing the nutshell
of chaos that I let myself be trapped in,
and whether I succeed in doing what I must
or not, I think I’ll often love her.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)