Here’s wishing you a happy and tragic pre-and-post New Year’s Day

Dearly beloved,

We are gathered here to mourn this showy pretense we call a ‘New Year’, or ‘2018’, and celebrate with false euphoria, only seemingly increasing dopamine levels, exchanging ‘hugs’ or ‘hearts’ or ‘cuddles’ or ‘emoticons’ or ‘virtual E-Cards’ or ‘Hallmark Cards,’ the last, if you’re old-fashioned for a day, and decide that it’s worth the effort to drag yourself to that rustic bookstore that Kindle has replaced, and then go on and on about the smell of books, and the flavor of nouns and verbs jumping from the page straight to your heart or mind, tantalizing and enlightening you. So we, here, have enough experiential insight to know that it’s better to wish you a happy pre-New Year’s day and a tragic post-New Year’s day, because I guess we’re slightly sadistic watching you, using our mind’s eye to see you make your resolutions. I will…I will…I will…and then watch with a smug grin as each thing you tick off is stricken off the very next day, and you’re left hopeless. Then you’ll perhaps resort to stringing pills together like poetic alliteration (uncannily, unyieldingly, unbendingly) and think you’ll sleep easy, but wake up stupid and walk around in a stupor and perhaps never recover. Or, you’ll decide to take that machismo path; go to a bar, shoot some tequila and shake your head, and then walk straight out while people look at you in wonder increasing your false-ego, before heading for a gutter and puking your guts out. Or, you’ll feel the loneliness seeping from the sidewalks and buildings and the muted-ashen weather, and yes the inspiration for the last sentence is from a book by J.M. Coetzee called ‘Youth’, and you’ll find it on page 52 and the context is about a dreamer with vaguely erotic, unrealistic expectations, finding himself losing grip as life catches up. And yes, that’s just the micro-context, but the macro-context with the jargon of theory is best left to the critics. And yes, I’m making a point here: Do not quote without context. Anyhow, I’m going off tangent, and letting my straight path of consciousness take an unnecessary turn, and so, I’ll get back. You could also decide to take to cough syrup and an antispasmodic, the low-high, I think it’s called a ‘downer’, but what do I know, before you fight more muscle spasms and wheezing. Anyhow, whatever you do is your prerogative, we’re busy shedding fake-tears for you with all the fake-warmth the universe or cosmos can provide, and writing ‘2018’ on a ripped off sheet from a notebook and placing it in a miniature coffin, and burying it both literally and figuratively. Please do feel the need to share your experiences of plotting excuses, breaking promises, or other morbid realities with us. We are not the stars and cannot shine our light, or the split moon with its cadence, or the sun with its exotic warmth, but we’ll listen and switch off.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2017)

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India (An opinion)

i feel like an anachronistic,
anomaly trapped in
your cultural complications,
complexities,
apartheid of a deeper tone:
casteism, classification,
a maelström of labels,
tearing down the creaky
gate of the chapel, the shrine
of offerings, the emerald palace,
and individuality sacrificed
for a superficial semblance of
collectivism, and I won’t deny,
that some gatherings
with choirs, carols, chimes
seemingly invigorated me
until I realized that it’s (Hyper?)
Calvinistic
fundamentalism instigating,
unsettling, unnerving,
spewed using a Pharisaic
hypocrisy, but it’s the same…
the same…everywhere, everyday,
“Oh, he has a beard! He’s dangerous!”
Or, “Oh, so you’re divorced,” said
slyly with a lopsided repugnance, or,
“Remove your slippers please,” said
with a plastic smile, teeth like fucking
Chiclets, struggling, but betraying
that you’re beneath their dignity,
and now blood, while puppets,
charlatans dangling on
strings of political injustice,
the hounds from hell
without a leash
bark, bite, chew, chomp
no, I’m not from the West,
I’ve never been there,
I’m brown-skinned to the bone,
and I haven’t said it
directly because of
the other camp that pitches it tent
with crude sticks, and a saffron
too bright, checking if I smoke five…
ten…twenty cigarettes…
a little too conservatively,
and what of my poetic influences:
holding Olds’ eroticism and Pamuk’s
ode to Turkey together, a contrast,
a juxtaposition, in the same mind which
isn’t a matrix, but uncanny
perception?
what of the love I make to an older woman?
the neo-classical
shredding without a sitar I like?
and Snarky Puppy that’s playing
now, as I write these lines, odd-time,
no 4/4, free flow, rhyme with
no structured beat?
what of it? Some understand,
but most need a one-dimensional
(thought) dissection, which is
why I sometimes take my vacation,
because the peaks don’t speak,
squeak, seek and definitely
don’t sneak.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2017)

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Natalie

I often think of
time, its paradoxes,
non-linearly, when I
think of you, broken,
fractured into shards,
before you evolved,
and then chastised,
castigated, criminally
misunderstood when
your mistakes taught
you, they say, you get
what you deserve, but
I ask if you deserve
what you get, I ask if
that pain inflicted, when
you’re writhing in the throes
of an abusive childhood
are the welts of a later
dysfunctionality, degeneracy,
youth flushed down a toilet,
for the mess we become,
perhaps that’s how time
thinks, a door finitude
cannot open, you came to me,
drunk, after he left you, and I
said no, but then came again,
alluring, attractive, regaining
control, and I’ll be vain enough
to say I looked great too, and must
poetry describe each hushed
cadence to the beauty of each
felt or unfelt touch, electrifying,
invigorating, revitalizing, but
then you flipped your coin and
left India, riddled with corruption,
and I’m stuck, sitting in this car,
punching poetry on my phone,
seeking, yearning for
a place, a space, with or without
you, away from the rhetoric and
political truth that slaps me everyday,
and I can’t help but think of you.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2017)

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Ambiguity

When I last met sister,
her reality was a Kafkaesque,
disjointed, dysfunctional,
nightmare that gave me no
respite, rest, recess, I wanted
to let her pain sink in, empathize,
or at least sympathize, she lay on
a park bench, muttering, stuttering,
stammering, falling short,
“I’m…just…a…fucking…w..aste
of vo..lu..me,” she said Prozac
ridden, her hazy eyes,
speaking more than prescription,
“Turn…me…d..o..w..n, s..t..a..t..i..c,”
she said, but I couldn’t leave her
in that weedy reality, riddled with scraps,
paunched men staring at her
like she was a whore, ready to prance,
pounce, prey, and that litter stinks more
than the debris in the outskirts
of this seemingly cosmopolitan, dark
eye-liner, dark red lipshade façade
that only people who know India smell,
and you can call it a messiah complex,
a Jack Shephard need to save, and yes,
I have a similar tattoo on my arm, or a
pseudo-Samaritan need to fake-help,
or just love, but I picked her up, despite
my nonchalance which soon splintered
into tears, a heart of shattered stars,
carried her home, with my little
lean muscle, and told her
there is no mute, or a tuneless
song, but a new dawn, day, a spark,
a speck of hope, and she listened,
drifting in and out of consciousness,
but soon walked away, dissipating, dissolving,
disappearing again, and I hope with all
my heart that she found a place
with her name engraved on a
good man’s heart, and not on
a pothole reeking of addiction,
where she’ll be a target without
a need for an aim, and that shakes,
splits my core, with a jagged,
rough-edged knife, because I may
never be able to save her again.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2017)

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More than words

I need you to look for the deeper semantic,
beneath the minty sapphire peaks, layered and
layered in a soft mist, only hinting at you,
because even nature’s screen, that cascades
gently is palpable, but you’re (im)palpable,
and I say that because you’re heard, felt even
when you’re unheard, unfelt, and words
spoken on a page only allude to this connection
we’re feeling, leaving us reeling, so electrifying,
but words read slowly, meaningfully, quietly
with the cadence of the moonlight,
the rhythm of the skipping heart
will carry you to me
in a way that only (we) know

So, when doubts and uncertainties, leave you
thinking and thinking, unbearable, undying
know that I’m longing and longing for
all that’s implacable, insatiable, subdued,
distinct and I’m yearning and yearning
for more than something trite,
and I’m falling and falling for
what syllables on a page will never give
justice, and I’m loving and loving all that’s you.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2017)

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A portrait

Well, I’ve known him from school and I’ll admit that he was natural. He did win a writing competition besting me with the sharpest prose. But later, he quit writing altogether and took to another field that never suited him. A field filled with theocratic therapists and pseudo-scientists trying to decipher cryptogenic minds with cryptic jargon, and abstract laconic sentences: Wrestling with creativity and trying to stuff it into a box, before crumpling it and tossing it into a wastebasket of indifference. I guess that got to him, because he couldn’t fit into one particular genre of ‘thought’ and he eventually quit, picked up a pen and started writing again. But doggerels of years, forced him to re-learn all that he’d forgotten, and I guess in that sense he taught himself how to write. The irony was that he sat in the patient’s chair, listening to a therapist prescribing him with machine gun doses of anti-depressants, anxiolytics, mood stabilizers and anti-psychotics. He initially speckled his poetry with the softest tears of naïvety, but I’ve learned now that he is his biggest critic, his biggest judge and that might be both an axe and a box of treasures. He eliminated his writings once he got popular, tried getting off the medication, and tried religion, but a certain doctrine from Geneva haunted more than it ever saved. And then began a period in his life which no hermeneutic will ever explain. I mean, if you need a guide to try to decipher the Cantos, then books or quotes will never suffice interpreting him! The last we met, I was balding, struggling with similar side-effects (albeit to a lesser degree) and I tried setting him up with a girl who was seven years older. He said, “I’ll think about it,” and that right there is the problem. He did date her eventually, but he probably thought twice before making love to her, and wondered if passion will lead to something that lasts or if it will fizzle out. And so, he gave up on her, and thought about everything, except when he wrote, because then something strikes like lightning, and it just spills on a page, a verbal vomit that strangely has structure, but I guess it’s better if he thinks and pours out syllables on a page, stringing together alliteration, drawing from every other eclectic source, and the suicidal aspects of his own life, because when he ghosts away, that’s when he suffers the most. I mean that’s when he gives into utter madness. He once walked on the street at two in the night, tried gouging out his eyes, stepped on thorns, and came back home completely befuddled and disoriented. He thought it was penance. Fortunately, some slight wand of fate always prevents him from going the distance. And then he’s back to writing, stitching together pieces, and it seems like each time he disappears and comes back, he gets better at what he does. I always thought sorrow is the muse that makes a few, but I guess I’m wrong; it’s inner torture. And from what I read, I thought his writing parallels Perrin Aybara’s life, very moralistic and will go to any length for art, but it doesn’t. It’s definitely not Matrim Cauthon because you won’t find him frequenting bars and writing bard poetry, even though he says that’s his favorite character from the series. No it’s Rand, starting naïve, and then judging himself and letting his anger flare though each line, before finally struggling to break free, and walking into a new age. But then that’s a series. I think by now everybody knows that artistry and life are disconnected. But strangely you have Facebook pages devoted to pulling a quote out of context, with a picture of a person falling from the sky, and benighted criticism is something that the world now says, “Be Knighted!” But the truth is this, when you’re young and your writing is an imitation, the mature poets will pat you on the back, and when you’re good and flipping reality, they’ll hate you. I guess I’m flipping a quote out of context by T.S. Eliot myself! Anyhow, he’s back on his medication, and writing to survive, and I read from a distant land with a wife that I often hate, and a son that I love, and I’m glad as long as he thinks and reads and thinks, and then writes, because if he vanishes, I’ll have to call immediately and find out that he’s done something terrible to himself again, and I don’t want that.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2017)

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Danse macabre

So you’re here at last, though I’ll admit I was expecting something a little more extravagant. I mean the clichéd black cowl, robe and skull face are things we’ve pulled from the screen don’t you think? Or maybe I’m wrong. Great, so, you’re mute too. I guess we can’t distinguish fact from reality in this (de) centered universe. So, I’ll just let my rambling continue while you listen, and then do what you have to. I guess it was the cigarettes. I mean I did try the other more modern variety, but I couldn’t figure it out. Hawaiian cherry cream mint, poured into a plastic chalice of sorts, before you fine-tune settings, and I’ll admit that gooey stuff is just as disgusting as the flavor. So what do you want me to do? Write you a sonnet or a villanelle. I never did figure out the modern sestina, and the traditional one takes hours. Or do you want a confession? You won’t say? Fine, I guess I hypocritically called out the people who romanticize a (bi) polar reality, when I romanticized you. And as far as torture is concerned, well I think I’ve alluded enough to tell them what haunts. Hell, I’ve even stated it directly in some places, and some inquisitive enough will read! I mean, I tried, but some things I have no answer for. I doubt most theologians do. Anyhow, I guess I’m thankful that I was able to patch things up with mother, father (albeit to a certain degree), the ex, and a few friends. I’ve realized that interpreting someone is tougher than interpreting some of the toughest modernism! Insight, instinct and reason are distorted, or must I use the other word? Nah, that’ll be hypocrisy. Fighting fascism alone is a joke, and fighting it with a clique of writers is a bigger joke, and joining politics is flat-out criminal. I think you’ll agree. Well, anyhow, wield the scythe. Wait! You’re gone again! See, this is exactly the reason, I kill off a non-existent wife, or brother, or friend in my poems!

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2017)

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