This is an image of a plane wreck floating on the sea. I've chosen it because it augments the nihilism which is the central theme of my poem

I write poems of myself, as if there is a point of writing.
I wake each morning to the sight of the ceiling fan,
as if there is a point to sleeping and waking.
I breathe the fresh air, as I walk to the rhythm of
the thrush, as if there is a point to breathing and walking.

What is existence, but the dregs of the past carried
by the illusion of tomorrow?
What is solace, but a myth punched in our skulls
using a societal pneumatic drill of ‘thinking positive
thoughts’ and ‘high self-esteem’?

I walk on a cracked road, strewn with dead leaves,
crushed paper cups and the stench of over-ripeness,
the road is broad and here and there I find a tavern
or a whorehouse that only elevates my guilt,
the road is barren except for a few humps
like an old hag with sagging tits,
the road has stark tress, fruitless and leafless
on both sides, menacing, haunting, monstrous,
hideous like wooden upright cadavers,
the road leads to a murky horizon, askew
and blurry, never telling me what awaits.

The stories I’ve known, I’ve shared with no one –
because ears hear, but they don’t hear at all –
and so, I trudge alone beneath the sun –
embracing seasons dying – the filth – fall –

I write songs of remembrance, as if recollection
abets salvation, memories or flashes of them
forming a false beatific vision, lasting an hour
before the mind’s uneasy, unsettled, untidy,

I write sonnets of love, as if I hold it in my heart,
which in truth is a headstone with an epitaph saying,
‘Here lies one unknown who died before he died,
here lies one obscure who never lived though he lived,
here lies one unseen who saw though he never saw.’

I write villanelles of ache, as if sorrow is the muse
that refines, coats hearts with the golden dew of
resilience, but my tears refuse to flood my eyes,
my pain has given way to apathy like that of a soldier who
first cries in sorrow over a dying friend before seeing
one too many fall and then desensitized and disillusioned
carries on.

I write prose both lyrical and anti-lyrical calling
the hyacinth layers of velvety tenderness or
calling it a myriad chopped off tongues stitched
together, but does it matter? I ask you, does it matter?

I can sing of myself, but I’m not myself.
I can rise to meet life, but I’ve never risen.
I can talk of rebirth, but I’ve never known birth.
I can talk of death, but I’m already gone.

And all this, the songs and their echoes,
the women and the cigarettes, the laughter
and the beer, the muted tears and the numbness,
the journey and the destination rises like
a monster with a scaly carapace, irises of fire,
a mouth with demonic teeth, sharp like needles,
four-footed, with vicious claws and wings with an
aura of a death-spirit, seeking to devour life, but
only to find itself thrown in the abyss,
only to find itself lost to obscurity and oblivion,
forgotten and erased.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

16 Replies to “As if”

  1. “…who died before he died.” Wow. This whole piece is so good but I loved that line. I would say that 95% of the time I too feel like a fraud. Speaking about that which I know nothing about but know everything about. Dead and alive. In love but full of self-hatred. Growing yet shriveling. This is perfect.

    1. Thank you so much Tara. You’re not alone in feeling that way. We all go through this as writers. I guess a writer both has the need to produce and the need to stay 100% authentic and that’s impossible. Once we get past that, which is hard, we move forward.

      1. If I had posted your story, although I had paid for it, I would find that haunting. Some poor sap in some impoverished country probably sold it for scrap believing that the original had value enough. But, a copy still has the life of its originator. The scourge of capitalism is that it devours bodies and leaves no gravestone. A creator, such as yourself, should be aware of the dead. Are we just members of an army that ignores different branches?

      2. It isn’t a painting or a replica. It’s just a photoshopped image. Pixaby and unsplash are websites where you can find images for free. They’re stock photos. Not Van Gogh masterpieces. The guy who created the image is on Instagram and says, ‘you don’t have to credit.’ I live in an impoverished country friend. So, I’m not sure what on earth you’re talking about! And I’d take slightly altered laissez faire capitalism over any government controlled right or left wing nonsense.

    1. Well said, Chelsea! And Nitin, very well-written. I especially felt this line – “What is existence, but the dregs of the past carried by the illusion of tomorrow?” You captured it correctly. Thank you for your thoughts.

  2. I guess I missed this when my mind went into recess. I think I’ve quoted him before, but the poem seems to be a modern extension of Gerard Manley Hopkins: “I wake and feel the fell of dark not day.” It finishes: “I see the lost are like this. Their curse to be as I am mine, their sweating selves but worse.” Yours in a wonderful poem, Nitin – even though I might try to avoid the sentiments of it in my real life! Regarding one of the commentators: fuck!

    1. I’ve read a few poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins. I read them when I was studying poetic devices. Those lines you quoted are wonderfully dark. I think we all have our unique ways of getting by. I’ve read both types of artists: the tortured and the free. Some blur the line between the two. I stumbled upon Mary Oliver and Philip Levine sometime ago, and there’s such a difference between both artists. Oliver is clearly influenced by the transcendentalists while Levine writes about the horrors and hardships of working class America in his prosaic style. Now, I don’t know everything but it’s nice gathering knowledge that helps you in life and art. Regarding the person who’s commented, he kind of apologised, I think. He posted a nicer comment on my last post. I’m not holding any grudges though.

      1. Well ‘gathering knowledge” works in all directions and I shall pursue Mary Oliver (nicely of course) and Philip Levine in the coming days.

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