For Alisha

This is an image of a moody landscape. I've chosen it to convey grief which is a central theme my poem revolves around

Walking past these headstones,
in this churchyard, I kneel, look back
at the little Presbyterian prayer
hall you used to frequent,
pristine white, with blue-cushioned pews,
its simple beige altar, grey steeple, little cross,
and a miasma of nostalgia seems rise from
the architecture, slowly creeping towards me,
the twilight complementing it. I read your epitaph,
“I’m grateful, and content now, as I was when I walked,”
it says, and I choke, holding back tears
because it’s true, I remember you holding
my hand when I was utterly despondent,
finding no beauty even in the simple things
like a cup of coffee, or a stroll in a picturesque
park with marble statuettes, or the photographs
we took of that crimson horned pheasant with its breast
like a red satin cloth embossed with little white
raindrops, you said, “Remember we’ll always
have each other, and I’ll walk with you, even if
we’re trapped in this prison maze of regret,” and that
was enough reason for me to start seeing
again. And it wasn’t something without, it
was a breathtaking, inner waltz of emotion
I got a glimpse of, warmth, and kindness
turning round and round on the floor of passion.
I felt it, so intense, and I can only call it love.
You fought a war with fate, refused bending
and bowing, rejected servitude, and stood strong,
and you still do, maybe not as something tangible,
but as an indomitable essence, a force that helps me
carry on even though I pass illuminated billboards,
country houses, and alleyways imbued with poverty,
reeking from the potholes, and bits of scrap alone;
but I still come here when I’m weak, when I forget
to remember, and find myself trapped in a paperweight
of a haunted existence, the swirling mass threatening to
overwhelm me. I come here even though something within,
maybe a part of you says, “Let go, move on,”
because I’ve never loved anyone like I loved you,
with my very being, and as I clasp that stone now
and wet it with tears of anguish, the cold, icy droplets
of Pyrrhic victory, leaking from a hypothermic
soul who longs for the fever of yesterday’s touch,
I want you…no,
I need you to know.

Originally published in aaduna’s 2016 Spring Issue

A day in my life

This is an image of various objects on a table. They include a map, a globe and ink. I've used this image because it symbolizes life and my post is about a day in my life.

I get stoned these days; not an intentional, ‘I need to get high,’ stoned, but I struggle with migraines, skin rashes and cold, and I’m on cough syrups and antihistamines. Maybe I take an extra swig of the syrup because I’m tired, and just want the day to get over. But I’m not sure. I went to the departmental store to pick up an energy drink and found myself staring at the woman behind the counter. It wasn’t because she’s hot or anything, I basically looked right through her with dilated pupils, while she kept asking me for some details. I liked standing there, while people rushed in and out, surrounding me, but then I couldn’t do the catatonic thing forever, and so I snapped out of it, paid her, and left. I then went to a small tea shop and bought some cigarettes, and drank my lemon tea, and suddenly that whole light, euphoric buzz started becoming something ugly, just like the sickening feeling you get when you smoke too much bad weed. And so, I didn’t finish my tea, paid the guy quickly and walked home. It’s like certain places give me this cool solitude and gentle atmosphere when I’m high, but other places just make me feel sick and nauseated. But I don’t really need to get high. I’m usually a total recluse who loves solitude, and when I get it, my mood and being shifts into something ethereal, and I feel like I’m floating, suspended in mid-air, or defeating gravity. I had a friend preach to me today while I was catching up on blog posts. He basically judged me and said that I’m doing nothing with my life. I guess he’s both right and wrong. He’s right in a superficial sense, but in a deeper sense, I don’t want to lead his life: Working as a software engineer, drinking like a fish, gambling and then preaching the prosperity gospel in some hysterical charismatic church. He takes a half-day vacation, and then gets up and goes to work. Fuck! If you’re taking a break at least make it four days is my motto. But hell, who am I to judge? Live and let live, I guess. The problem with him is that he won’t stop arguing until he has the last say, and so, I just blocked him. Let him think he won the argument and ‘humbled’ me, or whatever. I guess I’ll read a little Fitzgerald tonight and then hit the sack. I’m sort of nonchalant now, and I like that too. Anything’s better than paranoia or neurosis. But as I dig deeper, I’ve realized that my subconscious and conscious mind got merged at some point in my life. So regardless of if I’m writing or talking, I’m passively spilling words out. And when I’m walking, I’m mechanically crossing the street. All my actions are passive. Even my strength is a passive strength. It’s never an active grit. Maybe it’s a good thing, or maybe not, but I’m past caring.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Three simple sonnets

This is an image of Constantine. I've used it because I've written three sonnets that revolve around him and the people associated with him.

A simple man

I saw a blazing sign in bloodless skies!
And so, I must obey! The shields they paint!
We won the war! I must erase the taint!
Both foolish men, and dirty pagan lies!
I fight for truth, and justice never cries
About men who hate blood and swoon and faint!
These idiots and their undue complaint!
But my son’s grief! That look! His sorrowed eyes!

No, I’ll not let inane fact govern me
And Licinius? Didn’t he warrant death?
They cheated Truth, they only claimed they’re mine
Now Jordan begs and I won’t let it be!
I must hear her and then that final breath!
I made the bloody sky and put my sign.

A simple law

I said he is immortal and I’m wrong
But didn’t he rescue us from tyranny?
If truth were told, he doesn’t need praise from me
But certainly, requires some potent song
And only fools attend the pagan’s throng!
The world is clearer now, can’t they all see!
But murder haunts my law and won’t let be!
I often wonder if he’s truly strong

My errors taught me I cannot revolt
Against raw power, all that does is kill
Poor Crispus, rebelling against the light
But look at him now hanging like a dolt!
Just for a horrid, thoughtless, carnal thrill
I said he is immortal and I’m right.

A simple truth

Is life a blessing or an awful curse?
I find a law in that inane, small phrase
As some say it is with each passing phase
when friends forsake, and painful wounds I nurse
I could allude, say that a hidden hearse
Awaits me; it was never truth that stays
That lifts anemic men to realms of praise
My name wasn’t written in ecstatic verse

I’ve tried to rage but dropped my fight to peace
I thought of love and looked at sparkling stars
I’m Crispus at the Emperor’s behest
What justice, fact is this? These thoughts don’t cease
And nothing changes that I’ve lost my wars
But no one answers the need for this test.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Hope in desert places

This is a picture of a desert. I've chosen it because my post is about sorrow , pain and finding hope in desert places.

You and I amble past collapsing brownstones – circumscribed by decaying barks and withered grass – hand in hand, looking for a place where the common denominator is madness and the ecstasy that both pain and pleasure bring.

You and I see through ostentatious facades lacking depth and semantic: pretty, insipid Instagram photos and Facebook status updates, designed to impress.

You and I know the unknown and see the unseen, and that breaks us each day but ties us together with a fabric of blood that murmurs of a togetherness that transcends even the sweetest aubade of the songbird at dawn.

You and I haunt decrepit, tumbledown places, looking for solace, a place to sheath our swords until we fall to our knees and with red droplets of anguish creating our Gethsemane, we look at each other and know that the only way of battling the void is to embrace each other in that beautiful, twisted way that only we can.

Eden & Chernobyl, the Puppeteer & the puppet, the Wasteland & the Crucifix, the Glory & the Passion – these things we know intimately.

We’ve seen the horror that unhinges minds, alters personality and chokes with its paranormal tentacles, but we’ve come out both defeated and victorious.

We’ve felt the sorrow that kills, that feels like a spear in the side while the executioner hammers nail after nail, tearing skin and breaking bone, but we’ve come out both weeping and with renewed grit.

I look around me sitting on ruined pillars with broken gargoyles atop them and see the starless sky, the smog, the industry, but the thought of you making your way somewhere along these winding roads in a different space and time makes me think that there’s hope in desert places.

For Mia 

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Humpty

This is an image of Humpty Dumpty. I've used it because my story is a darkly humorous retelling of the nursery rhyme.

Humpty sat in the refrigerator pondering and pondering, which is pretty much what eggs did. They were deep existential thinkers contemplating on the nature of good and evil, the nature of man and man’s relationship to them. He pondered on metaphysical things like the nature of the eternal yolk, the finitude of the shell and predestination. Why do some eggs hatch and become chickens when the rest are refrigerated? Why am I here? What is the meaning of all this? What does tomorrow bring? He thought. He never quite understood man. He very carefully and gently caressed eggs and placed them in the refrigerator with utmost care, but he’d seen another side. Another vicious side that another poor egg who was now either in heaven, hell, purgatory or the void experienced. Man, just picked him up and smashed him over a woman’s head in rage. He watched in horror as shell broke and yolk spilt. How could man who’s capable of such tenderness do something so vicious? Did man have two yolks, one good and another bad? Or did he only mask his depravity? Humpty thought and wished he could express these feelings, but he had no outlet and he felt uneasy and discomforted when the refrigerator door opened, and a child looked at him before picking him up. Humpty remained mute but his yolk froze. Terror gripped him. It was time to finally experience things and face truth or judgement and he didn’t know what lay before him. He couldn’t express his sheer agony and inner torture. A whirlwind of emotion gripped his yolk. Help! Save! Redeem! He desperately thought when the child suddenly brought Humpty out of the house and he saw the light. The sun. Now, he had some innate knowledge of it but had never truly seen it. He felt warm, comforted and consoled when he was placed on a wall. He was ecstatic. He had inner peace. So, it’s redemption after all, he thought and lost himself to the moment when he felt a slight nudge. He suddenly found himself losing consciousness and experienced severe nausea, and he felt the urge to vomit but couldn’t. He was falling. ‘Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall,’ he heard the child sing. The agony was excruciating. And then he crashed against the cobbles and felt his shell cracking: a small crack before a split and his yolk oozed out. What did I ever do to you? Why do you hurt me? Aaargh! It stings! It burns! I can’t handle it! The pain! Please make it stop! He thought, still unable to express himself. And then he saw the murderous child wearing a crown and carrying a toy horse. He crushed Humpty some more with the horse. Oh God! No! Please! Don’t! He thought. The child then squashed Humpty into pulp, letting the yolk run on his hands. Make it stop! Make this murderous bastard quit! Humpty thought and then he heard a voice of a demon when the child shrieked with glee, saying, ‘All the King’s horses and the King’s men. Couldn’t put Humpty together again.’ And everything faded to black just after Humpty realized that existence is meaningless and embraced nihilism.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Emma

This is an image of a lonely park bench surrounded by withered trees. I've chosen it because my poem is about heartbreak and sorrow.

I visited mother yesterday, my eyes like backgammon pieces,
just as sharp as the black keys on that old piano
with its chipped corner that she still keeps,
I wonder why, I guess some miasma of sentiment rises from it
and clouds her vision of now, maybe it saves, I don’t know,
she’s frailer with wispy grey hair and a semblance of a smile
gives her integrity and keeps the clock ticking, I guess,
she asked about you. “How’s Emma?” and I said, “I don’t know,”
nonchalantly, I drank a cup of coffee and left with
a half-hearted hug, I wonder why mother remembers you,
only you, always you, I didn’t tell her about last year
when I visited the ashen cul-de-sacs and crevices of the internet
looking for your poetry, I didn’t tell her about how it
only made sense two years ago, when I found myself
in that white hall of hell, where demons masquerading
as angels in pristine gowns with spotless teeth sedated me,
I didn’t tell her about how my father fake-wept
like a statued cherub after sending me straight to
white chintz perdition because I foolishly wanted closure,
I didn’t tell her about the absent-spirit
that seeps through bone and bleaches marrow
these days, but worst of all, I didn’t tell her about
reading your verse and laughing after I left you in college,
you knew these broken truths of life well before I did,
I suppressed things, but you dealt with them using art,
I looked for you using that phone that now looks like
plastic, but couldn’t find anything except chalky screens
with monochrome search results, I guess I took fate’s gambit
when I naïvely thought I’d mastered
the game and now the queen of black judgment, and the
rook of dark circumstance pushes this dethroned
monarch into hopelessness, a double checkmate, and
I’ll just have to let myself be knocked off the board
after saying that I fucking love you.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Well, if you’re really into unrequited love (Part 3)

This is a picture of a city in ruin because of a flood. It captures the end of the idealism of the protagonist in my series whose love for a woman is not reciprocated.

So you’ve gone ahead and done it my angel of rapturous delight! You have married a man with no taste, no elegance and no divine passion: an ardor unmitigated that only I who licked the flames of purgatory, while I longed for that beautiful union of our souls, that only I who licked the dust of the floor like a mongrel hungry for the absolute perfection that is you, that only I who suffered sleepless nights, bed-wetting and waking up in the agony of my own discharge, my clothes stinking, my integrity castrated could have given you. But you still prostituted yourself to a hedonistic bridegroom with elephantine gonads and a serpent that stings with white venom. Oh, my precious! Oh, my beloved! How could you possibly make your caravanserai a whorehouse! Oh, my sweet delight! My bones show, but there is doubt that sinks in. Were you really the goddess of muses or just a Lorelei: a harlot in disguise? Yes, though my heart is pierced with a three-pronged spear, and I never doubted your sublime divinity that transcends the boundaries of space and time, I do now. Oh did I spend all these years, in the stench of my excrement, rolling in penance, seeking your enlightenment, only to realize that you’re a Cleopatra: a woman of unmitigated lust, and an insatiable hunger for white blood! Perhaps you never wanted the crimson I’d have given you each time I trailed, when you walked with him to movie theaters, and sat in the back row with tears as he planted kisses and coarse bites on your neck. Perhaps you never longed for the tour de force I’d have written you, or the Oval Portrait I’d have painted while you sat in an alluring white gown, your seraphic beauty engulfing my soul. Perhaps you were a raven who now pecks at a worm, and that disgusts me. I have renounced you! I tried my best when I interrupted your wedding and screamed, “No!” But you had the security guards drag me without concern for my splintered heart. They treated me like a vagabond and threw me on the streets, when I came with love, while his shaft bulged out of his pants, and you walked down the aisle in a skimpy costume. Oh! How could you have degraded yourself so much! The truth is never ‘kinky’ or whatever they call it in this semen-ridden world. But I will rise, because for each Helen of Troy there is an antithesis: A beautiful woman of innocence with rosy cheeks and lips elegant, and a soul that touches the stars, and I will find her, and even if she asks me to emasculate myself for her, I will.

The end.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Part 1
Part 2