Do I marvel?

This is a black and white image of the mountains covered in snow. I've chosen it because it suggests ambiguity like my poem which makes me wonder if I should marvel at God's mysterious ways or lament.

It’s as if God casts some unseen net on the lives of some,
Perpetually trapping them in cords of deepest grief,
Not even offering them glimpses of bleak, beaten skies,
Or ashen barks, or the discordant angry rooks who caw.

The wicked prosper while the good lie buried with their deeds –
Unknown to all, except those who did benefit from them.
Perhaps the Lord sees time in the eternal present, and past
And future belong to mortals who need strongholds in stories told,
And lessons learned in paroxysms of acute death pangs.
But still, this never tells us all we need to know and hear,
And blind faith doesn’t suffice despite few saying otherwise.

Look at Auschwitz where devils embodied men and God said, yes,
Look at farmers poisoning themselves because of debt,
Look at lynching and mob violence; children hanging on trees,
Look at hellfire and damnation for man’s sin and shame.

I’ve known a thousand roads of suffering and few of joy,
I’ve heard the sound of rasping waves assailing the timid shore
And the song of the melodious thrush that brings in dawn,
I’ve learned and learned more with a thirst for learning so much more,
I’ve studied the realms of meaning with intense adventure and lust,
But I’ll never know the ways of God and his disdain
Or love.

And must I praise, lament or leave it at Amen?

 

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Doubt

This is an image of raindrops on a window slightly obscuring the scenery outside. I chose this image because it embodies doubt to me. My piece is about a lack of faith in God and this picture complements it.

My struggle with broken faith and doubt; salvation and death
Feels like hell on earth: the coals, the sulfur, and smoke.

Why do I come to you my Lord when you’ve distressed me,
Afflicted me and blinded me with eyes near-sighted,
Unable to see even glimpses of wondrous glory?
I often think it’s fear or a bitter emptiness,
Or maybe just the need to be deeply, truly loved

I walk unclean streets, lonely and needing anyone
Who’ll clasp my hand as I push aside the offscourings
Of yesterday’s ball with my feet; the revelers
Came and went,
I slept a half-sleep while the fireworks scourged the sky
With rockets like lashes; a whistle, a strike; the revelers
Came and went,
I watched the garish throng with drums; the revelers
Came and went,
But stupor gripped me, and like a dying caterpillar
In a chewed off cocoon, I watched the dusty cars
Slowly moving to adventures I’ll never know.

She says, ‘I’ll buy you a bunny to remember me,’ smiling,
I respond with exuberance, ‘Make sure he’s cute!’ and laughing,
Hug her tightly, our jaded eyes slowly and gently meeting,
But she’ll be gone one day, and knowing deep regret
For all the things both said, unsaid, and crushing, breaking
The heart she sacrificed for a foolish coward like me,
I’ll see just darkness and the agony of raw pain
And then cry, ‘Why! Why Lord!’ Distrusting faith and love.

My struggle with broken faith and doubt; salvation and death
Feels like hell on earth: the coals, the sulfur, and smoke.
Why do I come to you my Lord when you’ve distressed me?
Maybe it’s because I’m sick to death of my core

But will you have me?
But will you forgive me?
But will you redeem me?

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Hold me fast Lord

This is an image of the galaxy. i chose this because I want the God who holds the universe to hold me though I lack faith.

I have these urges to say goodbye to it all,
My self-indulgent life and thespianism,
To wander from the mountebanks’ unclean parade
Of gaudy brouhaha and clickbait melodrama,
I have these urges to lay down my pen, tear page
And never come back to mooching off my misery
To fashion lines that stab more than they ever saved,
I have these urges to fight the fight and run the race
To soldier on for Christ until his grace is sight,
But do I really have grace or was I hoodwinked
By a deceitful heart that slyly feigned conversion?
I markedly recall the day I wept with grief,
And quoting Lyte, said, ‘Jesus, I my cross have taken,’
I cried then for the sinner I was and met mercy
At Calvary where lives of men were bought at a cost,
A priceless, bloody, brutal, terrifying cost,
I then knew love, a love so deep and unfathomable,
But thinking back I wonder why it faded away,
And today I’m seven times the son of hell I once was,
My sin besieges me and a dark cage holds me,
‘I once professed and even journeyed,’ I say flatly
And echo the pilgrim who regressed so thoroughly,
But perhaps this is all God’s mysterious intent –
A bitter bud now but a flower sweet one day
Like Cowper put it, or like Solomon says, weary
From hedonism and chases of the flesh –
Who can interpret God? He does what he wishes to. But
Regardless of how my story plays out; heaven or hell,
I have these urges to say goodbye to it all
And if you’ll have me, I’ll gladly pick that cross again,
And though it’ll tear me asunder to lose family,
And watch friends become foes, good ignoble, love hard hate,
I’ll carry on as you hold me fast through fear and pain.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

Don’t cry for me this December

This is an image of sunlight pouring through a bleak forest and it captures the essence of the poem I've written which is both pessimistic and optimistic

Frank Zappa’s Watermelon in Easter Hay plays softly
As I’m amid fecund vegetation, lush hills;
The songs I’ve written weep with these distorted times
When all around me there is growth and newness and crisp air,
But tears cascade down rough contours and broken edges
My guilt has no bounds; it wells up like a spring of death,
Forever the tortured artist, is there no respite?
The bells of the chapel chime, they’re most uninviting
Through wind and cold and drizzle they cut, beseech, entreat,
But only like a razor slowly splitting the ear
Qui n’avance pas, recule –
This truth I know now in all its fiery vengeance,
I’ve squandered my existence Holy Father, forgive me.
The motel room I’m in is dull and rusty
With stubbed cigarette ends and dirt, and blood-stained sheets,
The cobwebbed ceiling heralds an aubade so dirgy
And in the choking light of the dying bulb, I see
A fly that flits around the dregs of tea in a cup
So pockmarked with the stains of time and brutal age,
The seven-branched old candelabra is a witness
To faith archaic and withered like a gnarled, unclean oak,
The dust beneath the bed induces a bronchial wheeze
And hacking up phlegm so green, I cough and wheeze so fiercely.

‘Is there nothing I can do anymore?’ I ask myself
‘Is my life now reduced to hackneyed statements and pessimistic clichés?’
‘Am I just carrion to be fed on by demons and vultures?’ I ask melodramatically.

And so, I pick up that old guitar I named Lucille
In honor of the late, great B.B.King,
I pour some aging brandy and pop that happy pill
And clear my drying throat and spit before I sing

I think of crime and punishment, the life to come,
I think of death and Hades, the age that’ll be,
I think of misfits and women, the brawls, the drink, the bum,
I think of all the things to still do and thankfully see.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

The seasons of a tragedy

This is an image of eerie woods. I've chosen this piece because it complements my bone-chilling piece about the cycle of violence and abuse.

The conditional lover

Her laughter is gentle and naïve; not wild and capricious. It isn’t prone to vengeful quirks or caustic idiosyncrasies and doesn’t inundate the room like a swarm of buzzing bees. She hides her sorrow when she smiles. Beauty knows her deeply, but she doesn’t realize it as she laughs with jaded eyes. She laughs softly and slowly in a slightly nonchalant way, but underneath it all, there is a wealth of emotion like the richness of classical music. I’ve caused her pain, and don’t deserve her, but the light crescendo of her laughter moves even a hard-hearted man like me to tears.

The murderer

The winter is a season of intemperate red,
The blades of grass are frozen; stumps of trees subdued,
Through bouts of cough and phlegm, I yell, ‘You whore! You bitch!’
Forgetting all about her laughter that was spring.

The almost penitent

Forgive me, Father, for I’ve sinned against you,
Change me, Lord, from a man possessed by hate to a prophet of love,
I hate the man I’ve become, this man of rage and sin,
I knew you once, but I forsook you,
Let me not seek repentance like Esau, but never find it,
Let me be one of your elect,
Keep me, preserve me, love me,
Bless her Lord. She really loved me.
Bless her Lord.

The self-pity soaked mourner

All she wanted was love. All she wanted was her voice to be heard. All she wanted was acceptance. O wretched man who I am! Now, she’s gone! Left me to wander scarred roads with lifeless trees circumscribing them, and the miasma of death emanating from the potholes. Now I’m alone and have no one to turn to, and grief is my only companion, stabbing me when he sees fit.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

The skag-addicted bunny

This is an image of two bunnies with eerie grins on their faces. I've used it to augment my piece which is about an anthropomorphic drug addicted bunny suffering from withdrawal.

The skag-addicted bunny couldn’t find his fix
And Snowflake (his dealer) wasn’t working the usual spot,
He certainly didn’t want withdrawal’s ticks
And so, he rummaged through his damnable rot

He sniffed each corner with deeply addled brains
And ruffled clothing; looked beneath his cot,
But found nothing that would soothe his veins
The place was only littered with turd and snot

Hours later, frantic and in deep despair,
He tore at the grass in the neighbor’s empty plot,
He screamed at God, said, ‘Do you bloody dare!’
Cried, ‘You took everything, even the pot!’

‘I hate you! I hate you!’ The bunny caterwauled,
‘Ah need some skag awright!’ He yelled in Scots
And plucked his hair until he was slightly bald,
Until he lay writhing, seeing colored spots.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

Shoeshine Timmy

This is an image of a man pushing a boulder while he's climbing a steep slope. I chose this image to parody optimism and herald realism. My poem does the same.

Shoeshine Timmy lived in a brownstone
near vacant parking lots, and a street lamp
that sputtered measly light on potholes
riddled with garbage and acid rain.

He lived beneath black starless skies;
prayed to a god who’d jilted him
and thought of Carla who’d married his brother
in the summer of ninety-eight.

‘Be thankful for each blessing,’ a thought said
‘Wake up, seize the day!’ Another yelled
‘Fight! It’s a new day!’ A third whooped
And Shoeshine Timmy muffled his cries
And listened to the same encouraging lies
And I doubt he’ll stop until he’s dead.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)