An old friend

This is a picture of an aristocrat. I've used it to lampoon elitism. My post is about pseudo-intellectuals and poets who use verbose writing to convey simple points. The image complements it.

An old friend or one who says he’s one,
tells me he despises ‘high’ metaphor –
as if metaphor were the Tower of Babel,
which one climbs and climbs, until
everything disintegrates into talking in
tongues – but he writes with such verbosity,
that I need a Thesaurus to only figure out that
what’s going on is going on.

And that’s not the point of poetry is it?
Ask me to talk of loneliness, and I’ll
give you a demonic room with crumbling wallpaper,
torn chintz grey curtains, and threadbare couches
with rusty nails sticking out, the dust asphyxiating
you while the television’s grainy screened, but people
around you are paradoxically dancing and reveling in
the same grimy place, smoking their joints, carousing,
cuddling and kissing, perhaps even fucking, oblivious
to glances from dilated pupils.

Ask him to talk of loneliness and he’ll say,
“It’s a cacophonous Tophet where rumination
deliquesces and the recherché panache becomes
quotidian utilitarianism,” which basically means
that it’s a shit hole that deprives you of thought.

Well, he secretly admires me, and I, the size of
his lexicon, and we don’t need to talk about Autumn
or the Riemann hypothesis to figure that out.

I’ll smoke my cigarettes and drink my coffee
and he can sip his sherry while he’s eating caviar.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Fade

This is an image of the sunset coating a landscape. I chose it because it's very melancholic and represents grief, which is the central theme my poem revolves around..

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 (2019)

Of all the people in my life

This is a picture of a lighthouse. It represents a beacon of strength in someone's life. My post is about such people whom we can't help but love and look up to.

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 statutes 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 self-loathing now
turn into cudgels, breaking me
over and again, synapses
dry, and the false euphoria of caffeine
and cigarettes doesn’t stimulate anymore

But as I walked today, into the
old college that is now a university,
years after I quit,
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 (2019)

When the heart’s gone

This is a picture of two glasses of whiskey. I've used it to symbolize the deterioration of a relationship from something beautiful to something prosaic that needs alcohol to keep it running.

When we said, “For better or for worse,” some dewy-eyed part of us hypothesized a forever walk under an innocent Jacaranda, purple Cherub-flowered tunnel, through sickness or fortune, seamlessly walking to the sweetest song, hand in hand, laughing or smiling, kissing or just thinking of each other. But as the years rolled by, some wistful reverie made us theorize about creating our own tunnel, out of the wood and golden auburn leaves that remained: if not something surreal, then something more earthy, natural, like a soft, glinting Maple Tree tunnel in Autumn with its own subdued, slightly muted enthusiasm. But then time being the strongman he is, shaped the heated metal of our relationship on an anvil of work, pressure and forgotten dreams. And this made us practical, and we stopped chasing the will-o’-the-wisp, and made the most of embers on the hearth, prodding to create a quick spark now and then, because little affection is better than faking something long gone. But merciless fate changed our work shifts: you working as a teacher from 9 to 5, and I working my call center shift starting at 6. And the hour between throbbed with a jaded you, coming home after battling unnecessary childhood angst, real trauma and a profession noble but hardly helping foot the bills, and the black coffee lay on the table, with a white sheen on it, perhaps embodying the pretense we’d become: a couple purely mechanical, almost machine like. We drank in silence with the occasional forced smile, said our goodbyes with a façade of a kiss, and I left, returning with bloodshot eyes, to find you gone with a note saying, “Heat the sandwich up. I left it in the fridge,” and so, I guess we both think now; never nostalgically or even practically, but just impulsively about where we went wrong, and I guess we both have thoughts of an affair or a fling, but some clockwork keeps us ticking, just like the whiskey I drink secretly once I’m done with the sandwich, trying to wash away a memory of a memory, or a simulacrum of when we said, “For better or for worse.”

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Breaking your heart the right way

This is a picture of mist and late autumn. I've chosen it because it symbolizes grief which is a central theme in my poem.

When I spoke to you today, in that café, a Portishead song
played in the background, I don’t like them much, but
a part of me wanted to drift with the tune, slowly
with you, uncaring, unyielding, unbending,
I guess naïvety flits through consciousness,
even now, a false moonlight, chock-full of diversions,
delusions, disturbances, I love you because you admit that
you’ve messed up too, unlike the people who
hate facing the real places in
their lives, denying, suppressing, blaming,
and pretending, but that’s not the only reason,
I love you because you showed me more
to life than both imagination and hard ground
did, and I just love you for reasons unexplained,
unsaid, unfelt, but you and I cannot deny
circumstance, things happen that both
knowledge and insight can never comprehend,
I try, but I’m often falling short, relying too
much on inspiration while I’m studying
and writing, and a part of me knows
that sonnets fade, and passion becomes
a parched lip kiss, and tragedy untunes
strings of will, we only think of whispering to the stars,
and I don’t want you to stand by me if
I’m crushed, I don’t want you to try
to futilely make me remember us,
I don’t want you to try to help me fight a
war that gives me no Cadmean victory,
you’ll find that in fables, and so I tried hard,
holding back everything, and then choking
and spluttering, before saying things hurriedly,
and running off, but I told you about
this place, where I’ve provoked, moved, admired and
liked people, and when you read this,
you’ll know why I left short-lived flawed togetherness,
and left you staring at my back, breaking your heart
the right way.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

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

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)