An ode to self

This is an image of myself with an overgrown beard. I've used it because my poem describes me as a shabby poet who's given up on life.

Walt Whitman, you shabby bastard, reincarnated
as a straight man with dying honey skin, teeth like
sorrowed Chiclets, bleeding yellow—a coward,
a hypocrite, a liar, a farce, a façade of a man,
speaking with an almost bass smoky voice,
thickened by the Indian accent, just like belly fat.

Does the rum give you solace, a harsh catharsis?
Do cigarettes & coffee give you an old school aubade?
Do the pills you pop give you a blurry epiphany?

Forever histrionic and theatrical—
a pitiful demoniac’s twisted, sick despair—
a drift between distress and the hysterical—
forever searching for a life that’s just and fair—

Your wife’s cuckolding you in the next room
while you search for answers reading books
you hear her moans, sighs and deep sobs
and a part of you is titillated, aroused and likes it

Oh Walt Whitman, you filthy bastard, going weeks
without a shave or a shower, walking to the cigarette
shop in the track pants you shagged in, and then
to the supermarket where faces turn because you
look like a beachcomber but have a credit card

Oh Walt Whitman, you dirty bastard, coming home
with three cans of Red Bull and then spilling it on the floor,
and then licking the floor and lapping it up like a dog,
before you’re frustrated and need your porn.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Coming home to you

This is a picture of the sea during sunset. It's a picture that evokes sadness, grief and loneliness which are themes I've explored in my poem.

I remember you composing
music to the poems I wrote,
infusing them with more
emotion and turning red droplets
to crimson stains of expression,
you sat blissfully tranquil
and while you drifted with time,
your hands gracefully sliding
across the piano, each quaver,
crotchet and minim merging
with my iambs, anapaests and
trochees, I forgot to remember
the burn of the bruises and scars
our knuckles and wrists bore,
because beauty and love triumphs
and creates a twilight far superior
to the pastel skies we retreated
into when the hands of our disturbed
fathers clawed deep, stole our
hearts, and planted seeds of
abominations in the soil of our souls,
watered each day by the tears
of an unforgettable, unfathomable,
undying trauma.

And how we wait
for the ax of unadulterated affection
to slice the harrowing, horrifying
fruitless tree with stark limbs,
and thorns instead of leaves still
growing within, but
I guess even that wasn’t enough. I
watched those very hands that played
grow stiff and the face that absorbed
itself in our art grow catatonic.
I watched as you lost even the crayon
world of yesterday and only saw
terror, uttering meaningless
neologisms now and then – a
clink and a clang, and finally
watched as you they took you
to a pristine, drug den where
they false promised you’d get better,
and though I visited, playing
your music and reading new poems,
hoping innocently that you’d give
them a score, they told me
a month ago that they found you
in a way that killed off all my hope,
and I didn’t attend your funeral,
because I knew that some
other pianist was going to play
your compositions.

I heard she
gave it ‘justice’ and that your mother
hates me now, and as
I walked to the beach
this evening, I crushed all the poems
I wrote you, left them on the sand,
jumped in and let
the waves crash against me
while I screamed, trying my best
to forget to remember us, and
get a hold of a life so fundamentally
decomposed.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

All we ever had

This is an image of the woods at dawn. It captures the emotion that piece conveys which is why I chose it.

When I married you, I didn’t think of bliss, but
something steady, sure, through the ups and downs
of our time and space, the clock ticking and our
stars sparkling, giving us more than we needed,
but time surprised me with euphoria, elation
and celebration, the first few years, walks in the
park, stealing kisses in the morning, watching
the twilight slowly seep through the gentle
gap in the burgundy curtain, together, and perhaps
expecting forever cost me, because you
suddenly withdrew, spiraling and spiraling
into your atmosphere, often catatonic,
sometimes laconic, and I remember the crushing
diagnosis, soon after she was born,
the horror of waking dreams, and
voices whispered, making, urging, beckoning
you to do things unfathomable, uncanny,
ugly, and I devoted myself more to little
Emma, and watched as she grew,
often sheltering, protecting, shielding her,
the burden draining my own atmosphere,
our ecosphere now a sepia photograph
of incoherence, and sleight of hand,
a fool’s game of cards, and then when she was
twelve she sank into something similar,
or worse, and care-takers, and prescription,
didn’t help, and I stood, watching the
two women I loved winding and winding
around a gyre of gargoyles,
and I wanted, I only wanted
to bring the structure down, make them see
the light again, and fall into my arms, but I couldn’t,
and it isn’t sorrow that kills darling, it’s a stage
further, a void that makes a man take complete
charge, free-will killing off fate, without the flip
of a coin, and I was no longer allergic to what
comes after, I don’t know if the two
of you were there, as they scattered my dust and
ashes, being finally becoming one with the soil
it sprouted from, but if you were, I wish you
shed no tear or even screamed, but understood
that I loved you both but stopped loving me.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

After the rapture

This is a surreal image of a person wearing a gas mask in an unreal setting. My post is about a lover coping with the disappearance of his loved one after the rapture and hence the image to complement it.

I

After the rapture, the gravity that anchored
us, split into two, and that beginning was
new and paralleled my
tobacco hazed setting, the smoke curling
and curling upwards, towards you,
the love of my life,
set in an impeding dystopia,
the aporias of what is
and what’s to come instilling fear into the
hearts of people, fundamentalists
preaching about raging seas, shrieking
and howling like the son of perdition
coming, the increased cosmic activity,
the Babylon of filth, only seemingly rich,
but those men preached with rage, unsettled,
uncertain, hating being left behind,
but most of me lost itself in all of you
who disappeared.

II

I watched Persona by Ingmar Bergman,
your favorite movie before your conversion,
trying to decipher it like you did in that
simple yet complicated way, Alma and Elizabeth,
the same person, the title giving it away,
I listened to Tomkins Square Park by Mumford
And Sons, and understood it better than
I ever did, I read Portrait of a Lady by T.S. Eliot
and changed the semantic, making it not one about
angst, guilt, and the fear of being unloved, left, but
you twisting a lilac in your hands, just for
a naïve thrill, and me smiling, accepting,
loving and knowing you, but still feeling
the arrow in my Achilles’ Heel, piercing,
making me shriek and scream, I watched
both John Williams and Ana Vidovic play
Asturias by Isaac Albéniz, you preferring
the former technical master and me, the latter
more emotional, graceful, elegant lover.

III

I walked, looking for you, hoping there was
a door to an alternate universe, a parallel
reality into which your soul migrated like
a plane in the sky, but couldn’t find anything
but brick, stone, war, chaos and blood,
a funnel of madness, through which everything
that was, slowly passed

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

I’d like to believe

This is an image of a bright creeper and the dull bark it creeps over. I've chosen it because it represents contrast which is a key theme in my poem.

I don’t know if I see woolly greenish-yellow pastures
like a parakeet’s breast, and peaks like broad, inverted
icicles, or red, bloody flick-knives of grass that have
martyred cowherds for their faith, leading up to
enormous arrowheads dripping with white venom like
froth, embodying hate speeches and propaganda.

I don’t know if I walk on beige, velvet sands –
nature’s cushion, while ringlets of blue peace
gently wash my feet, or on hard ground like
tourmaline made stubborn by callous hearts,
while poisonous blue little pythons seek to
drag me away into the abyss.

I don’t know if I watch the glassy purple chested
Hummingbird seeking a pink cotton candy flower,
flying neither too high or too low, but finding its
equilibrium, or if I watch a small weapon with a small
bloody scythe we call a beak, and razor-like wings
sucking the blood out of a flower and making it
anaemic, like viciousness masked by a
golden Bauta of tenderness, or getting
one’s way no matter what, even if it meant trampling
someone masquerading as white-prophet selflessness.

Does beauty still exist? Does hope triumph?
Or does depravity engulf? Or does hate have no bounds?

Do I see a pyramid of self-actualization, starting at bare
survival and ending at transcendence? Or do I see an inverted one of
self-indulgence, starting at pure corruption and
ending at bare survival?

Questions go unanswered, and the voices, they haunt.
Things are better unsaid, only because expression kills.

Meet me at the crossroads, where the asphalt glints,
urging me to make my choice, and the spiteful sun
pours his wrath on me. Know me at the ramshackle barn
with battered stalls, dead pigs, dying cows with their
ribs showing, and hay scattered. Draw me to an old, brown
cottage with its rustic charm, nestled in breezy reverie, where
the cold, crisp air kisses and faith isn’t something that only holds
the stars together, but something incandescent, burning within
and fueling hope. Love me until I believe and see again.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Lessons

This is an image of a man looking up at the stars. I've chosen it because it represents a contemplative, sorrowed man who's learned his lessons, which is what my poem is about.

My sorrow, she comes to me, when lifeless apartment
complexes with inanimate windows like cardboard
boxes with holes punched in them, replace the
honey chested, sweet ashen-winged thrush
with her vivacious, polyphonic birdsong,
and echoes of who I’ve become are the only voices
in my mind – saying, ‘You’re forever failing, and falling into a
fading symphony…you’re forever falling, and failing like
a fading symphony…’

I wish I could let her go, I wish I didn’t hold her dear.
I wish I can see past her, I wish she didn’t stay.

But life’s taught me that sometimes dog-eared, beaten
books give us the best knowledge, both reprimanding
and edifying us, both reproaching and elevating us
because of their sheer wealth of experience.

Suffering refines us in fires of grit, in a strong, stony forge
and then imbues us with the greatest of muses.

The women in my life come and go, and love’s both
lost and regained, but in the softest nights when no
one’s near, and I long for a hold or a hand to grasp,
my sorrow, she comes to me, and she’s here to stay.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

A song of experience

This is an image of cigarette butts. I've used it to symbolize the despair and meaninglessness that's echoed in this poem.

A lament rises from these dry bones, encased in
a coffin of a life gone by,
when I was young, my father the demon, said, ‘I am thine
and thou art mine,’ with a devilish, deceitful, duplicitous grin,
when I was young, my mother the angel said, ‘Stay strong and
surely, you’ll succeed,’ with a sincere, serene, simple smile,
when I was young, my brother, the stoic said, ‘Your scrimshawed
feelings are yours alone; don’t give them even a peak,’
with a stern, stubborn, sterile face,
when I was young, my sister,
the naïve said, ‘Yours is the world and all possibilities become
actualities if dreamt into existence,’
with an innocent, introspective, irreproachable charm,
when I was young, my lover,
the impassioned said, ‘Kiss me, you’re the heart of this (heart)
and soul of this (soul)
and never will I ever abandon all that’s you and I,’
with a feverish, furious, ferocious hold,
when I was young, my second lover, the kind said, ‘Paint the colors
of your heart on the canvas of
my being and grasp me tenderly under the sliced moonlight,’
with a peaceful, placid, peaceable touch.

Time drifts and I’ve drifted with it, but not elegantly.
Age carries, and I carry it, but not gracefully.
Life rises and falls, and books meet dust, and this room smells of mildew,
and by and by I’m fading, falling, slipping, sliding.

I’ve learnt much and seen so much more.
I’ve touched much and felt so much more.
I’ve tasted much and heard so much more.

Love eludes me now, whirling round and round, setting everything without on
fire with her dance, but never thawing the ice within.
Lust possesses me now, echoing and echoing, setting everything within on
fire with his voice, and ever thawing the ice without.

Cheap motel rooms and cigarettes; one-night stands and ashen hyacinths –
These I know, these I know, intimately and intensely.

Perfume and cascading hair, with eyes like brown tourmaline –
Her I’ve never kissed, her I’ve never kissed, intimately and intensely.

The smog rises and obscures my window, the world’s full of blurred
objects and abstract shapes, and a simulacrum of truth is all I know,
everything is now a hazy imagination, my vision’s blurred,
the smoke rises, and I exhale, the sharp liquor burns my throat,
a fatalist’s escape, and I know I need the real, but I also know
I want my delusion.

A lament rises from these dry bones, encased in
a coffin of a life gone by,
now that I’m older, I say, ‘Life and death sing the same song in the
same key to the same wind, and what happened will happen again,
and there’s nothing I can do but cut through weeds of paranoia,
despair and angst, knowing I’ll never fully heal.’

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)