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During periods of distress, I seek the season of mangled leaves
and barks undressed, the whalebone dully lighting the undergrowth,
a tincture of purple dusk a stark contrast to the auburn canopy
of the red maple, my footfalls a solemn crunch like that of a
weather-worn, debilitated infantry that’s trudging on,
and at that moment, that silence of realms both earthly and eternal,
I find a hush within too, not one durable, but enough to see
That there’s time without that’s just as weary as the time within.
© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)
Andrea dances to the rhythm of song and affection. She gracefully pivots through both the challenges of life and the hues of the season with an elegance of a ballet dancer. The pink Bougainvillea creeps on the wall of the bungalow she inherited where the men in her life drift in and out like thoughts in the consciousness: some wonderful and handsome, some angry, some vain, some seeking to gain a hold, but Andrea has mastered the art of controlling her mind, and her men. Try as they may, their efforts at seduction gradually crumble like a sandcastle slowly broken with rough fingers; their confidence and Alpha male stereotypes gradually fade like the burgundy sunset that compliments her red home with its lush green lawn. As Andrea walks, a myriad colors that life beckons embrace her and she soaks in the hues she wants: perhaps a night entangled with a lover between the sheets, perhaps a vintage wine, perhaps a party where she’s guest and host both, making sure the cogs of the social machinery fall right where they should. She’s a woman of experience, depth and lessons that books don’t teach us, but that’s not to say she isn’t well read. Some men yearn and hunger with insatiable desire just to get a voyeuristic peak while she showers, the water slowly softening her cascading hair and slipping down her breasts, her brown skin before touching the grey floor. Others long to get a glimpse of what happens in her heart and mind: men of greater depth and intellect, and she offers both no view. Some love her and don’t mind being quixotic, and she offers them an austere stoic demeanor challenging their very convictions. And the last think austerity will win her, and she breaks them with an uncanny compassion that isn’t exactly naïve but too beautiful for their one-dimensional reasoning to fathom. There isn’t anyone who knows Andrea better than herself, and there lies her beauty, elegance, charm, wit and subtlety.
© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)
They gather in a pristine room, spotless and immaculate, and unsullied places don’t haunt; it’s the clique that I can’t tolerate with teeth a little too transparent like glass, unwarranted piety which spells ‘duplicity’ in pitch-black on a serpentine tongue, rolled back, while gums either bold red or plain pink, flap or keep mute. They’re a book club that basks in self-proclaimed ‘esoteric’ gnosis with a pride that rages, howls, screams and shrieks. “The rest aren’t like us,” they scoff with a Pharisaic, “Our Father is Abraham,” philistinism, which only defeats them. “See man! For crying aloud! See!” I’d like to yell, and I recently somewhat did, and the leader and I had an anti-tête-à-tête, a war of the worlds and the words (or the Word) and I unmasked his contempt, disrespect and disregard, while he retreated like a turtle into a shell of armored self-righteousness. The thing about peering into people’s minds and intuiting, before using a justified sociopathy to manipulate the puppeteer that strings narrow or open-minded thoughts dangling and dancing to the tune of consciousness is simple: Know the hierarchy, know where you stand with respect to their mind’s eye, and upset it until their mind sees spots, because when you do that, they’ll regress immediately. “Him! I thought this scoundrel was beneath me! This bastard of all people!” They’ll exclaim with shrieks of a wounded ego, with cuts of that switch-blade still seething. And you can use a switch-blade of contempt, or sardonicism, or disregard, but cleverly use it. It doesn’t take physics for you to know that each action has a reciprocation. And here’s the question: Can you handle the heat with swashbuckling passive ardor? Ardor of a gym and protein shake variety breaks you in the long run: You become a one-dimensional pugilist, with a frigid, sore body, inflexible, and unable to stretch without breaking something. And I think we all know that tattoos and piercings are a statement or a proclamation; never the real deal.
So, I’m done with him, and then there’s the second point. Why do men lack love for absolute beauty? I lack it myself. I love finitude with its imperfection, but infinite absolute love, I can’t make myself love. I guess it’s reprobation. But if it’s that, then our notion of the absolute has flaws, because if the absolute hates, then beauty and wrath are connected. You delight in the wrath too if you truly love the absolute, but I can’t, and I can’t live one moment drinking the fiercest black coffee and looking up with an energy drink passion, and then be wishy-washy. So, it’s cold. But was it ever my choice? The butcher of Geneva will say never. But let this be. So, what now? I look to philosophy, literature, music and the higher pursuits given to finitude. I find in them a kind of cleansing. A baptism of sorts: Out with years of my own Janus-faced religiosity, and now I wear a multi-colored Joseph’s coat of ideas, theories, jazz, soft cadences, and abstractions. But must I trade this coat for one of a pure hue? That will be absolute foolishness. Please note the pun. When I’m not confronted with the absolute anymore, I embrace the abstract or the vague, and stay open to change, and the shift in balance of my inner dimension. And I call this a regeneration, or me wearing a new avatar.
Finally, ah! The question of all questions: The future? Right now, yes, it’s veiled by a curtain of doubt, and no, you don’t become what you think or feel. So will the journey end in an exclamation, a euphoric, “Post Tenebras Lux indeed!” Is it a part-time, “Well, it pays the bills?” Is it a book – the dream, finally a reality, and enough to live off the craft? Or is it a tougher, hard ground, “This is the last thing I wanted, but I don’t have a choice?” Or is it, “Take away the itch, until you lull me to sleep, while I spot trains until I die?” Or is it, “Fuck this! Come, get this emaciated self, but though my bones break, and my beard grows, though my head throbs, and I bleed, my fucking heart’s made of steel! So, come! Fucking come!” Whatever, the answer is, the key to life is the journey: each step, victories or defeats, “Yes, I did it!” Or, “I’m fucking comatose,” and looking at the long road behind, and not the short one, and with that I’ll end.
© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)
When I last met sister,
her reality was a Kafkaesque,
nightmare that gave me no
respite, rest, recess, I wanted
to let her pain sink in, empathize,
or at least sympathize, she lay on
a park bench, muttering, stuttering,
stammering, falling short,
of vo..lu..me,” she said Prozac
ridden, her hazy eyes,
speaking more than prescription,
she said, but I couldn’t leave her
in that weedy reality riddled with scraps,
paunched men staring at her
like she was a whore, ready to prance,
pounce, prey, and that litter stinks more
than the debris in the outskirts
of this seemingly cosmopolitan, dark
eye-liner, dark red lipshade façade
that only people who know India smell,
and you can call it a messiah complex,
a Jack Shephard need to save, and yes,
I have a similar tattoo on my arm, or a
pseudo-Samaritan need to fake-help,
or just love, but I picked her up, despite
my nonchalance which soon splintered
into tears, a heart of shattered stars,
carried her home, with my little
lean muscle, and told her
there is no mute, or a tuneless
song, but a new dawn, day, a spark,
a speck of hope, and she listened,
drifting in and out of consciousness,
but soon walked away, dissipating, dissolving,
disappearing again, and I hope with all
my heart that she found a place
with her name engraved on a
good man’s heart, and not on
a pothole reeking of addiction,
where she’ll be a target without
a need for an aim, and that shakes,
splits my core, with a jagged,
rough-edged knife, because I may
never be able to save her again.
© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)
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
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)
I’m in love with you, but I also know it’s time to let go. Time within us remains the same flick between darkness and light, while time without moves linearly. These relationships are the hardest and will split cores and break skulls with sharp axes of a muted ‘why?’ We’re in love but also stay together for the sake of it. It’s this dichotomy that both divorces us, and makes each touch and words said and unsaid worth it. We’re killing each other, but our damaged cores spin on an axis of who we might become, or who we think we’ll become.
I fucking love you and the roots of this strong emotion grip my heart fiercely and furiously, but some other force hacked the stem; split the branches in two. We’re pivoting on broken heels on a floor of fire, and though the raw burn and charred flesh gives us a pain that transforms into guttural shrieks, we have nowhere to go for solace and so we cling to each other through it all, wistfully thinking that some Messiah on a cross, with a spear in his side will resurrect, and tear this pitch-black veil that separates us from a together sanctification, and clear the rubble and sweep the ashes, but darling, the stars stay in their place, glimmering just like glitter paper does. There aren’t saviors or forces that turn a sun-scorched garden with the tree of life into a paradisiacal Eden with the same tree. This duality will persist, and only a tear will help us both mature and seek something else, but will we find it?
I’ll always cherish our silly nicknames and quiet moments with lopsided grins and secrets kept. But then again, I’ll loathe myself for treating you with such disrespect and disregard. You said today, ‘I think we were never meant to be,’ but I know we’ll both weep over those words and abuses hurled back and forth. I guess gold meets rust, spring meets autumn, silver linings meet sepia skies, red meets crimson and love meets hate. And each adage like, ‘proximity breeds contempt,’ is tried, tested and proven. I wish I can forgive myself for all the hurt I’ve caused you, but the day I did, I’ll cease being human. What’s with love and vicious circles? What’s with romance like a serpent biting its own tail? I guess I’ll never understand and here I stand in the death-throes of this relationship which is also its rebirth.
I look in the mirror and know that just like the bearded man who stares back at me, no longer possessing the charm of his youth, these lines aren’t perfect, and maybe our search for perfection is causing this maelström of summer and winter, of brown sands with soft waves and the bitter cold chill. And I guess we’re too far in now to correct that flaw and know each other too much to stay in our brokenness. So, with the dying embers of tomorrow beckoning and the luminous reflection of yesterday – scintillating with both pain and joy; torn, threadbare, broken and beaten, I know it’s time to say goodbye. But know this darling, that though love manifests itself in ugly ways and tragically crushes souls when it doesn’t evolve, in the deepest recesses of my heart it’s forever you and me.
© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)