Brevity

This is an image of a train approaching; making its way through the mist. I've chosen it because it represents the brevity of all things, and the struggle that is life to me.

“This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.”

― T.S. Eliot, The Hollow Men

I pass a graveyard on my way to work each morning,
a desolate place filled with scraps of putrid litter,
devoid of any being but a mangy mongrel
with chipped-off statued cherubs and unclean engravings.
The place is an anathema, infected with jinn,
a place where bones still rattle in decaying coffins.
I think of souls that never leave to paradise; damned
to haunt and own us; souls forever wandering; lost
with no respite each time I see the place, but then a
dissimilar thought takes control and I think – looking
at starless skies – if we indeed have souls or if it’s fable
concocted by robed priests to keep the masses senseless,
I wonder if the past and future have no meaning,
if an opaque void circumscribes existence, birth, death,
if only brevity is the hand we fiercely claw at,
if time meets no continuance, and even the present
is just a ball suspended in vitality that
fades, lessens till millennia and cycles are lost
forever, and all you and I have known disperses,
and worlds end with soft whimpers and never thunderous bangs.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Life finds provenance and meets Death cradling Grief

‘Will things get better Ma?’ I’d ask her, once a fractured identity, found its cast of maternal iron and grit, determined to see the boy through shoves that split ears open – red drops of anguish finding an emotionally ramshackled Gethsemane – though he was too young to pray, to plead and to say sorrowfully, ‘If it’s your will, take this cup,’ and desperate to see him uphold integrity and become the antithesis of the man, who – when she had an early hysterectomy because blood and nearing death finds its provenance in sorrow and ashes: the grime of you’ll never be good enough as a wife, lover and a person – beat the boy on the way to the hospital for leaving a textbook in school. ‘God! God! You and your mother chant! Where is your God!’ He screamed trying to smash his face against the car’s dashboard. ‘You’ll fail your bloody exams, and even if you were to find your textbook don’t you dare tell me that you said so, you little bastard.’

‘Will things get better Ma?’ I’d ask her after they’d finally separated and she took the gamble and said, ‘I’d rather be on the streets with my son than watch him grow, wearing his father’s skin.’ She’d seen the rebellion, the blows delivered in the parking lot, but some shared idealism of knowing worse kept them. He’d pinned her to a bed when the boy was still five and tried killing her, and as innocence slowly left the boy’s soul and he let out a primal scream, he slapped the boy. ‘Shut up!’ He countered with feral ferocity and slapped the ground and shouted, ‘See I’m hurting myself too!’

‘Will things get better Ma?’ I’d ask her after disappointments on the football field and the wrong woman, who was never the yin to my yang, never the destiny, the truth or true love because these things find their birth in collective pain and strength to both wear and bear it. The girl had known pain but she suppressed it and marched to Hypocrisy’s parade: a salute and a stand at ease when Society barked on his platform held together by man’s strained, crooked limbs and knock-kneed stance. ‘Rip the veil and see,’ I’d tell her, but the traumatized often either worsen or slam the iron maiden shut on others like them, or swing, unsteadily somewhere between, where there isn’t darkness or light; just the false lull of addiction.

‘Will things get better Ma?’ I asked her, holding her frail limbs and bellowing, a sudden car crash of recollection. ‘Stay! Tell me! Please!’ And after years of separation and my relationships with worse women and flings with alcohol, she smiled a smile of togetherness, but it wasn’t a bittersweet ending for me; just a spear cracking skin, breaking arteries, piercing my organic core and rushing out from the other side.

‘Will things get better?’ I ask myself in this small town where the petrichor supposedly enlivens, the birds chirp, and Autumn tosses orange scarves as she drifts slowly in her gown of bristles and thorns, with ripened halitosis – a dethroned Empress, and she stares at me, never knowing where I’m heading, bleeding from the rocks of Reality thrown, and says, ‘Godspeed. I hope things get better,’ with a sad idealistic smile.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

Originally published in Morality Park 

Room 101

I live in a room that’s both my last meal on Death Row and the Gas Chamber. When it’s the former, I embrace this illusion we call ‘free will’ and enjoy a sumptuous meal according to my desires, but I’m soon dragged away by the guards of tyranny, and a brutal genocidal force, and I’m strapped in the chamber, my fear echoing, my heartbeat an odd time signature that you can use in a Math Rock song, and I’m soon left writhing with apparitions surrounding me, threatening to engulf and envelop me, and as foam drips from my mouth, and my irises disappear, I’m slowly fading, clutching to pillars of delusion that only seemingly held me. Delilah defeats Samson thoroughly here, because he’s denied his strength even after he’s tortured, and his eyes are gouged out. This room’s both pleasure and pain. The unmitigated dark pleasure of the ebb and flow, and twisted secrets kept when I’m with a woman – personifying and venerating her, giving her a place outside restrictions, smashing Time and his infuriating ticks, tocks and chimes. But it’s also the pain of watching her dissipate within seconds and replaced by a deep-seated primal fear of watching dimensions split and cacophonous syllables spoken by a horrific deity slowly inching their way into my mind, scalding reason, and overwhelming and overpowering me. This room’s both catharsis and oblivion. I find here, the catharsis of downers, alcohol, and jazz – the juxtaposition of a slightly loud piano and a gentler alto saxophone, and the ephemerality of sex and fluid, of women entering and leaving, but I also slowly find that with each transient nirvana I’m granted comes a plethora of soul-sucking thoughts, ripping my heart from its place and placing it out of reach, showing me just how vulnerable and insignificant I am. I find that with each orgasm comes guilt, because she isn’t here to stay, and will waltz back to her life the next morning while I’m fox-trotting out my life in click-bait and endless cyber repetitions. This room is many things, but despite the moans and sighs, the false lull of pharmaceuticals, and the chaos and quietude of a mind, it lacks love.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

Originally published in Morality Park

Cold

“Man is sometimes extraordinarily, passionately, in love with suffering…” 
― Fyodor Dostoevsky

There is no life in this place; no vegetation; no predator or prey; just the shrill roar of industry like inaccessible noise rock. We sit, you and I, on the porch of this tumbledown house, smoking and sharing a bottle of rum.

The starless sky and oddly shaped crescent augment the bleakness of it all. Our eyes have grown hard like dull, brown stones and our hearts, harder like a cinder block ensconced in a rib cage.

Motes of dust scratch our faces like tiny razors cutting skin, but not deep enough to draw blood. We buried Mark on this day, last year and since that tragic day, weather and wither have adversely affected us. The weather inside reflects the sudden, drastic change of the weather outside – arid and decaying. And like the trunks of aging oaks, the wrinkles on our faces create folds that embody some nihilistic wisdom – something gained after some remote in our minds switched off sorrow and gave us an apathetic, grainy screen.

Words mean nothing now and silence haunts, and so, we drink to feel something even if it’s self-pity that punctures the very essence of life. We don’t greet each other; we’re like exhausted workhorses, but the irony is that we haven’t found work since our little cherub left us.

We’re living off what we’ve saved, and the money leaks like water from a broken pipe. We don’t love each other anymore, but we still persist because death creates a strange bond. One that makes two people live together though they paradoxically died together a long time ago.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

For Real Toads’ and Poets United 

Requiem

Funerals are difficult but delivering a sermon at a murderer’s wake is excruciating. I see just five of you seated here. His mother, his three sisters and one friend who could bring himself to come. Now, I don’t mean to insult the bereaved in any way, but if I didn’t speak my mind, even if it’s for an audience of five who knew this man better than me, I might as well resign from shepherding my church and find another vocation.

What this man did was heinous. He was a teacher in a school, a man meant to educate, and facilitate intellectual and moral growth, but he broke bad and losing his grip on sanity, murdered thirteen precious young lives before taking his own. His wife has denounced him and isn’t here and that’s her prerogative, but the one person I wanted to see was his father.

When I spoke to you, I realized that he came from a troubled home and had a tortured past. His father took discipline to extremes which slowly deteriorated into both physical and verbal abuse. He never once said that he was proud of him, and rarely said that he loved him and when he did, it was in a flat, emotionless tone. His father asked him to ‘man up’ when he was severely bullied in school and disregarded every cry for solace. And now the man has the audacity to say that he took a ‘dark path’ and ‘chose’ to destroy himself. So, I’d like to address that man even though he’s not present and is busy giving interviews on news channels to purge himself of his guilt.

What you did sir, is just as heinous because you emotionally starved someone until his soul died. You’re guilty of murder too. In this age, we either don’t talk about feelings at all or we talk too much about them. But to live healthily is to feel healthily. And I don’t mean cheap thrills or ephemeral highs that drugs give you, which this man struggled with, before quitting completely, and tragically did what he did before he could celebrate his redemption. I mean a deeper, more profound connection to someone or something noble and dignified. Emotion is always two-dimensional. There is the object and the protagonist. Now this man was a protagonist when he was young. He was a young man, full of ambitions and dreams. Today, and as long as this world lives he’ll be denounced and degraded, and treated like a vile antagonist, but there was a time when he longed for something of quality and substance. If only you’d just nourished that need, my dear sir, instead of quenching it and indoctrinating him. A dogma becomes a snake in the mind which bites, poisons, and eventually devours, unless it’s given and received with love. You exasperated your child and today you aren’t even here. It’s tragic that you didn’t stop what you could have.

Having said that, I’d also like to address society. If we continue allowing our children – especially in this millennial or post-millennial age when technology which isn’t inherently bad but used abominably by men, spews all sorts of venomous ideas into their already addled heads – to emulate what we see or hear, in schools, to create cliques and enforce stereotypes at a young age because that’s how drama presents adolescence, then we’ll have to reap such consequences. There is more to life than a click-bait carousel on which digital avatars revolve. It’s a box within a box within a box. That’s how shallow and superficial we’ve become. That’s how bland and tasteless we’ve become and I’m just as guilty as everyone else. So, let’s make a change and get a hold of our broken, disjointed lives by knowing how to live in solitude, by finding simple pleasures, or by just taking a stroll in the park.

Returning to the deceased, God is merciful, but He is also just. And sadly, we’ve lost him forever if you believe in the Christian faith. He will suffer for his crimes and I can only hope it’s in the fires of an intense purgatory which enables him to finally know everlasting love.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

Michelle

You were bold, too much for your own good,
and when alliteration, analogy, allegory, metaphor
and narratives within narratives failed, you
typed it out on Facebook plainly,
but black suits and white gowns
stay, extending but not reaching, deciphering
but not connecting, what’s circumstantial fades,
which is why you’ll find them drinking cherry-vodka
or whatever it’s called these days, tattooing themselves
with portraits of musicians who died for that very reason,
and getting a hundred likes for one post about pain,
from similar folks, saying, “I know how hard it is,
I go through it everyday,” I’m sure they do,
but you and I know what cripples
eats you alive, bit by bit, piece by piece,
never withholding or forgiving,
but I’m guilty too for not bothering then
and suppressing my pain, I’m guilty of not even sending
you a text though I had your phone number stored,
I’m guilty of avoiding those places, trapped in
a corridor of false youth, thinking it’ll lead to
a room with soft blue walls, a cushioned bed
to lie on, a multi-hued quilt that will comfort,
and opera to lull me into sleeping soundly,
but you know how circumstance becomes a
meta-narrative and you’re just a mote trying
to fight the omnipresence of suffering, and so
I think I did the right thing when I didn’t attend,
the same black suits and white gowns did,
fake-weeping, feigning, while your mother
who never cared did the same, and your father
who had no business being there, suddenly
bellowed, while they made you
look your best, the dark circles, and bloodshot
eyes gone, a beautiful soft blue dress covering
all your scars, and I’ll say now, that yes, I fucking
love you, but just not enough to go down
the way you did, and so, I’ll express myself
and let fate cut me into two with his axe,
everybody owes him that (whether they
admit it or not) and I couldn’t care less
about what they think or say because everybody
loves becoming somebody, or somebody else, or
everybody else, but you taught me enough to
just stay me.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

The Eulogy I never delivered

I’m not sure if I ever cared about you
and even if I did, I’ll never admit it,
you were sick and twisted,
mooching off the drama you created,
writing line after line about
how people screwed you over,
unable to get a grip,
suffering’s supposed to create persistence
(or so they say) but in your case
all it created was a virtual zombie,
addicted to the numbers and stats
on your blog,
writing oversexualized, hardcore nonsense
or malodorous, self-pity soaked,
‘He fucked with my life! My heart! O my fucking heart!’
Blame game poetry,
you spent hours on that site feasting on
even semblances of gratification
and in the end, you couldn’t live without it
even though the stress to produce something
of depth was eating you alive – flesh, muscle, and bone,
you wrote and wrote, romanticizing everything
and when people called you out, they
were called, ‘dated narcissists,’ by people
who wanted you to forever be the wilted flower
in that cracked vase, you even wrote suicide
letters and deluded yourself into thinking
it was expression when it was pride and the
need for a like or a comment that fueled you,
they buried you yesterday and the Pastor
read Psalm 23 which is ironic because
nothing about that song of praise
reflected your brusque, impatient
manner of attending to anything
except for your blog,
it wasn’t a romanticized suicide
with you jumping out of a window like
you’d pictured it, but a car careening into you
and severing you permanently from your all
your addictions and tossing you into the void,
I didn’t attend though your mother called me
and asked me to deliver a eulogy, I heard that
a cool breeze wafted over the old pink
Rhododendron in the churchyard where they
lowered you in a black casket into the ground.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)