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)

The Emperor’s Demise

So, after Darth Vader threw Emperor Palpatine into that vortex, he found himself on this side of the universe. He looked at a Star Wars poster of the latest movie and grinned at the words ‘The Last Jedi’ written in red. He then walked up to a woman on a lonely street. He stretched his pale arms out in his uncanny way and tried mind control and asked her to join the dark side.

“Get away from me, you freak!” she screamed and ran away.

Disillusioned by his lack of strength, he succumbed to alcoholism and in a ramshackle bar met a former rock star now broken because of his fall from grace. They talked, and both ranted about unrealistic dreams: One wanting power and the other fame. But somehow, they managed to come up with an idea despite all the slurring and the occasional puking.

They decided to start a band.

Palpatine walked up to the mike stand and stood there while the band played heavy distortion and the drummer used his double bass pedal like a maniac.

Palpatine was unsure but decided to give it a try anyway. He softly said, “Dark side,” and the crowd roared. There was something about his voice that made it so distinct and raw.

Palpatine grinned, and his band soon achieved fame. All he did was walk up to the mike stand in his black robe and talk about wistful dreams of destroying the Jedi and ruling the universe.

Then Palpatine suddenly realized that it was possible to control human beings without a superpower, and he soon eliminated tinges of nostalgia in his rhetoric. He labeled the genre he invented Sith rock, called his fans Stormtroopers, and urged them to dress appropriately during concerts. The band attained astronomical fame. The critics loved Palpatine’s new approach. They called it progressive and reactionary.

All went well until some Stormtroopers took off their masks during a concert and decided to change things. They formed an instrumental band which was rooted in Sith rock but eliminated Palpatine’s rhetoric.

Palpatine derided them for not being true to the roots of the movement, but that only gave them attention. Fans and critics loved this new genre called post-Sith rock and left Palpatine. They called them inventive.

Disillusioned, Palpatine found a woman on a lonely street and stretched his pale arms out and asked her to join the dark side.

She filed a sexual harassment case, and Palpatine lost most of his money. He returned to the ramshackle bar and watched the trailer of The Last Jedi.

“Rey. Where was she when I needed her?” he slurred and puked.

(Inspired by Star Wars)

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

There are only dead ends here, friend

Well, firstly there aren’t any woods where I live, just ramshackle houses strangely painted using vibrant hues. What most of us don’t realize is that this weird flamboyance only emphasizes our poor, misery-stricken state, and our desperate need to keep up with the Kardashians (the Joneses are dead by the way). Anyway, I digress. So I’m standing before these two pot-holed, waterlogged paths, and yes, it did rain yesterday, but we must remember the raw sewage too. I looked down one sordid path and then took the other. I reasoned that this route didn’t stink much, but held my nose while I walked. And it wasn’t morning, but night, and these broken street-lamps with their muffled light were the only oracles given. Did I leave the other for another day? Sure, don’t we all? I’m sure some famous evolutionary biologists despite all their cherry-picking from postmodernism will say the same when the moral zeitgeist shifts tomorrow and we all pick up machetes and kill each other. Hell, they’ll even bawl inwardly before rationalizing that they’re doing the right thing and butcher someone. Wasn’t Hitler right after all? I damn well know by now that one filthy path leads to another. Hell, I’m an obscure writer who lives in a city where some women counselors ask me to get an Arts degree for the sake of it because that’s what ‘girls’ do. Some Protestants with their wet dreams aren’t very different. They tape record my sessions and then ask me to work in a coffee shop because I’m unstable and it’s a ‘noble’ thing to do. They know jolly well that in this place people who work in coffee shops don’t do it out of a sense of service. They do it because they don’t have an alternative. One must never do something because it’s noble when one’s heart isn’t in it. Take a look at some Cardinals, and you’ll get what I’m saying. Oh, they’re wearing red all right. And please notice the use of the determiner. They’ll fry you using a skillet of fundamentalism if you use language without precision. Anyway, I digress again. It’s this stupid habit of introspection you see. Some contemplate and find ‘enlightenment’ or something. For me, it’s a head put in the Guillotine. I say that because the noose is overused, the electric chair won’t convey it properly, and I’ve never really understood the lethal injection. Only the fellow who we think sleeps but is writhing inside probably does. I know, I know, I’m digressing again, and so, I’ll end this quickly. I know I’m never coming back, and one day after just a year or two considering the number of cigarettes I smoke, I’ll say this with a wheeze, a cough, and a death-rattle: I took the road less sordid, and now I’m dying alone, goodbye!

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

The other brother-in-law

Well, what about him? We were both management
consultants, doing the right things,
wearing the right dark blue Arrow shirts,
working for the right firm, earning the right amount
of money, living with the right women, but then
he did the wrong thing, drinking and driving,
or texting and taunting,
and he had to stand in front of the right judge,
with the right amount of electricity passing
through his body, because if words are cyclones,
uprooting, upending, then judgment is best left
undescribed, they rightly passed him around like
a pizza slice in that right panopticon, calling him
Cynthia, Luella, or Clara, while the guards rightly
said nothing, sister rightly didn’t visit, and then
the wrong thing happened again, he says he
met redemption. Him! Really! That scumbag!
Scoundrel! Slob! I work like
the football player I admire, who rightly
runs up and down the field, and lets his
statistics speak, and rightly changes
the alluring women in his life with each goal scored,
because they want love, and he
doesn’t have time,
I’m not that nomadic
hobbit who suddenly catches fire and makes
world-class defenders look like school children,
that sort of thing does not exist, there is
some trickery there, and even
if it does, I don’t care, damn it! And so let him
think delusion is reality, and I’ll continue
doing the right things, paying the right
money to the right policemen, working
out the right deals, rightly moving from
job to job, rightly moving from
good to great sex, until I’ve rightly conquered
both life and death.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

The brother-in-law

What about him? I lived a normal life,
studying, paying the bills, and writing
sonnets about roses and transcendentalism,
but I remember him, years ago, clinks,
swigs and swooshes, an upper middle
class zero, despite the potential to be
an anti-hero, he knew too much, but saw
too little, under some sickening trance
distorting reason and intelligence,
and when the ex-wife said she
couldn’t handle it anymore, whirlwinds
of bitterness swept him away, more clinks
swigs and swooshes, and then he came home
and looked in the mirror, and I guess that
clichéd stuff works sometimes, saw pouches
under his eyes, a beard that isn’t fashionable,
and realized that he had willingly forgotten
to remember the things that matter,
and so, he cut the long-matted hair,
trimmed the beard, and somehow
used another whirlwind to
fight against the grain, how? I don’t know,
perhaps he wrote about it while he slowly
did it, or things clicked, anyway he met sister
who I never understood, and married her,
I guess they love each other in some
odd, unhealthy way, he doesn’t drink
anymore, he gives me a warm handshake,
looks me in the eye,
but walks with eyes cast down, and
when Timmy and Tommy, and Billy see him,
they don’t care anymore, “He’s drinking alone,
and that’s fine by us!” They say, and when the
old man who lives next door, and loves greeting,
loving and hugging everybody else around watches,
he directs his eyes away and says, “Ha! Hypocrite!”
But I’m learning things when he looks me in the
eye, I’ve realized that beneath something lifeless,
something else lies, I’ve never quite understood it,
it’s not protein shake grit, the guy is no longer 22!
But it’s some uncanny instinct, an absence of life making
him do things, but then again, what do I know,
and I’m not going to pry, like I said, I just write
sonnets about thorns, I mean roses, damn it!

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

A letter to someone

Hey you,

I just listened to the recording you sent me last Wednesday. I’m sorry it took me so long. As you already know, I’m a tortured, unemployed artist struggling to both find inner peace and make a dime out of these dishonest lines I peddle. Having said that, I think this is the most honest thing I’ve written. Nevertheless, I digress and forgive me because I’m going to digress again. I think I’ll always remember Wednesdays because it’s supposed to be our curry day. Remember? We talked about it when we talked about idealistic togetherness and shared a dream about fame and not fading into obscurity. I wistfully smiled then because you and I both know that such dreams never mature because life’s a bratty adolescent who loves tossing rocks at already devastated people walking knock-kneed on broken pavements; bruising their already haggard selves. So you wrote a piece in dactylic pentameter? I loved your reading of it. I think that little sniff you had made the reading really cute. But not puppy dog cute. An alluring cute. Yes, such a thing exists, and if it doesn’t, I just made it up. Funny how a cold can alter the tone of a person’s voice and make them seem more entrancing than they already are, and trust me you’re really fascinating. You’re the most enigmatic and enchanting woman I’ve known. Wow! I’m glad I got that off my chest. Now I guess I’ll have to prepare for purgatory in the friend zone. I took a really cheesy video of me smoking and posted it on Instagram by the way. I’ve grown an eighties pornstache, and my hair’s all oily. I got a notification saying that you saw it. Man, does social media really plow into your privacy! It’s fucking ridiculous. We’ll soon have the iCommode. The chamber pot that lets you catch up on the latest post-Kardashian gossip with each shit. Moving on, I didn’t have bacon for breakfast today or beef biryani for lunch. I’m trying to lose a few pounds and look good. Anyhow, I wrote this post because I miss talking to you. Text me tonight. Bye.

P.S. Your poem is amazing and surreal. It’s strange, but your poetry reflects you and brings out more of your mysterious core and that’s a win-win for me!

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

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I think I’m too daft to comprehend e.e.cummings’s
style of writing, lines projecting out like horizontal
stalagmites, spaces, words meshed together
like they’re thrown in the blender, an i outside
the parenthesis probably symbolizing a loneliness
and an I within probably embodying wholeness
with another. Experimental fiction was never my
forte, and maybe that’s because fate’s experimented
with me a little too much, using me like its lab rat –
made to run a wheel sometimes, injected with the
black ichor of despair sometimes, caged sometimes,
I could go on and on, but this isn’t about e.e.cummings
or me or even poetry; it’s in its truest form, a piece
written using stream of consciousness about the
paradox between free-will and determinism. If there’s
absolute freedom of choice, then God is indeed dead
and further yet man is God, if there is no freedom
of choice then you’re a puppet or worse yet a muppet,
a smelly sock regardless of what your branding is
(Nike, Adidas or Reebok) and finally, if there’s both then
let’s rejoice! You bring the whiskey and I
the cigarettes and we’ll sing of the mysteries of the universe
and the experiments we play when we choose or the experiments
played on us when we don’t and once we’re done we can
weep, feeling like lonely i’s meshed together in this spiderweb
of chaos (yes, I’ve noted that the preceding
metaphor is an oxymoron)
and finally, we can hug it out, fully closing
the spaces between us
and achieving a fucking transcendent We or I. Fuck me!

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

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