Art and Life

This is a picture of jazz instruments displayed in a music store that's closed. I've used jazz to symbolize life and to talk about how art intrudes and causes chaos. Hence the image.

I’m leaving, and I doubt I’ll come back, but you know how the flick-knives of fate are, pushing you into a room with an empty canvas, the brush and the paint beckoning you to paint again. But I’ve learned that a stroll in a picturesque park can do away with the urge. Writing was never my life, and it’s my life that needs writing: pages and pages of musical notation with an odd time signature; piano jazz with light touch drumming with a Brad Mehldau or Triosence feel to it. Something ethereal and delicate that’s becoming this acquired taste that I can’t get enough off. And don’t look for me in my lines, or between them or in the minutiae spaces between the syllables. They never made me anyway. Don’t look for me in pictures posted on social networking sites. They’re just simulacrums of what’s there. A picture speaks, but doesn’t allow you to smell the soft earth, feel the breeze, or taste the sweet dew coating the leaves. I guess I was wrong about so much, and right about so little. And my mistakes taught me that this tobacco hazed room with its books and notes scribbled isn’t really the jazz that’s life. There’s so much more bebop in meeting people, light conversations, runs and swimming, so much exhilaration and thrill in listening to concerts by the local indie band, so much to perceive by just getting out there and watching somebody hum ‘Freedom,’ by Mingus rather than listening to it, resting against the headboard of my bed with my iPod on. There’s so much more fusion of senses found in places other than the local bookstore: maybe a bar with beer, where I’m just hanging out with a few old friends, and the girl I crushed on in college, or was it after college? And will I juxtapose art and life like cool jazz, the alto saxophone being life and the piano art? I don’t know and honestly, I don’t care. I want beauty, love and should I go far and say infinity? Not something esoteric, or out there, but just the infinity of each moment.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Wanting more

I woke up this morning and I looked outside my window. I watched the Flame of the Forest in all her effervescence, dancing to the rhythm of the breeze, giving herself up to the wind’s cadence.

I felt peace. I felt serenity. I felt a rush of tranquility, but it was short-lived.

Soon the voices in my head, and the hurt of the past screamed, shouted and shrieked. A scythe of disquiet hacked my solace in two, and I, distraught and disturbed wandered corridor after corridor, groping in the darkness, looking for answers in a society of charlatans wearing Bauta’s and just hating each other.

Passive aggressive hate.
Aggressive passionate hate.
Passionate passive hate.

Hate, hate, greed, greed, bitterness, bitterness, anger, anger – a theatre of mockery and psychosis, and here I am standing on the stage through the seasons, seething and broken, wanting to do something about it.

Dear Society,
Why do you have to be like that?
Why do you have to screw me over?
Why do you have to fuck me up?

I wish someone would find me amidst the puke covered streets, and the stench of ditchwater. I wish someone would breathe life into me. I wish someone would love me furiously, ferociously and pull me down from the cross, nurse my nail pierced body, remove this crown of thorns and I wish she’ll show me more to belief and faith, and draw my anger out of me.

I wish she’d understand me. I wish she’d transform this barren room with half-smoked cigarettes, spilled coffee and broken bottles of wine into something worth living in.

I wish she weren’t like the others – the women who came and went, waltzed in and foxtrotted out. I don’t wish for just physical intimacy. I wish for commitment, sacrifice and this beautiful, amazing thing that exists in the chaos, burning incandescently despite the wintry chill, this crazy thing we call love.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

A sonnet to existence

this is a picture of a man looking at a display of fireworks. I've used this image because I interpret it as a man watching his dreams from afar. He doesn't know if they'll ever materialize.

I’ve spent my life exploring works of those renown
Hoping some scintilla of touch would enrich
This tumbledown estate where weeds and vines unsown
Plague, afflict and curse with harvests never rich

And sometimes words like fireflies glow in my weak mind
Sparkling with exuberance, they guide the pen
I hold. They tell the world that I’m lost and confined
Living a subdued existence in some den

But there has to be more to life than strife and pain
More than clichés like, “We live for art alone.”
There must be wealth of circumstance, bestowing gain
On our hearts as we meander to the throne

But then our dreams are misty fairy tales and lore
Making us just waste our lives, demanding more

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

The beautiful game

This is a picture of a skull face smoking. I've used it because to me represents the human condition. Are we good or evil? That's the question the picture asks

Do you remember when we played football on that turbid field? You’d pass the ball to me, and I, lacking acumen would race past defender after defender, before being tackled. You’d laugh sometimes and sometimes – irritated – yell at me, urging me to play better.

After the match, you’d resort to your post-match ritual of stretching and warming down, while I’d puff on a cigarette analyzing my game. Looking back, I think we’ll both admit that football fuels some degree of narcissism, even though it is the beautiful game – celebrated by the rich, the poor, the loner and the winner. But then again, I often wonder if you even have traces of nostalgia drifting through your consciousness today.

How did you get radicalized? Was there always some aspect of your being that thrived on serving a wrathful deity using a sword? Sure, you loved discipline on the football field but championed liberty and freedom in life. You believed all men were created equal, and your identity lay more on the hedonistic side of the spectrum than the conservative one. You disdained acts of terror in the name of religion, cause or philosophy. You believed in empathy, forgiveness, and peace.

And then, you disappeared and came back aloof and troubled. But you were unwilling to share your problems. I tried, like any best friend would do. I firstly gently coaxed you before directly confronting you.

“Is it a woman?” I asked.

“You wouldn’t understand,” you dismissed me.

“You were never like this; never indifferent or callous. So, tell me, what happened? You know I’ll never judge you.”

“There are some things in life that we mustn’t speak off,” you answered cryptically.

Soon, you cut all ties with me. And then I heard about the beheading; about the gruesome, despicable way in which you’d robbed two children of their father. You said you did it in the name of God because the man was a blasphemer and an infidel. You said that you’d do it again.

At first, I was shocked, but after accepting that you’d become an animal, I wondered if I was asking the right questions. Is there a caged beast in all of us that we’re only unaware of because society’s norms keep him trapped? Can even the most educated men fall prey to the simplest deceptions, thereby throwing away their moral convictions? Are we prone more to violence, greed and a lust for power than kindness, beauty, and truth? Do we even know the truth or are we all living out internal postmodern realities where everything’s distorted, without insight?

They say education saves but does it? You find cruel men using inherently good technology to carry out ingenious but vile schemes. From gas chambers to the nuclear bomb to cyber-terrorism to identity thefts to Ponzi schemes to fake news to Facebook pages spewing propaganda; I can’t help but think if there’s something sinister creeping in our veins, threatening to break out and metamorphose us into terrifying, feral primitive beings, consumed by the wrong passions and pride.

I remember when you passed the football. You had such vision! You’d know the direction of the run, the striker’s speed and the defender’s positioning before your feet touched the ball. You played chess on the football field, calculating moves in advance, and knocking off pieces. If only you’d had that same insight in life. I wish you did and pray that I get it because that may be the only way to keep the beast caged.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

A terzanelle of regret

This is a black and white image of praying hands. For me, this image captures raw pain, loss, regret and repentance which are themes my poem explores.

I have no Piper’s charm but still, my errors trail
Like rats, they swallow me without a trace of grace
And you see a fragmented ship without a sail

The mirror now reflects a bearded, nettled face
A life filled with vicissitudes and seething hate
Like rats, it swallows me without a trace of grace

I can’t do anything to stop this storm of fate
I’m shifted by the current, and I hit the rocks
A life filled with vicissitudes and seething hate

The jester laughs, and a deranged oppressor mocks
I lose my footing, and I rupture my weak bones
I’m shifted by the current, and I hit the rocks

The children sling a heap of mud and pointed stones
My song grows weary, and I reel, about to fall
I lose my footing, and I rupture my weak bones

I never walked with giants or stood strong and tall
I have no Piper’s charm but still, my errors trail
This song grows weary, and I reel, about to fall
And you’ll see a fragmented ship without a sail

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Finding my own

This is a black and white image of trains. I've chosen it because it represents life in motion, which is the essence of my poem.

I’ve often wondered if this tarmac path
now fractured — densely coated with fool’s gold
embodies my spindrift life — plague and wrath
the mirror now reflects what I don’t hold

It lies without — past costly flats and greed
past quilted beds and lives too far from home
I’ve pondered, wondered if there’s more to need
and would like walking its route — simply roam

But chairs stay still like ties we can’t break from
and light bulbs just glow with no feeling
and modern cabinets keep us lost, numb —
a life without approach to meaning

I’ve often wondered if screams coat my silence
or if it’s fading circumstance and hence —

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

On Meditations by Aurelius

This is a picture of a statue of Marcus Aurelius. I've used it because my essay critiques his philosophy.

I like Aurelius. I like his notion of withdrawing into yourself irrespective of the space and time you’re in, his idea of mortality and fatalism, and a few of his thoughts when it comes to controlling impulse with reason.

I love his philosophy of the present, and never adding more to an unfortunate circumstance. But I disagree with his concept of this being the best of all possible worlds, or the Whole, or the absolute Reason. This world we live in, is often more absurd than fiction, and it doesn’t take rocket science to figure that out. Things go unexplained and you’re never going to find answers or that quaint room with its beautiful symmetry and archaic charm.

No, you’ll often find yourself in a space that’s disjointed and fractured from your convictions: a room with yellow wallpaper, and yes, please catch the allusion, or a frightening, unnerving blurred mass enveloping you with zombies and tricksters breaking free, threatening to bite through flesh, and chew on your bones. And this isn’t paranoia. Just one panoramic glance with keen insight and you’ll see it: the horror, the miasma of living decay that’s abominable choking you, making you want to retch.

And I also dislike his insistence on man being social. Being social comes with both its flaws and its breakthroughs. Sure, it’s good to meet people, but finding yourself in a clique that stereotypes, or a group that hates with an unwarranted agenda makes void the entire notion of socializing being something always productive. He says it’s terrible to fracture yourself from society, but you find artists who’re are complete misfits or loners, giving you masterpieces. I think this is related to his notion of the divinity of man, or looking within to find the light. Now, I always interpret the latter in a very general way, and never make mystical or spiritual connections to it. You must look within to change, but that’s pretty much it.

I don’t believe in human divinity because when I see the world, I see a swirling mass of darkened grey. I use this color because humanity is prone to wickedness although it’s capable of good. The notion of humanity’s inherent nature is a subject that’s hotly debated ever since the first man and woman came into existence. Some say Adam’s fall led to a shift in balance and total depravity; others say we’ve not connected with our innate goodness, but I think both views fail.

We’re not totally depraved, and we have the freedom to choose, but we’re not innately good either. Just one glance at the holocaust tells you enough of the anti-divinity that’s present in man, unless you say that divinity itself is evil. I think man has no divinity, but I agree with Aurelius on the concept of a soul. But his overemphasis on morality puts me off. It’s preachy and becomes self-righteous. But then again he’s addressing himself. Also, is it humanly possible to exist with absolute mastery over impulse and emotion? Still, all said and done, concepts like embracing death without fear, knowing that you’ll be forgotten one day, and that it’s pointless weeping for the dead since they aren’t coming back makes sense.

But the idea of us being recycled by the universe, and just being reduced to mere atoms is only partially true, in my opinion. Sure we’ll all die and go back to dust or ashes, but that’s only the body. I believe that the soul lives on, not one with the Whole, but in another dimension. You can call it heaven, hell or purgatory, but the soul is immortal, but definitely not divine. But I’ll contradict myself here and say that it’s possible that complete soul-annihilation takes place. Hell, I’m open to change.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Youth

This is an image of a young man skateboarding. I've used it because my humorous science fiction post is about being forever young.

Yes, I found the small potent potion
of youth, hidden in a cave named,
‘Transcendence,’ and drank it in one
gulp, oh now, don’t complain, I hunted
for it, and did the hard labor, and so it was all
mine, all mine, I tell you! And it was just a
little green elixir, and so, why share?
Well, I thought that way, years ago,
and for a while it soothed, relieved,
took away stress and grief, and I grew a
beard for a year, and then a Mohawk
the next, and the women drifted in and
out like thoughts in the consciousness,
alluring, attractive, brilliant, bright,
exotic, winsome,
because I journeyed from land
to land, savoring the Boza of Turkey,
the Butter Chicken Masala of India,
and hell, even the Balut of Philippines
which only takes a little getting used
to just like Kopi Luwak,
I went skydiving, swam the
Pacific, attended fashionable parties
on Yachts, and slowly and delicately
feasted on molecular gastronomy
served in three Michelin Star restaurants,
I worked every job from sales clerk
to CEO for the hell of experience,
and boy, those were the days! But soon
television became virtual reality and then
holographic virtual reality and finally
modulated telepathy, signals given from
movie post-brains sitting in post-Hollywood,
and post-minds taking whatever they want to
with the option of cutting and editing
bits, and changing the soundtrack with a flick
of the post-consciousness,
using another signal from
the post-Music Industry, and all this
was too much for me, because the potion
only gave me youth and not evolution,
and so, they threatened me, labeling me
an oddity, and since they couldn’t kill me,
they exiled me to another cave called,
‘Depravity,’ the very word an anathema
to the post-human, and they gave me
my old gadgets which they’d reconstructed
using post-science, way too complicated and
intricate for me to comprehend, and they
called it ‘mercy’, even though they hate the
spoken word and language now rests in
a collective super-consciousness, and so I type,
hoping somebody will hear me, but
nobody does, and I guess I’ll just keep typing
and typing with existential questions
haunting me, and the angst of my mistakes
clawing at my heart, tearing it uncannily,
and  I know now that the word ‘youth’ doesn’t
just mean young, but also connotes
a forever quarter-life crisis,
a forever pain of existing, outside time,
figuratively and literally! And a forever
madness of the millennial even though
three thousand years have passed,
and the Gregorian calendar is now as
redundant as me!

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

A Rondeau for the ostracized

This is a black and white picture of a lonely man. I've used it because my poem talks about ostracism

Find me outside the temple gates on littered streets
Where beggars roam and hawkers sell their rancid meats
Where lepers and malingerers don’t have a chance
At ever swaying to the beat of triumph’s dance
Where you’ll find rickety old huts with threadbare sheets

Here succubi know men and the unclean beast eats
Here rustic thrones lie mangled with disfigured seats
Here beauty lies defeated by affliction’s lance
Outside the temple gates on littered streets

The vendor in his broken lodge sells hardened sweets
The dullard brags about unreasonable feats
The crone does everything expected to enhance
Distress and pain. Yes, you’ll find me in this expanse
Ensconced in halls of grief where the elite excrete
Outside the temple gates on littered streets

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Life as I know it

This is a black and white picture of a depressed man's face. I've chosen it because my prose piece is a personal confessional about my struggles with depression.

I’m a broken man who leads a very lonely life. I don’t have any friends or ‘treasured acquaintances’ as Sheldon Cooper puts it. I’m highly introverted and gravely misunderstood. I have made my share of mistakes, and they haunt me like the spirits that made Legion break his chains and torture himself.

I’ve lost my sense of duty, and I’m as irresponsible as they come. Hours pass with me smoking cigarette after cigarette and listening to the same song on repeat. And when I’m feeling a little determined, I try losing myself to a book. But there are days when I can’t read, let alone write. I feel numb then and try to stimulate my mind with a lot of caffeine; hoping some feral burst of inspiration will strike me, but it rarely works. And I’m left like a defeated prisoner, bound up and tossed in a cage; looking down at the grime and piss.

Once, I was idealistic and believed that I’d hold the stars in my hand like the Son of man. But fate dealt with me harshly and made me realize that I’m dust and ashes, and nothing more. He cruelly stomped on my feet as I chased the will-o’-the-wisp, taking from me the people and dreams I held close to my heart. He made me live out a reality that I once mocked – nurses in pristine white gowns injecting me with tranquilizers, doctors plotting to throw me in a halfway home and over-medicating me like I was a lab rat, and even my parents looking away with contempt.

Then, I looked for solace in religion. I went through mad spiritual phases in my life where I thought serving God is the only purpose in life. But religion only accentuated my grief. I found more terror in faith than love. I had horrific visions which led to more white-gowned nurses and doctors.

Finally, I accepted my circumstances and walked away from wanting validation from people, and no wrath from God. I can’t say that I’ve gained closure, and I doubt I ever will, but for whatever it’s worth I’ve decided to exist as long as there is breath in me; not caring if I’ll fade like discarded Polaroid over time or if I’ll find myself framed on someone’s mantelshelf.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)