Loving and losing you

I walk along the seashore today, engulfed by sorrow. I always knew that I’d lose you one day, but watching it finally happen tore my heart into two. I’m drunk as I watch the waves swirl and threaten to sweep me into the blue abyss. We often say that moments make life, but I can’t imagine a life without sharing experiences with you. You were my everything. You held me when my friends forsook, and I saw trial after trial. You only wanted the best for me, and put me ahead of your needs, although I didn’t deserve it.

I remember when we visited the cold, blue mountains and climbed winding curve after winding curve. I remember when we held each other then and said, “Nothing will get in our way. We’ll trudge through it all.” I remember you gazing at the mist covered valley with awe in your eyes. I remember your innocence and your strength. I remember your beauty and your resilience.

Life teaches us so much, but the greatest lesson we can learn is to love each other. There were times when I was angry, but your quietude softened my temper. There were times when I was despondent, but your empathy made me hold on. You taught me so much. You saw something in me when everyone else had given up. You changed me and made me realize that chasing reckless ambition will never compare to the beautiful togetherness spent with someone you cherish.

I watch the sunset now, and there is a lonely fishing boat still out. I feel like the fisherman who owns the boat; trying futilely to catch something that isn’t there. The lights of the lighthouse have come on now, and I think about the ships that they guide safely. I, unlike them, will crash against the rocks and make a shipwreck of this life now that you’re no longer here.

Love heals, but it also hurts like hell. When you lose someone who’s given you more than you ever expected; who’s done so much for you; who’s fought for you and sacrificed so much for you, the pain is unbearable.

I remember the mountains again when we walked in that rose garden where I was obsessed with taking pictures, and you were more interested in just enjoying the experience. And it’s the little things like that, that made you.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Unfinished

This is a picture of a man silhouetted against a bright window. He's in a dark room and to me this image symbolizes both despair and hope and complements my piece.

I found you in a desolate place riddled with black mildew covered leaves and whirlwinds of dust.

I found you after I’d gambled away my years, chasing the will-o’-the-wisp.

I found you after all the women in my life walked out on me, and I was starting to wonder if their love was just a ruse.

I found you in a catacomb of distress — a broken tomb where the past echoes and there is no stairwell to carry us out into the future.

I found you, just as broken as I was, in the throes of heartbreak and depression, wanting more, hoping to leave your burdens at an altar of resurrection and walk out with the belfry behind you and dawn in front.

I loved you with all my heart, and remember kissing you in the moonlight while it drizzled, and little puddles snaked their way around our feet, and cars climbed winding curve after winding curve, briefly illuminating us with their headlights, before leaving us to the soft, ethereal glow of the moonlight.

I loved you because you stood by me when I found myself in an abandoned room with broken walls and smashed windows — the shards of madness embedding themselves in my flesh and resisting removal.

I loved you because you loved me despite my vagaries and my disposition; despite my eccentricities and hate. You never let me go despite time or season. You laughed with me during the buoyant Summer. You helped me create evocative poetry to rival Spring’s expressionism. You held me close and wept with me when our lives saw Autumn’s rust. You helped me see meaning when a bleak Winter enveloped us.

I lost you, and now I walk corridor after corridor screaming your name, hoping you’ll hear me again. I walk on the shore, and the spindrift pierces me like a thousand needles, and a part of me wants to lose myself in the waves.

I lost you, and my symphony lies unfinished without a coda, and there isn’t anyone else who can help me with it. The piano lies dusty and the guitar untuned. I’ve broken the mouthpiece of the clarinet, and I doubt I’ll ever play again.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

The same reflection

This is an image of a person trudging through the mist. It represents the hard road we walk on, which is a central theme in my piece.

I don’t know if I’m a saint or a sinner or if I’ve somehow transcended those notions through a nihilism that followed a dark night of the soul.

I’ve looked in the mirror a thousand times and I never find the same reflection. I’m like a song who can’t be played the same way twice, and once the musician discards me, I’ll fade into obscurity and oblivion, like a train entering an endless dark tunnel. Who am I? Where will I find myself after the apocalypse – on a barren land with a bloody moon, or some small redemptive corner where the Church bell still chimes and visions, gifts and prophecy endure?

The last time I looked in the mirror, I saw a disgruntled bearded man, having come to terms with the loss of youth’s vanity. No longer attractive, no longer possessing allure or personality, no longer finding solace in women. I never envisioned this man when I lived separated from reality in a city of romanticism, but bit by bit, the jade and sapphire turned into brick and rust, the smell of the earth gave way to a miasma of decay that singed my eyes and left a bitter aftertaste in my mouth.

I then spat and vomited, knowing things will never be the same. I ran on roads coated with ash and blood under a dying sky and on some crag spotted Tennyson’s eagle waiting to swoop down like a majestic golden-brown monarch. I reached up hoping he’d land on my arm and guide me, but I was denied providential grace. The buildings looked like putrefied flesh and I ran on to find my house lying in ruins and I was left with two choices: To cling to shattered idealism or to forge the new out of what remained and I still don’t know what I’ve done.

I feel strongly and don’t feel at all. I love strongly and hate bitterly. I call myself out for my duplicity, but I can’t repair myself. I don’t possess the tools and the wheel of my existence is losing a new spoke each day, which I stick haphazardly with duct tape and glue, never knowing if tomorrow it’ll still run and there’ll be freedom symbolizing the now clichéd, ‘This too has passed.’

And hence, all I can offer you is abstract expression. I sit now in a coffee shop, smoking my last cigarette, and see faces pass me, some mute, some saying something like, ‘hello,’ and I know they’ve got it sorted out, and with each tick of the clock, they’ll progress while I’ll stay like the ash in the tray, never knowing what’ll happen next, until they clean the tray.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

The only way out

This is a picture of a path in the woods. It represents moving forward despite the tribulation fate bestows on us.

When I learned that she was going to breathe her last soon, that the disease was already in its fourth stage, I boxed the wall until my fingers bled, and then looked up. ‘Are you there? Do you even care?’ I asked the sovereign. Was this karma because I played God when I created characters and destroyed them using my artistry? Or was this judgement for each sin, consciously or subconsciously committed? I was left with these questions asphyxiating me, and the never knowing, making me smoke, giving me stained cotton lungs.

I smashed mirrors, the shards piercing through skin and bone while crimson soldiers of anarchy made their way to my wrist, staining the battlefield of my skin with their nefariousness. ‘Why are you silent?’ I asked him who predetermines. ‘Why do you turn your face away?’ I screamed with indignation.

I loved her. She was the only one who never judged me despite my idiosyncrasies and cantankerous temperament. She loved me selflessly and maybe the fact that I’d never reciprocated fully, birthed guilt, which birthed anger, and with a frustrated and devastated core, I took my rage out on him who’s supposedly omnipotent.

I spent days, negatively praying, and by that, I mean cursing him. So even though I believed, I succumbed to a spiritual nihilism and felt like I was carrying each cross of each broken person in this fractured world. Who are we, but dying candles braving the squalid winds of providence? And couldn’t all this be different? A world without the fall, without suffering, without Adam’s apple, and the serpent’s deception?

Watching her regress from a healthy, functional woman to a mass of tubes and bones impaled my faith with a spear of nihilism. ‘God is dead,’ I finally proclaimed, because I couldn’t handle watching the only person who meant something to me needing morphine to numb the pain, feeding off poisonous chemicals that kill more than save, smelling like a gangrenous mass of cells, and I drank, drank, and drank some more. I couldn’t visit her, because I didn’t want to see her intoxicated, but not being there made me drink more, and I wished for a way out.

And then something within, reminded me of my egocentricity, and rebuked me for playing the theatrical, ‘I, me and myself,’ card. She needed me, even if her essence was leaving her, and my pain was nothing compared to what she was going through. I learned at that moment what selflessness and humility meant. It meant giving and not self-indulgence, though the stones of tribulation strike you hard, and leave you bleeding.

But a part of me loved wallowing in my misery and did its best to enclose myself in a hazy room where my eyes burned, and the walls slowly closed on me. A part of me said, ‘You’ve got nothing left, so, why bother?’ And voices echoed, formed battle positions in my mind, and fought furiously while I looked at the liquor, and thought, ‘One more swig. That’s all, and I’ll be numb.’

But I lifted the bottle and smashed it against the wall. And threw on thrift shop clothes and ran to the hospital. I ran six miles. And sweating, I asked the nurse for an appointment, but was denied since visiting hours were over. ‘I need to see her. I’ve been here so many times before. Just for a few minutes. I love her,’ I said or partly screamed. But I was asked to come back the next day,

And so, I went home, and looked at the rum staining my floor, and a part of me said, ‘You fool! You wasted it,’ but another softly said, ‘Visit her tomorrow.’ And though I was an impulsive, reckless rebel, I listened to my inner voice this one time and spent the night fighting the urge to drink.

The next morning, feeling a conglomeration of love, withdrawal, hate and bitterness, I walked to the hospital again. And then I saw her, looking with tears in her years, wondering why I hadn’t visited. I fell to my knees and said, ‘I’m sorry. I love you,’ and she smiled through the pain. I visited her everyday though I knew she wouldn’t make it. I fought the withdrawal, though each iota of the flesh screamed. And finally, I stood in the back, when a family who’d abandoned her visited her, after she had deteriorated badly.

They transferred her to the ICU and one by one, people visited, perhaps trying to make closure, or to pretend that they cared. I was the second last. And there lay the woman who’d given me so much, and showed so much strength, now feeble and unconsciousness. ‘He gives and takes away,’ a part of me said, while another yelled, ‘Why?’

I stuttered when I gave my eulogy, but didn’t shed tears while people cried loudly; people who didn’t even bother to call her for years. Maybe they thought me cold, but I didn’t see a single one of them when I visited the cemetery the next day, and clutched the tombstone and engraved my own epitaph with my tears, literally screaming and howling, while the wind blew away withered leaves, and the sunset bathed me in the twilight.

Looking back, I found redemption from my demons because of her unconditional love, but I had to lose the most precious, beautiful person in my life to trudge forward. And that’s life: We live though we’re broken. We die though we’re happy, and through it all, despite the horrors and pain, some inner clock ticks, saying, ‘The only way out is through.’

Inspired by the quote, ‘The only way out is through’ by Robert Frost.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Fate

This is an image of a lonely man walking the city streets at night. It portrays grief which is the central theme of my poem.

He was a teetotaler, but his wife drank,
now and then, a little gin to relax her
after a hectic day, counseling teenagers with
existential problems, unnecessary, unwarranted,
undying, then one day they went to a party
with their 12-year-old, and she was a little tipsy,
but he kept his discipline, and as he drove back,
passing winding curve after curve, the son
asking questions, the wife’s laughter making
him smile, he kept his discipline, but
reality often pivots the rules we make like a
top spinning, a car spinning after a truck
nicked the edge, memories spinning, lives loved
slipping, he woke up, his life spinning,
spiraling down, and moments
paused for a long sequence,
and a new cycle began, watching everything
he had coast in the grey and touch
the blue, cold river,
his discipline slipping, and he visited a shrine,
his sanity slipping, hoping to look for the
dead still waltzing, walking, waiting,
but found nothing, no Cadmean victory,
and red droplets of anguish turned a fiery
orange, and he lost his discipline, relationships
with widows, their children unattended to,
uncared for, flings with married women,
their husbands too old and prosperous,
and then finally a glass, no…two…three…
four…ten glasses of gin each day, justifying
it with the nostalgia of that last moment with her,
walking down winding curve after curve,
haggardly, horribly scarred by the pockmarks
of fate, looking up in anger, yelling, “You’re
responsible! You’re responsible!” Looking down
in self-loathing, whispering, “I’m responsible,
I’m responsible,” looking back in disarray,
asking a mute, “Why?” Having lost work and purpose,
and finally drifting in and out of consciousness…

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)