Everyone

This is a picture of people silhouetted against a sparkling background. I've used this image to represent conformity and the dreams that fuel people and make them cruel.

Something special somewhere lies
out of reach of
everyone who longs to become someone,
frustrating, forcing
addled brains to know more incoherence
and then take their rage out on poor
nobody who knew no one and lived
nowhere.

Everybody looks up to somebody
who gives his umpteenth theatrical swansong
saying, ‘Oh! I’m depressed and can’t do it anymore!’
Amidst the clicks, flashes, cheers and claps
while poor nobody genuinely sings his song
to an audience of none.

Everyone wants to go everywhere –
fucking on wild tropical beaches
to the rhythm of the tide,
climbing the alabaster peaks,
just for the boisterous boast,
trekking through jungles with tribes
for a mugshot of an emaciated man
who crushes the serpent’s head with his foot before
the now famous ‘poverty’ or ‘education’ status
update, written on the spot, because voilà!
There’s connectivity! While poor nobody
knows no place except the thought of somewhere.

Oh devious, deceitful generation
with bloodshot eyes and zombie like fixation
on tips, taps, clings, rings, permanent vibration,
clicks, flicks, swipes, types, a cyber fake-salvation;
glued to the screen, books not read, dead attention –
the red light after a post, the ovation
you need – forever lost in fast transition

Everybody wants to live someplace better than
everyone else, and anyone who says, ‘no,’ is
nobody who’s tragically crying, ‘Anyone!’
While someone looks and laughs, saying,
‘Ha! Loser! He’ll never amount to anyone!’
And everyone joins in the chorus because
something special somewhere lies
out of reach of
anyone who wants to become someone.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

A sestina of madness

This is a picture of one man rowing. There's nobody else in the picture and it's in black and white. It represents acute despair.

I walked beneath a Maple tree arch
and knew appeal and something crimson:
the Painter’s flourish still surviving
despite the architect’s fierce madness;
returning I saw trees hacked: corpses
and gave up hoping for love and peace

They stood with candles wanting some peace
below a gaudy, dazzling false arch
and now we see the terror; corpses
the earth weeps since it’s not Fall’s crimson,
it’s finitude’s severe sheer madness
until no life is left surviving

I thought she loved me: we’re surviving;
thought life will give us solace and peace,
we just tore everything in madness,
we now live under a subdued arch,
love is soft, never something crimson,
these rings we wear now look like corpses

My friends are now remote, just corpses,
I thought we’ll walk this path, surviving
these tests and pains that just seem crimson,
perhaps I trusted in devout peace:
felt we’ll all race beneath a strong arch;
those cotton candy dreams are madness

I trusted my will till the madness
attacked it, left poetic corpses,
I stood beneath a perilous arch
and only thought I was surviving
until it dawned without intense peace –
the sky had turned a wintry crimson

My fate is sealed and only crimson,
I try but cannot fight this madness,
a mind cast down by war and not peace,
thoughts in the mud: they look like corpses,
I’m tired of fighting and surviving,
I only stood beneath a lost arch

I walked beneath a Maple tree arch,
the painter’s flourish still surviving;
returning I saw trees hacked: corpses.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Innocence within the femme fatale

This is an image of a femme fatale. I've used it because my post is about finding beauty in raw writing. Writing that has a tough exterior is often full of heart and honesty.

There’s something about her writing that brings me back. It isn’t a Fitzgerladean crescendo, slowly building up in the tender night, tugging at your heartstrings eloquently and ethereally. No, it’s sprinkled with sawdust, and rusty nails, but once you dig deeper – at the risk of getting injured – you’ll find a hidden gem with so much depth and candor: multifaceted and transparent. But I’m sure a lot of people don’t dig enough, either from the fear of reciprocation, or because their superficiality and walking canes make them tragically stereotype themselves.

We’re quick to label writing as coarse, or cantankerous, when we have our own periods of vulgarity during the day, which the Sauvignon never solves. An artificial faux-elitist conservativeness is what I call it. An indelible keloid or a permanent tattoo both cut through skin, and just because the latter seems attractive, it doesn’t mean the former doesn’t bring with it the pain of experience.

But I go back to her, and I like the diamond in the rough – if you’ll permit me to use a cliché – or the esoteric sound like Miles Davis’ Paraphernalia submerged beneath layers of Grindcore. I find Meshuggah bringing individual units together to form a polyrhythmic machine, before finding another swirl of life in Chet Baker and Paul Desmond playing a standard like Autumn leaves when I read her: The latter’s unique alto tone evoking more than feelings; almost literally placing me in another space and time.

There’s so much beauty in unique art, but it lies in perception, and never in battles for superiority, or petty feud – counter feud poetry. We’re just individuals, and from a bird’s eye view, we’re one with the earth we walk on, shaped and molded by it, and what we create should facilitate growth, and nurture a collective artistic consciousness. Irrespective of the approach: confessional, descriptive, satirical, or a separation between the writer and his work, or pure stream of thought, this journey is beautiful.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

I cannot make promises I can’t keep

This is an image of a path in the woods. I've used a picture of nature because my poem draws heavily from nature. The image adds to the realistic feel of the poem.

I cannot be your whimsical country cottage
with its beige roof, stone walls, and chimney,
against a breathtaking backdrop of Rainbow
Eucalyptuses with their postmodern barks:
The home you can retreat to whenever you
seek solitude,
I cannot be the solitary boat on the calm sea:
The one that always points you
to a saddened, Autumn-hued horizon
thereby empathizing with your every sullen state,
I cannot be the archway of cotton wool trees
under which you walk on a carpet of white clouds:
The winter vacation you need when it’s hot, humid
and unbearable to live with yourself,
I cannot be the layered tea-plantations in the drizzle
like pyramids, only natural and alive:
The elegance you suddenly desire
after a day like watery coffee,
you must understand darling that I’m flawed and finite:
just dice thrown not knowing where it will land
or what it will show,
a mote of dust sometimes suspended in the sunbeam,
a freshwater pearl that isn’t that valuable,
and you cannot expect a love that surpasses me,
because even the most beautiful people in one’s life are tragic,
but know this:
whether we’re ramshackle huts or idyllic bungalows,
whether we listen to the cock crow or the silence of the stars,
whether we’re eating in silence or walking hand in hand,
I can be the oak you rest under,
not always comfortable to touch, aging, losing its luster
and one day gnarled and leafless.

© 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)

What goes around comes around

This is a picture of lightning. I've used it because it complements the fiery style of writing I've used in this post.

Back then, I endured every insult you flung at me like poisonous darts and let myself be humiliated.

I spent years wallowing in self-pity because of your mockery and wanted your life to break into pieces like a flimsy porcelain plate hurled to the floor. I wanted revenge. I wanted you to feel pain – raw, real, debilitating, destructive pain.

But then I realized that revenge gets one nowhere and is not mine to take. I learned from my mistakes and triumphed over the bitterness that scalded my heart like hot water searing flesh. My rage became quiet sorrow. My self-pity became apathy, and my hate became love.

I realized that you would sooner or later fall into a pit and I didn’t need to wish for it. And I was right. You built those sand castles and dreamt that they’d last because you ‘believed’ that you’d used onyx and graphite when you’d constructed them. But look at them now – rubble and debris intermixed with the piss of the very people you thought admired you. They couldn’t withstand the first sweep of the waves.

You thought you were a Daenerys Targaryenesque ‘Mother of dragons,’ who’d crush her enemies in one swoop and rule on ‘The Iron Throne,’ but look at you now – the commoner’s laughing-stock, raging and ranting at the air.

You made a ‘list’ of the men you ‘believed’ you’d date – regardless of if they felt the same way about you or not – and said, “You were never on it,” when I politely asked you out, even though you were crazy about me in college. You said it out of pure maliciousness and a want to wound, but look at you now, unable to keep a marriage and trying to win everybody over with lies about your husband.

I guess you realize now that it’s painful to have a heap of garbage thrown at you. And I sincerely hope you’ve snapped out of a dream where nymphs, fairies, and elves adore and crown you. I sincerely hope that you’ve realized that we’re all placed here to suffer and to endure because enduring pain and torment produces the fruit of perseverance which is so missing in the millennial.

I wish you well and hope you transform into someone beautiful because I know that every person can be beautiful. They only need the courage to face their vices. Redemption lies waiting beyond sorrow’s turbulent sea, but you’ll need to row as hard as you can, enduring the harsh rain and the ugliness to find the promised land.

You’re now in a blurry place where naiveté meets realism. Cross over to the real side and realize that even though there’s nothing much to start with, there’s still something more than a cup full of maladaptive dreaming.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Kaleidoscope

This is a black and white image of a couple holding hands and walking on the beach. The lack of color represents a flawed togetherness with its ups and downs which is the essence of love.

I know looking into your heart is like looking into a kaleidoscope, or maybe that metaphor’s a little showy, but I’m running with it for now. So, I look and find all these abstract patterns – bright and colorful, each representing a lover or a fling, and at the periphery, I find those one-night stands or slipshod ten-day sex without mental stimulation romances, but then I progress and find these blue patterns of a year or two-year old romances with ideas of a person or who you wanted them to become, and I guess that’s why they’re dreamy and resemble a hazy sky with abstract clouds, but then I’d like to find myself at the red core, which isn’t as vague as everything else, but not absolutely clear either, because darling, you and I know, that no relationship’s perfect.

Sure, I could bring you flowers this morning, and make you bacon and black coffee in that big glass, without sugar, just the way you like it, and then press you against the wall, while the hair you just did, cascades, and I know you like that – a morning taste of what’s coming, and then in the evening we could do the clichéd walk in the park, or a movie together, or laser tag.

And then, once we’re home, I could slowly unhook your bra (you know I’m good at that!) and then you could pull my shirt off, look at my scar, which you love for some strange reason, even though it’s this nasty keloid that looks like they sawed my stomach into two, and stitched it together, which they did, when I think about it.

And then I could kiss you on the neck and slowly, steadily and stealthily climb down, inch by inch, while you arch your back, and sigh, and before we know it, we’d be reaching for something so very electrifying; galvanizing each other with stimulation that isn’t purely physical, but emotional, psychological and surreal, and then exhilarating and relaxing, teasing and tantalizing in a way that’s not overtly flirty, but ‘mystical,’ if you like the term, and then, we’d find the warmth of two hearts beating as one, and each kiss that embodies a crazy, deep, insane rich feeling: the same red at the core of the kaleidoscope.

But that’s today, and tomorrow we might feel like doing nothing except slightly kissing, with the same emotion, but then the day after, something trivial might spoil things for a few hours, and hence, even at the core, what we have is never perfect.

We’ll always fall short of perfection, and then embrace the beauty of a perfect, almost-perfect togetherness, and I guess it’s just this thing we call love.

© 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)

We

This is a surreal image of a couple looking at each other. I've used it because to me it represents not being in love but still being together which is the theme of my prose poem.

I don’t know when we fell out of love. Did it happen gradually like a candle melting or did it occur abruptly like a glass plate slipping from a waiter’s fingers and shattering into pieces on the floor?

I remember when we were swashbuckling romantics who walked under the distress of noon, and the august, solemn canopy of Autumn, hand in hand, driven by quixotic passion and a raw lust for life.

Maybe it’s that very idealism that killed us. Maybe we woke up one night and realized that though we shared the same bed and lived under the same roof, we were just two extremely different people who could only find themselves if they went their separate ways.

Or maybe there was an incandescent spark once but like a firecracker that becomes ash and debris after an exuberant display; we became redundant – just immature children make-believing that we were swimming in a sea of turquoise when all there was, was an unfruitful land with skulls and bones.

But what bothers me is that we’re still together, not out of necessity or the need for solace, but out of subconscious choice. We suppress the truth that insists that we let go and bind each other with toxic threads of unity for the sake of it.

We’ve known charm and Chernobyl. We’ve seen thriving forests with wood nymphs and the seventh stage of the abyss. We’ve felt dashes of joy and ebullitions of sorrow. We’ve held love and hate.

But what saddens me is that all we’ve known, seen, felt and held hasn’t given us the will to walk away and plunge ourselves in the unknown where we’ll find insight and freedom.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

A villanelle for the broken

This is a picture of a sorrowed man praying. I've chosen this image because it augments my villanelle which is about grief

If life has meaning, then do tell me what it is
Do whispers of distress become a din of ache
Or do we wait in sorrow for outstanding bliss?

I’ve walked beside these rusty tracks, I’ve heard the hiss
Of broken trains. I’ve frequented regret’s long wake
If life has meaning, then do tell me what it is

Is it a puzzle that needs solving? A grim quiz?
Or do we conjure up lies for intention’s sake?
Or do we wait in sorrow for outstanding bliss?

I’ve heard the wails of pain from the perturbed abyss
I’ve seen the donjon crumble and I’ve felt the quake
If life has meaning, then do tell me what it is

Is it wild joy that’s toasted with champagne and fizz?
A guileless thrill for skewers, well-done steak, and cake?
Or do we wait in sorrow for outstanding bliss?

I’ve held her, and I’ve lost her like a bygone kiss
I’ve felt my torment echo and my stronghold shake
If life has meaning, then my grief is all there is
Or do I wait in sorrow for outstanding bliss?

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)