The gravedigger’s son

This is an eerie image of a grave. My post is about a gravedigger who loses his sense of self because of the stress of his job, and I thought this image perfectly captures that.

I’m a gravedigger’s son,
the shovel and spade, nick
-snick-flick, earth as raw as putrid flesh,
movements and sequences, nick-
snick-flick, instinct, impulse, rationale, reason,
combining, conglomerating with each nick-
snick-flick, making my father weary,
and the eulogies for sons lost in
accidents, daughters dying of cancer,
got to him, and the fire and brimstone
spewed, unnerved, unsettled him, and
so, he drank and drank, and came home,
never abusive, but neglecting everything
and everyone, his surroundings a chorus
of the dullest beige, his song softer than
the mildest blue, his eyes red, his cheeks
crimson, giving no one, even a semblance of
green, and when he died, I took the spade
and shovel, not out of want but need, nick-
snick-flick, a slow monotonous cadence
settling in, standing in a corner, averting glances,
and then fine-tuned to them, the buzz and flow
of the traffic, the cacophony of horns
making no difference, nick-
snick-flick, coming home
to an aging mother, and a wife without
the alcohol and yet failing…falling short, nick-
snick-flick, each picture slowly turning
sepia and then a blurred black and white,
while everyone I knew or cared about,
or loved still breathes,
but is sadly dead to me.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Andrea

This is a photograph of a beautiful woman. This image has an enigmatic charm which is why I've chosen it. The woman has an aura of mystery surrounding her which complements my post which is about a woman with an incomprehensible charm.

Andrea dances to the rhythm of song and affection. She gracefully pivots through both the challenges of life and the hues of the season with an elegance of a ballet dancer. The pink Bougainvillea creeps on the wall of the bungalow she inherited where the men in her life drift in and out like thoughts in the consciousness: some wonderful and handsome, some angry, some vain, some seeking to gain a hold, but Andrea has mastered the art of controlling her mind, and her men. Try as they may, their efforts at seduction gradually crumble like a sandcastle slowly broken with rough fingers; their confidence and Alpha male stereotypes gradually fade like the burgundy sunset that compliments her red home with its lush green lawn. As Andrea walks, a myriad colors that life beckons embrace her and she soaks in the hues she wants: perhaps a night entangled with a lover between the sheets, perhaps a vintage wine, perhaps a party where she’s guest and host both, making sure the cogs of the social machinery fall right where they should. She’s a woman of experience, depth and lessons that books don’t teach us, but that’s not to say she isn’t well read. Some men yearn and hunger with insatiable desire just to get a voyeuristic peak while she showers, the water slowly softening her cascading hair and slipping down her breasts, her brown skin before touching the grey floor. Others long to get a glimpse of what happens in her heart and mind: men of greater depth and intellect, and she offers both no view. Some love her and don’t mind being quixotic, and she offers them an austere stoic demeanor challenging their very convictions. And the last think austerity will win her, and she breaks them with an uncanny compassion that isn’t exactly naïve but too beautiful for their one-dimensional reasoning to fathom. There isn’t anyone who knows Andrea better than herself, and there lies her beauty, elegance, charm, wit and subtlety.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Ambiguity

This is an image of a road in the woods leading to light. I've chosen it to represent hope even though my poem ends on a note of uncertainty.

When I last met sister,
her reality was a Kafkaesque,
disjointed, dysfunctional
nightmare that gave me no
respite, rest, recess, I wanted
to let her pain sink in, empathize,
or at least sympathize, she lay on
a park bench, muttering, stuttering,
stammering, falling short,
“I’m…just…a…fucking…w..aste
of vo..lu..me,” she said Prozac
ridden, her hazy eyes,
speaking more than prescription,
“Turn…me…d..o..w..n, s..t..a..t..i..c,”
she said, but I couldn’t leave her
in that weedy reality riddled with scraps,
paunched men staring at her
like she was a whore, ready to prance,
pounce, prey, and that litter stinks more
than the debris in the outskirts
of this seemingly cosmopolitan, dark
eye-liner, dark red lipshade façade
that only people who know India smell,
and you can call it a messiah complex,
a Jack Shephard need to save, and yes,
I have a similar tattoo on my arm, or a
pseudo-Samaritan need to fake-help,
or just love, but I picked her up, despite
my nonchalance which soon splintered
into tears, a heart of shattered stars,
carried her home, with my little
lean muscle, and told her
there is no mute, or a tuneless
song, but a new dawn, day, a spark,
a speck of hope, and she listened,
drifting in and out of consciousness,
but soon walked away, dissipating, dissolving,
disappearing again, and I hope with all
my heart that she found a place
with her name engraved on a
good man’s heart, and not on
a pothole reeking of addiction,
where she’ll be a target without
a need for an aim, and that shakes,
splits my core, with a jagged,
rough-edged knife, because I may
never be able to save her again.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

As if

This is an image of a plane wreck floating on the sea. I've chosen it because it augments the nihilism which is the central theme of my poem

I write poems of myself, as if there is a point of writing.
I wake each morning to the sight of the ceiling fan,
as if there is a point to sleeping and waking.
I breathe the fresh air, as I walk to the rhythm of
the thrush, as if there is a point to breathing and walking.

What is existence, but the dregs of the past carried
by the illusion of tomorrow?
What is solace, but a myth punched in our skulls
using a societal pneumatic drill of ‘thinking positive
thoughts’ and ‘high self-esteem’?

I walk on a cracked road, strewn with dead leaves,
crushed paper cups and the stench of over-ripeness,
the road is broad and here and there I find a tavern
or a whorehouse that only elevates my guilt,
the road is barren except for a few humps
like an old hag with sagging tits,
the road has stark tress, fruitless and leafless
on both sides, menacing, haunting, monstrous,
hideous like wooden upright cadavers,
the road leads to a murky horizon, askew
and blurry, never telling me what awaits.

The stories I’ve known, I’ve shared with no one –
because ears hear, but they don’t hear at all –
and so, I trudge alone beneath the sun –
embracing seasons dying – the filth – fall –

I write songs of remembrance, as if recollection
abets salvation, memories or flashes of them
forming a false beatific vision, lasting an hour
before the mind’s uneasy, unsettled, untidy,
unaided.

I write sonnets of love, as if I hold it in my heart,
which in truth is a headstone with an epitaph saying,
‘Here lies one unknown who died before he died,
here lies one obscure who never lived though he lived,
here lies one unseen who saw though he never saw.’

I write villanelles of ache, as if sorrow is the muse
that refines, coats hearts with the golden dew of
resilience, but my tears refuse to flood my eyes,
my pain has given way to apathy like that of a soldier who
first cries in sorrow over a dying friend before seeing
one too many fall and then desensitized and disillusioned
carries on.

I write prose both lyrical and anti-lyrical calling
the hyacinth layers of velvety tenderness or
calling it a myriad chopped off tongues stitched
together, but does it matter? I ask you, does it matter?

I can sing of myself, but I’m not myself.
I can rise to meet life, but I’ve never risen.
I can talk of rebirth, but I’ve never known birth.
I can talk of death, but I’m already gone.

And all this, the songs and their echoes,
the women and the cigarettes, the laughter
and the beer, the muted tears and the numbness,
the journey and the destination rises like
a monster with a scaly carapace, irises of fire,
a mouth with demonic teeth, sharp like needles,
four-footed, with vicious claws and wings with an
aura of a death-spirit, seeking to devour life, but
only to find itself thrown in the abyss,
only to find itself lost to obscurity and oblivion,
forgotten and erased.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Polarity

This is an image of two maps: one with a compass on it and another without. I've chosen it because there's a line in my piece that talks about how time on the outside moves linearly while time inside a love-hate relationship switches between darkness and light.

I’m in love with you, but I also know it’s time to let go. Time within us remains the same flick between darkness and light, while time without moves linearly. These relationships are the hardest and will split cores and break skulls with sharp axes of a muted ‘why?’ We’re in love but also stay together for the sake of it. It’s this dichotomy that both divorces us, and makes each touch and words said and unsaid worth it. We’re killing each other, but our damaged cores spin on an axis of who we might become, or who we think we’ll become.

I fucking love you and the roots of this strong emotion grip my heart fiercely and furiously, but some other force hacked the stem; split the branches in two. We’re pivoting on broken heels on a floor of fire, and though the raw burn and charred flesh gives us a pain that transforms into guttural shrieks, we have nowhere to go for solace and so we cling to each other through it all, wistfully thinking that some Messiah on a cross, with a spear in his side will resurrect, and tear this pitch-black veil that separates us from a together sanctification, and clear the rubble and sweep the ashes, but darling, the stars stay in their place, glimmering just like glitter paper does. There aren’t saviors or forces that turn a sun-scorched garden with the tree of life into a paradisiacal Eden with the same tree. This duality will persist, and only a tear will help us both mature and seek something else, but will we find it?

I’ll always cherish our silly nicknames and quiet moments with lopsided grins and secrets kept. But then again, I’ll loathe myself for treating you with such disrespect and disregard. You said today, ‘I think we were never meant to be,’ but I know we’ll both weep over those words and abuses hurled back and forth. I guess gold meets rust, spring meets autumn, silver linings meet sepia skies, red meets crimson and love meets hate. And each adage like, ‘proximity breeds contempt,’ is tried, tested and proven. I wish I can forgive myself for all the hurt I’ve caused you, but the day I did, I’ll cease being human. What’s with love and vicious circles? What’s with romance like a serpent biting its own tail? I guess I’ll never understand and here I stand in the death-throes of this relationship which is also its rebirth.

I look in the mirror and know that just like the bearded man who stares back at me, no longer possessing the charm of his youth, these lines aren’t perfect, and maybe our search for perfection is causing this maelström of summer and winter, of brown sands with soft waves and the bitter cold chill. And I guess we’re too far in now to correct that flaw and know each other too much to stay in our brokenness. So, with the dying embers of tomorrow beckoning and the luminous reflection of yesterday – scintillating with both pain and joy; torn, threadbare, broken and beaten, I know it’s time to say goodbye. But know this darling, that though love manifests itself in ugly ways and tragically crushes souls when it doesn’t evolve, in the deepest recesses of my heart it’s forever you and me.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Coming home to you

This is a picture of the sea during sunset. It's a picture that evokes sadness, grief and loneliness which are themes I've explored in my poem.

I remember you composing
music to the poems I wrote,
infusing them with more
emotion and turning red droplets
to crimson stains of expression,
you sat blissfully tranquil
and while you drifted with time,
your hands gracefully sliding
across the piano, each quaver,
crotchet and minim merging
with my iambs, anapaests and
trochees, I forgot to remember
the burn of the bruises and scars
our knuckles and wrists bore,
because beauty and love triumphs
and creates a twilight far superior
to the pastel skies we retreated
into when the hands of our disturbed
fathers clawed deep, stole our
hearts, and planted seeds of
abominations in the soil of our souls,
watered each day by the tears
of an unforgettable, unfathomable,
undying trauma.

And how we wait
for the ax of unadulterated affection
to slice the harrowing, horrifying
fruitless tree with stark limbs,
and thorns instead of leaves still
growing within, but
I guess even that wasn’t enough. I
watched those very hands that played
grow stiff and the face that absorbed
itself in our art grow catatonic.
I watched as you lost even the crayon
world of yesterday and only saw
terror, uttering meaningless
neologisms now and then – a
clink and a clang, and finally
watched as you they took you
to a pristine, drug den where
they false promised you’d get better,
and though I visited, playing
your music and reading new poems,
hoping innocently that you’d give
them a score, they told me
a month ago that they found you
in a way that killed off all my hope,
and I didn’t attend your funeral,
because I knew that some
other pianist was going to play
your compositions.

I heard she
gave it ‘justice’ and that your mother
hates me now, and as
I walked to the beach
this evening, I crushed all the poems
I wrote you, left them on the sand,
jumped in and let
the waves crash against me
while I screamed, trying my best
to forget to remember us, and
get a hold of a life so fundamentally
decomposed.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

All we ever had

This is an image of the woods at dawn. It captures the emotion that piece conveys which is why I chose it.

When I married you, I didn’t think of bliss, but
something steady, sure, through the ups and downs
of our time and space, the clock ticking and our
stars sparkling, giving us more than we needed,
but time surprised me with euphoria, elation
and celebration, the first few years, walks in the
park, stealing kisses in the morning, watching
the twilight slowly seep through the gentle
gap in the burgundy curtain, together, and perhaps
expecting forever cost me, because you
suddenly withdrew, spiraling and spiraling
into your atmosphere, often catatonic,
sometimes laconic, and I remember the crushing
diagnosis, soon after she was born,
the horror of waking dreams, and
voices whispered, making, urging, beckoning
you to do things unfathomable, uncanny,
ugly, and I devoted myself more to little
Emma, and watched as she grew,
often sheltering, protecting, shielding her,
the burden draining my own atmosphere,
our ecosphere now a sepia photograph
of incoherence, and sleight of hand,
a fool’s game of cards, and then when she was
twelve she sank into something similar,
or worse, and care-takers, and prescription,
didn’t help, and I stood, watching the
two women I loved winding and winding
around a gyre of gargoyles,
and I wanted, I only wanted
to bring the structure down, make them see
the light again, and fall into my arms, but I couldn’t,
and it isn’t sorrow that kills darling, it’s a stage
further, a void that makes a man take complete
charge, free-will killing off fate, without the flip
of a coin, and I was no longer allergic to what
comes after, I don’t know if the two
of you were there, as they scattered my dust and
ashes, being finally becoming one with the soil
it sprouted from, but if you were, I wish you
shed no tear or even screamed, but understood
that I loved you both but stopped loving me.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)