A portrait

This is a portrait of a man in black and white. I've used it to depict tortured personality that yearns for freedom.

Well, I’ve known him from school and I’ll admit that he was natural. He did win a writing competition besting me with the sharpest prose. But later, he quit writing altogether and took to another field that never suited him. A field filled with authoritarian therapists and pseudo-scientists trying to decipher maladjusted minds with cryptic jargon, and abstract sentences: Wrestling with creativity and trying to stuff it into a box, before crumpling it and tossing it into a wastebasket of indifference. I guess that got to him, because he couldn’t fit into one particular genre of ‘thought’ and he eventually quit, picked up a pen and started writing again. But doggerels of years, forced him to re-learn all that he’d forgotten, and I guess in that sense he taught himself how to write. The irony was that he did this while he sat in the patient’s chair, listening to those very therapists prescribing him with machine gun doses of antidepressants, anxiolytics, mood stabilizers and antipsychotics. He initially speckled his poetry with the softest tears of naïvety, but I’ve learned now that he is his biggest critic, his biggest judge and that might be both an axe and a box of treasures. He eliminated his writings once he got popular, tried getting off the medication, and tried religion, but a certain doctrine from Geneva haunted more than it ever saved. And then began a period in his life which no hermeneutic will ever explain. The last we met, I was balding, struggling with similar side-effects (albeit to a lesser degree) and I tried setting him up with a girl who was seven years older. He said, “I’ll think about it,” and that right there is the problem. He did date her eventually, but he probably thought twice before making love to her, and wondered if passion will lead to something that lasts or if it will fizzle out. And so, he gave up on her, and thought about everything, except when he wrote, because then something strikes like lightning, and it just spills on a page – verbal vomit that strangely has structure, but I guess it’s better if he thinks and pours out syllables on a page, stringing together alliteration, drawing from every other eclectic source, and the suicidal aspects of his own life, because when he ghosts away, that’s when he suffers the most. I mean that’s when he gives into utter madness. He once walked on the street at two in the night, tried gouging out his eyes, stepped on thorns, and came back home completely befuddled and disoriented. He thought it was penance. Fortunately, some slight wand of fate always prevents him from going the distance. And then he’s back to writing, stitching together pieces, and it seems like each time he disappears and comes back, he gets better at what he does. I always thought sorrow is the muse that makes a few, but I guess I’m wrong; it’s inner torture. And from what I’ve read, I thought his writing parallels Perrin Aybara’s life: very moralistic and willing to go the distance for art, but it doesn’t. It’s definitely not Matrim Cauthon because you won’t find him frequenting bars and writing bard poetry, even though he says that’s his favorite character from the series. No it’s Rand, starting naïve, and then judging himself and letting his anger flare though each line, before finally struggling to break free, and then walking into a new age. But then that’s a series. I think by now everybody knows that art and life are not completely connected. Anyhow, he’s back on his medication, and writing to survive, and I read from a distant land with a wife that I often hate, and a son that I love, and I’m glad as long as he thinks and reads and thinks, and then writes, because if he vanishes, I’ll have to call immediately and find out that he’s done something terrible to himself again, and I don’t want that.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Nec Dextrorsum Nec Sinistrorsum

This is an image of a rock concert. I've used it to depict a shallow, materialistic, bourgeois lifestyle that heralds all the wrong principles.

Well, it’s probably that time of the year again – The Old Cottonians’ Ball where people brag about ‘cherished lifelong friendships,’ while whistling drunkenly to the old anthem we sang in school under the spiteful Sun. You’ll find every ‘somebody’ bragging about his job in Michigan or was it Thailand? You’ll find the same old cliques and clichés, the same old petty bullying and the same old lack of maturity. Yes, you’ll find people wearing designer suits, but a miasma of malodorous, pernicious malice rises from them. You’ll find the same old gossiping like old hags gathered around a Thanksgiving table, the same old boisterous boasting about some trite materialistic gain or a pretty new girlfriend or wife.

I stopped getting invitations for these events a while ago because they consider me an underachieving, under par pariah. A thirty-something unwashed, cocaine snorting fool. But I’d rather be a knowledgeable ‘fool’ than an ignorant overachiever. I’d rather lie in the lowest deck of Society’s cruise ship wearing the rags of ostracism and mental illness because being there – in that puke-ridden dark place – brings a depth to character that no amount of ostentatious picture clicking can provide. People on the upper deck reek of superficiality and artificiality while they sip their expensive scotch. Imagine getting degrees in engineering from prestigious schools abroad and still cloaking yourself with a benighted arrogance only because you’ve never known suffering. There’s something so obnoxious and suffocating about such a man. His achievements and his planes and his cars make him, and that’s the only standard he uses to existentially rate himself. You drive a Rolls Royce, but your emotionally stunted, avaricious psychical age is repugnant, my friend. And the woman who ‘falls for you’ has you trapped in the perfect wealth is directionally proportional to good sex façade of a relationship.

“Oh, Nitin used to cry in school! What a sissy!” You bark when your girlfriend tells you I’m cute, and that’s as deep as you can get. You aren’t even aware of your insecurities, and so, I’ve realized it’s pointless hating you. It’s better to pity you or even mourn for you in sackcloth and ashes and pray for your dear soul to reveal itself to you. “Oh, Nitin Lalit is a loser. He fell into drugs and alcoholism. His grades fell, and he’s jobless and worthless now,” says the schoolmate, while he’s smoking marijuana and drinking whiskey. And that’s as deep as he gets. His hypocrisy blinds him, or perhaps he justifies it by saying, “I’ve achieved this! He hasn’t! That’s the difference!” Oh, you pustule of a man. Are you going to be buried in the fancy car you bought for yourself? Quick to judge, but quicker to resort to the most peevish, childish defence mechanisms when judged.

Well, there you go. It’s that time of the year when I read Thomas Ligotti and Fitzgerald and herald pessimism, while you flaunt your repulsive, stigma-filled, classist, pseudo-elitist, hierarchical, ‘saccharine’ optimism that runs on the list of things you’ve done, singing, “On! straight on! On, Cottonians on!”

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Glorious Violence

This is an image of a twig of cherry blossoms silhouetted against a black background. The contrast represents mental illness (especially Bipolar Disorder) which is what my post symbolically speaks about.

The Japanese Cherry stands in front of me, shivering and trembling. She shies away from the breeze, and her Cherry Blossoms look like cotton balls soaked in blood. It’s noon, and I hear the sound of crickets. They sound like a man with a slit throat gurgling. The sky is a pale beige, and red birds fly across it reminding me of slashes on a depressed man’s wrist. The sun is dying as the black serpentine tendrils of the night slowly choke him. My eyes are bloodshot with little crimson rivulets running across them, making their way to the dark brown iris, the color of putrefying flesh. I’m unwashed and unclean with a matted beard that looks like a burnt rope. It looks like the remains of a once healthy cord you’ll find underneath the stake after the witch dies – shrieking and screaming; howling and wailing.

A choir of angels dressed in pristine gowns plays its harps and flutes behind me. A chorus soars, and an ethereal melody inundates the place with sweet sopranos, smooth altos, and rich baritones. Fireflies drift into my space, and at that moment I’m whisked away by something inexplicable; something beyond reasoning, and it teleports my senses to a haven outside time and space. The realm between this world and the next splits and showers of mercy fall like gentle rain, caressing my every bruise; healing each scar I’ve gathered over years of fate kicking me in the ribs.

But the feeling quickly evaporates, and I find myself held upside down – fastened by chains to a sturdy branch of the Japanese Cherry – by the same demons, the same imposters, the same charlatans and I feel the blood rushing to my head as quickly as pus leaks out of a broken abscess. The old enemies then place a saw between my legs and slowly cut through ballsack and midsection, and my screams are like soothing lullabies to them, making them nod their heads and cut right through. At that moment I’m the archetypal Kierkegaardian poet. The one who suffers for the pleasure of others.

And then I hear a sweet call from the abyss. A soft minimalistic piece rivaling Richter’s ‘She Remembers.’ A glorious, delicate song. I’m overwhelmed with emotion and forget the torment. The song reminds me of dewy grass and sun-kissed slopes. It reminds me of the cool mountain mist obscuring the ugliness around me like a scabbard conceals its sword. It reminds me of petrichor and its invigorating taste. And my eyes close as the music breathes life into me; stitching my wounds. I look at myself, and I’m in a valley of dry bones, a cadaver myself, but tendons and flesh envelop me, and I’m soon alive and marching to the promised land.

The Japanese Cherry stands withered, and the azure sky symbolizes more things than words can depict. Am I free? Will the old demons never haunt this house again? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but by and by, I’ll win.

© 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)

The fiddler plays but we’re not dancing

This is an image of a hand peeking out from the abyss. It symbolizes the struggles that the mentally ill go through which is debilitating and excruciating.

We don’t need to talk tonight, so hush, because the demons sleep. Sure, they’ll return tomorrow while the fiddler plays his sad violin on the roof, and I’ll wonder if this is the little girl I carried, and why, oh why has fate struck her with my curse and blessing, my gift and punishment. When we wake, they’ll howl and like little insects pierce through our thick skulls and feast on the serotonin in our synapses. But they sleep now darling, they sleep. So hush, it’s best we don’t wake them up at this hour. I hold you in my hands, gently stroking your hair, while you softly snore, and I think these thoughts. If I could, I’ll wage war against them, though my grip is weak, my sword blunt, and my shield shattered like a dented car’s hood. I’ll play the arsonist and set them on fire. Or the sacrificial lamb, take them upon myself, and let them completely disorient me, thoroughly destroy me, and drown myself after so they never return and you grow up normal, healthy and strong. But they exist in a realm I cannot touch, and prayer is dead in their post-apocalyptic metaphysical realm. They shield the sovereign with a black curtain, and so, I can’t do anything but stay at your side. I often think of years from now, when I’m gone, split by these fireflies from hell forming a scythe, cutting through skull and mind, finally making me a body blue and cold. Will you find a way by then to beat the apparitions? The ghastly horrible hounds? I never did, but I hope you succeed. And what if you don’t? Who will you turn to? Your mother’s an alcoholic mess, showing up now and then and using us selfishly for money, and your older sister succumbed, hanging from the ceiling fan, and taking with her, a part of me. I wish you’d set yourself on righteous fire, killing them off once and for all. But wishes are just delusions, probably placed in our minds by the same little death-moths making us believe, so we can suffer more. Find strength in the torture, find meaning in the pain, and when you can’t handle them, find a way to rip them to shreds; tear them, torture them in an inner purgatory reserved just for them. Show them pain; grant them unendurable havoc. You’re stronger than me. Become steel, transcend, and make them afraid: Terrified of causing you despondency or paranoia. Give them neurosis and psychosis and liberate yourself. And then walk into a new age. But tonight sleep easy, they aren’t here, and I am, and even when I’m gone, let my presence remain, because I won’t rest until you’ve flayed them alive, impaled them, and thrown them in a pot of boiling water. Kill depression and psychosis by using the old brutal adage: an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. Show them no mercy, but always remember that I love you. Sleep easy, my daughter, sleep.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)