Being and not-being

This is an image of a grey background. I've chosen it because it symbolizes apathy which is central theme around which my post revolves.

He wakes up at one in the afternoon these days, walks to the dinner table, pops his prescription, nonchalantly, not caring anymore about bubblegum skin, sawed off hair, or bloodshot eyes that itch. Having said that, he does look perfectly fine. His gait is a little knock-kneed, perhaps it’s another side effect or it’s just this self-imposed malnutrition. He picks up his iPod and plays an EP called Re-Traced by Cynic. They’re this progressive rock band with eclectic influences, a little jazzy, a little groovy, with passages that are a little metal sounding and others that are a little mellow. He prefers them to Dream Theater though most will win an argument about which band is better. He doesn’t care about petty squabbles or disputes anymore though. I’m not sure he cares about anything anymore. They say everyone worships something, and it’s often either something materialistic or another person, or themselves, but he begs to differ. Perhaps he worships solitude, or apathy, but then again he stopped giving that thought any room a long time ago. Thoughts often turn into equations that need balancing, or puzzles that need solving, and so he just lets a non-linear sequence of ideas or the lack of them place themselves in those alleys of his mind, now neglected. He walks to the kitchen and uses a sharp knife to cut open a packet of milk. He can’t be bothered about finding the scissors anymore. A bit spills on the floor, which he can’t be bothered cleaning up. He pours the milk into a large glass, pours some coffee into it, mixes it, and goes to his balcony and drinks it while he puffs on a cigarette. Once he’s done, he grabs whichever book he can find and reads at a stretch, losing his identity and sense of self, and then some inner clock makes him go to the shower, strip and let the lukewarm water wash away yesterday’s grime. He does this without concentrating, and then brushes his teeth, which are slightly ashen now. He wears a shirt and a jean and it’s already seven in the evening. He goes to a pub, and dances with a girl who’s very attractive and alluring: her slightly cascading hair, her somewhat lean frame and her top and jean entices him. She gives him his number after a few drinks and he tells her that he’ll call her tomorrow. He keeps his promise and she arrives at his apartment the next day and they make love. She’s great in bed and it’s a treat, and there is a part of her that is attracted to him. Perhaps she wants more than an evening spent together, but he’s too jaded for a relationship or even a fling. He politely shifts the conversation to something else until she leaves a little frustrated. A lot of women are attracted to him, and he doesn’t know why, and can’t really spend time reasoning and figuring out the solution. In this millennial age, they’d probably call it no game-game, but he doesn’t give dating that much thought. He moves from woman to woman, each possessing their unique charm, their unique vibe that he senses, though not thoroughly, and perhaps his disregard for existence makes him an enigma to them. But in the end, he prefers the wall of his bathroom, his cigarette, and his own space and time, which exists both within and outside the clock. Some might call this sort of thing nihilism with a slight bent to degeneracy, but labels don’t define him, and that’s the freedom that divides him from the romance that spills from a screen into life. Even the books he loses himself in don’t really shape him, and that’s the emancipation from syllables, vowels or nouns: the stream of thought that does not run parallel to lines of poetry with meter. He rests now at three in the night, and as he shuts his eye, a sense of closure unlike love, belief or the need to work envelops him. He does work and often changes jobs, but he distances himself from the grit and yet functions just fine. I guess this is a different transcendence without the need for self-actualization. And I don’t judge the man or his lifestyle.

© 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)

A song of experience

This is an image of cigarette butts. I've used it to symbolize the despair and meaninglessness that's echoed in this poem.

A lament rises from these dry bones, encased in
a coffin of a life gone by,
when I was young, my father the demon, said, ‘I am thine
and thou art mine,’ with a devilish, deceitful, duplicitous grin,
when I was young, my mother the angel said, ‘Stay strong and
surely, you’ll succeed,’ with a sincere, serene, simple smile,
when I was young, my brother, the stoic said, ‘Your scrimshawed
feelings are yours alone; don’t give them even a peak,’
with a stern, stubborn, sterile face,
when I was young, my sister,
the naïve said, ‘Yours is the world and all possibilities become
actualities if dreamt into existence,’
with an innocent, introspective, irreproachable charm,
when I was young, my lover,
the impassioned said, ‘Kiss me, you’re the heart of this (heart)
and soul of this (soul)
and never will I ever abandon all that’s you and I,’
with a feverish, furious, ferocious hold,
when I was young, my second lover, the kind said, ‘Paint the colors
of your heart on the canvas of
my being and grasp me tenderly under the sliced moonlight,’
with a peaceful, placid, peaceable touch.

Time drifts and I’ve drifted with it, but not elegantly.
Age carries, and I carry it, but not gracefully.
Life rises and falls, and books meet dust, and this room smells of mildew,
and by and by I’m fading, falling, slipping, sliding.

I’ve learnt much and seen so much more.
I’ve touched much and felt so much more.
I’ve tasted much and heard so much more.

Love eludes me now, whirling round and round, setting everything without on
fire with her dance, but never thawing the ice within.
Lust possesses me now, echoing and echoing, setting everything within on
fire with his voice, and ever thawing the ice without.

Cheap motel rooms and cigarettes; one-night stands and ashen hyacinths –
These I know, these I know, intimately and intensely.

Perfume and cascading hair, with eyes like brown tourmaline –
Her I’ve never kissed, her I’ve never kissed, intimately and intensely.

The smog rises and obscures my window, the world’s full of blurred
objects and abstract shapes, and a simulacrum of truth is all I know,
everything is now a hazy imagination, my vision’s blurred,
the smoke rises, and I exhale, the sharp liquor burns my throat,
a fatalist’s escape, and I know I need the real, but I also know
I want my delusion.

A lament rises from these dry bones, encased in
a coffin of a life gone by,
now that I’m older, I say, ‘Life and death sing the same song in the
same key to the same wind, and what happened will happen again,
and there’s nothing I can do but cut through weeds of paranoia,
despair and angst, knowing I’ll never fully heal.’

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)