For whatever it’s worth

This is a picture of raindrops coating a window. It depicts sorrow and struggle which are central themes in my poem.

I’m just living my life reading books, with angst
killing off whatever remains of my will,
disorienting an already hazy mind: a despairing ugly
nebula. I look everywhere, and I see hate,
and then look within and see nothing different,
and I can’t help but ask why I soldier on when
I’m a waste of space, a postgraduate dropout,
third wheeling with apathy and darkness,
sitting in an empty, forsaken theater
of black chimera,
a bipolar, fucked up, shell of a man,
a chain smoker
with bluing lips and a tongue with nicotine
patches like a carpet with grotesque stains;
mooching off my parents, sending
Facebook friend requests to a hundred
people and ending up with
a dozen who don’t care
plastered on the damn wall, unable to live
with a past of intense trial, tribulation, and
trepidation—
nights spent roaming the streets
in ‘penance’, enduring the downpour, stepping on
thorns, and trying to gouge my eyes out.
They think I’m a lunatic, and
they’re right, but I can’t shake off my neurosis
or psychosis, or my panoramic delusions, so
far-reaching that I need prescription to
survive, to get up and start a day, let alone
live, and I’m often catatonic,
and so, yes, in that sense, “Dieu est mort,”
because it’s pointless when you’re hung,
drawn and quartered, outside the gates of
sanity, while a choir
of angry demons watch, waiting to devour you
each time you go near
faith, and so, I can’t give anyone anything except these
lines, and though no one listens, or hears my
cry, they’re here, etched, so that one day when
I’m gone someone will them read for whatever it’s worth.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Wanting more

I woke up this morning and I looked outside my window. I watched the Flame of the Forest in all her effervescence, dancing to the rhythm of the breeze, giving herself up to the wind’s cadence.

I felt peace. I felt serenity. I felt a rush of tranquility, but it was short-lived.

Soon the voices in my head, and the hurt of the past screamed, shouted and shrieked. A scythe of disquiet hacked my solace in two, and I, distraught and disturbed wandered corridor after corridor, groping in the darkness, looking for answers in a society of charlatans wearing Bauta’s and just hating each other.

Passive aggressive hate.
Aggressive passionate hate.
Passionate passive hate.

Hate, hate, greed, greed, bitterness, bitterness, anger, anger – a theatre of mockery and psychosis, and here I am standing on the stage through the seasons, seething and broken, wanting to do something about it.

Dear Society,
Why do you have to be like that?
Why do you have to screw me over?
Why do you have to fuck me up?

I wish someone would find me amidst the puke covered streets, and the stench of ditchwater. I wish someone would breathe life into me. I wish someone would love me furiously, ferociously and pull me down from the cross, nurse my nail pierced body, remove this crown of thorns and I wish she’ll show me more to belief and faith, and draw my anger out of me.

I wish she’d understand me. I wish she’d transform this barren room with half-smoked cigarettes, spilled coffee and broken bottles of wine into something worth living in.

I wish she weren’t like the others – the women who came and went, waltzed in and foxtrotted out. I don’t wish for just physical intimacy. I wish for commitment, sacrifice and this beautiful, amazing thing that exists in the chaos, burning incandescently despite the wintry chill, this crazy thing we call love.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

A terzanelle of regret

This is a black and white image of praying hands. For me, this image captures raw pain, loss, regret and repentance which are themes my poem explores.

I have no Piper’s charm but still, my errors trail
Like rats, they swallow me without a trace of grace
And you see a fragmented ship without a sail

The mirror now reflects a bearded, nettled face
A life filled with vicissitudes and seething hate
Like rats, it swallows me without a trace of grace

I can’t do anything to stop this storm of fate
I’m shifted by the current, and I hit the rocks
A life filled with vicissitudes and seething hate

The jester laughs, and a deranged oppressor mocks
I lose my footing, and I rupture my weak bones
I’m shifted by the current, and I hit the rocks

The children sling a heap of mud and pointed stones
My song grows weary, and I reel, about to fall
I lose my footing, and I rupture my weak bones

I never walked with giants or stood strong and tall
I have no Piper’s charm but still, my errors trail
This song grows weary, and I reel, about to fall
And you’ll see a fragmented ship without a sail

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Forever and always

This is a picture of a lonely autumnal cottage. It conveys deep despair and loneliness.

When you read this, I won’t know if you’ll be shocked or just subdued. I won’t know if you’ll think I took the coward’s way out or had the courage to do something most people only dream or talk about. Life is filled with tragic curves and barely guarded hairpin bends and there’s only so much I could climb. You’ll ask yourself if what I did was the most selfish act someone can commit or if I said what I needed to, did what I needed to, left behind both rapture and devastation and quit on my terms.

Each day felt like an inner concentration camp, gripping my soul and squeezing hard, crushing my will and slowly and steadily I became a slave to forces beyond my control. I tried explaining this to you and if one person got me, it will always be you. But words are both spoken and unspoken and the latter always resides even after you think you’ve purged it all out. I felt like I was being a burden, a curse and a shame; thriving on my self-pity like a leech on blood; growing fat, drinking the blood of sorrow, and by and by I needed freedom and though I smashed the trapdoor with my fists, clawed at it even; it refused to open, and day became night and night became day and I lost sense of purpose like a walking cadaver doing his duty.

But I kept at it, until fate wrung me dry of emotion, and apathy kills darling, but also gives a man courage. I didn’t want to fake love, to fake sorrow, to fake that you meant something long after my heart grew cold. I wanted you to mean something always because nobody else gave a damn, nobody else fucking cared. I’ll remember your passion, vulnerability, elegance and fierceness if there’s an afterlife where sorrow lies defeated and we drink from the waters of beauty and rest on the shores of inner quietude.

Now, I don’t expect you to understand. And even if you do, I don’t expect you to forgive me. I love you and though they’ll say, “He never meant it because love translates into action,” and they’re right, I just want you to move on, to exorcise yourself of me if necessary. If what I did is cruel, then use it against me, but let me go right there. If what I did is difficult, don’t try solving that puzzle. If what I did is spineless, then remember me for being yellow and nothing else. I wish I could explain more but I can’t. I write this with dry tears and a dead soul and if that sounds harsh, remember me for being evil and for not walking hand in hand with you, and breaking ‘forever and always,’ even though paradoxically you are forever and always.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

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)

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)

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)

A Rondeau for the ostracized

This is a black and white picture of a lonely man. I've used it because my poem talks about ostracism

Find me outside the temple gates on littered streets
Where beggars roam and hawkers sell their rancid meats
Where lepers and malingerers don’t have a chance
At ever swaying to the beat of triumph’s dance
Where you’ll find rickety old huts with threadbare sheets

Here succubi know men and the unclean beast eats
Here rustic thrones lie mangled with disfigured seats
Here beauty lies defeated by affliction’s lance
Outside the temple gates on littered streets

The vendor in his broken lodge sells hardened sweets
The dullard brags about unreasonable feats
The crone does everything expected to enhance
Distress and pain. Yes, you’ll find me in this expanse
Ensconced in halls of grief where the elite excrete
Outside the temple gates on littered streets

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Fade

This is an image of the sunset coating a landscape. I chose it because it's very melancholic and represents grief, which is the central theme my poem revolves around..

When I met you, looked deep into those black-velvety eyes,
I knew I found my muse, a Blue jay: ashen, muted grief,
steel-blue quietude, and a mosaic brilliance concealed
except when you glided with your poetry, the Cherry
Blossom tunnel I walked through all those years, stooped, no
longer seemed dreary, and as I read between the lines
you wrote, knowing you and finding me in those spaces,
I stopped and looked up at the steeple of the old Methodist
Chapel at twilight in that quiet cul-de-sac not far from
where we lived, and looked at creation waltzing
with stern architecture with her golden auburn feet,
like you’d put it, I stood there and waited for nightfall
and for once looked at the stars in that simple
yet transcendent way you saw them and I felt
the beauty only you could capture,
but life has this uncanny knack of separating us from the people
we hold most dear: often they move away slowly like
glaciers and that hurt ebbs with time, but sometimes they’re
taken from us in ways we never fathomed and that grief
flows through our veins like lava, burning with reminiscence:
an indomitable regret, I should have done more, maybe
just a gentle hold of that cascading brown hair, or a soft
kiss at dawn, reminding you that I loved you enough,
I should have read deeper and found that though your
verse reflected love, there were these undercurrents of
hopelessness threatening to drown you, I should have
fought harder, but these words are silent sighs now,
just wistful hope like the Minister of the church gave me
when he said, “God took her in that dark way,” but he
wasn’t there when I came home and saw that diagonal
slash, the red puddle that still stains sleepless nights,
he didn’t hear my shaking plea for grace, and he didn’t
see the last love poem I ever wrote fighting both volatile anger
and calamitous sorrow: those last scribbles on a sheet
in which I enclosed the ring I gave you, placing a
pearl back in an oyster shell, and laid it on the brown
coffin, trying futilely to let everything fade.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)