The sojourner’s haibun

I’m trapped in my old sedan like the Sicilian Bull, the fires of trauma roasting me, and in agony I pound the steering wheel and incessantly press the horn, though the hairpin bends as sharp as glinting scythes stay deserted, except for the hard rain, the water like blood sluicing, the wipers like metal claws scraping the glass in desperation. On either side tea plantations like incisions on a masochist’s wrist haunt. The mist envelopes like white pus, and I can’t see the dying light circumscribed by the mutinous night with her soldiers with onyx spears and her crescent moon—her war horn with pitted symbols of anarchy. A solitary hooded man passes like the reaper in flesh. My shrieks echo, and the car burns the wet asphalt leaving tire marks like another layer of infection on a gangrenous wound. The rage from my headlights clamp the air like crocodile shears, tearing its appendages of oxygen and nitrogen. The fume from my exhaust pipe settles on crushed empty paper cups, like acid poured on a battered, torture victim’s face. I ascend, yanked by some invisible force, like a mongrel tied to the back of motorcycle and then dragged across winding curve after winding curve because it bit the driver, sunk its teeth into his flesh. I’m the dog and Fate is the driver. I should have never rebelled. I should have never played with his dice, tossed it like a chewed off mutton bone. The car has a few dents like keloids that eventually form if one keeps itching scabs. It’s running low on fuel like a terminally ill patient in the ICU slowly losing his life-force. The tires pass over a thin trunk with spindly branches – stripped away by the howling wind like a demoniac’s scream – like a spine yanked out with thoracic nerves attached. I don’t see it and it pierces one like a rusty nail impales a big toe. The air fizzles out like the entrails of a sacrificed goat. A loud pop like a gunshot to the head. I lose control and spin like vertigo before a faint. The car careens like bloody vomit and smashes a signboard saying, ‘12/24.’ Glass shatters like foot bones cracking when stepped on by football studs. My head hits the dashboard like a plate thrown, smashing a wall. I gradually drift in and out of consciousness like a man after a snake bite…

You’ll never reach the end of this long walk –
Because fate to man is no two-edged coin –
So, rush to meet life, the gods they enjoin –
you – fight, attend with silent, muted talk –

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

Originally published in Morality Park

People

This is a picture of a city viewed from the inside of a car while it's raining. I've chosen it to represent life and grief. We hide our grief and go on with our lives, but how long can it be contained?

When we write,
we write with the hardest hearts,
singed raw with pride,
but when we grieve,
those hearts soften,
and words become tears cascading
down rough contours and jagged edges.

What’s written isn’t felt
when hands mechanically type,
but when it’s felt,
despair cloaks us,
and we wish for
idyllic unknowns and peaceful reveries.

We hold the deepest pain,
but mask it
with a semblance of a smile,
we delude ourselves
into thinking we own it,
but it’s the opposite,
and when it possesses us
words flail and thrash
the air that keeps us
and prayers and psalms turn into
battered petitions and broken hallelujahs.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

Originally published in The Literati Mafia

Dear Jessica

This is an image of a beautiful wood. I've used it to represent positive change that a lover brings. Sometimes all we need is that one person who invigorates us and gives us hope and shows us love.

I used to wake up in a tumbledown room,
riddled with dust, the floorboards cracked,
nails coated with rust piercing through bone
and marrow, and I’d limp outside to a wasteland:
arid, full of decaying hyacinths like clusters of
rufuos rot and plagued with smog that caustically
hindered vision, I’d given up on life and death,
and morning and eve meant nothing to me,
but you came like a surreal storm magically
lighting up those dark corridors, giving
them a winsome flourish, fixing broken
tables and giving me more than hackneyed images,
you changed these sordid, littered, potholed streets
to beautiful asphalt that looked like a million
grey raindrops coming together under a blushing
sunset, you whitewashed the somber colors of
grief, giving me a fresh start, I’d sit and brood,
but you made me dream again, engraving each
wish with the will to try even if it seemed like chasing
the will-o’-the-wisp, you created new blueprints
which became strong foundations and I slowly
changed from being a passive-aggressive reckless
ne’er-do-well to someone less selfish, more
willing to give than take, more empathetic, letting
kinder emotion drift through those steep gorges
of the pain of others, I wake up
now with you sitting against the curtain, naked,
your petite frame silhouetted by waves of sunlight,
you’re looking at me, and I can’t help but faintly smile
and let a little of that wealth of emotion inside trickle out
because though we’ve had our share of ups and downs,
though we’ve sometimes felt like giving up on each
other, we never will, will we, because what’s
built with substance and honesty stands strong and
graceful, unlike something prosaic built with redundant
cliché.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

Dear Rebecca

This is an image of a walkway shrouded in mist. I've used it to signify carrying on despite the season, and moving forward despite a terrible past .

It’s funny how interest becomes repulsion
as an amber dying sun becomes the ugly
grey twilight augmented by croaking frogs;
when I was somebody, inching towards a career
with good looks and a ‘healthy’ personality,
you stood there transfixed like a wood-nymph,
stunned by the sight of an enigmatic wayfarer
and you wouldn’t go away though I was more
interested in the honeyed leaves and the green
velvety moss covering the barks, though my gaze
drifted from you to the reddish-brown earth,
broken here and there, and the soft drizzle that
the sunlight sliced with a sickle of
mild wrath, the mounds that peaked like statued
ogres with rough edges meant to split skin and
crack the bones of those who dared climb them;
it’s funny how you loathed the sight of me later,
after months of prescription gave me
false peace like the tranquility of an almost convert
to Christianity, it’s funny how my still healing skin,
having fought rash and pain, my ungainly walk,
my paunch and my drug-induced lisp
made me the right candidate for you to heap all the hatred
that you’d bottled up inside,
made me the perfect person to tear asunder with
a knife of bitterness, breaking jugular notch and then
turning sideways to split clavicle, before returning
to split the entire system by making a vertical
laceration right through the rib-body,
and I took it all, wondering why,
but time and wearing the roughest fabric of
the outcast, vagabond, and the idiot has taught me
more than a few adages –
the weak prey on the weaker because they lack the
courage to defy those stronger who wounded them,
the strong don’t like the weak standing up to them
because the last thing they want is a dagger
gutting their bellies of insecurities,
the vagabond doesn’t want to care, but society forces
him into this shitstorm,
but trust me, though I’ve suffered,
though I’ve spent six years battling a slow
deterioration of my will and senses,
though a cruel Sovereign places me in
situations of the angriest grief,
I’ll find a way.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

Controversy

I never asked for controversy,
some unseen hand thrust it on me
just like some unseen hand scribbled the
Ten Commandments on tablets
and thrust it on early Israel

but controversy begets art
who slaps you when he’s one,
hits you with uppercuts when he’s two,
head kicks you when he’s three,
anaconda chokes you when he’s four

and I guess I’ve seen enough to know
that love poems are sermons and those
‘awws’ are paws, and an emoticon screams,
that nature reaches orgasms using
clever subtle analogy, that esoteric
verse romanticizes, and romantics
are cryptic Batemans

so, I’ll stay tortured, reaching, searching,
yearning, longing while poetic fundamentalists
misconstrue my lines, write scathing remarks
seething with hatred,
and I’ll let all the flooding, sweeping, overwhelming,
overrunning piss of malice sweep me away,
and crash against the rocks on which a make-shift,
shabby Lorelei who screams, ‘you wronged me!’ and
can’t do anything other than playing the blame game sits.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

A waste of time

This is a picture of nuclear waste. I've chosen it to represent doomed relationships that people cling on to for the sake of not being lonely.

So, I had a girlfriend nine years ago,
and we were the antithesis of ‘soul-mates,’
or ’till death do us apart,’ but we kept the
relationship going, adding layers and layers
of toxicity to a nuclear waste dump.

We’d say, ‘I love you so much!’ though we didn’t mean a word,
and we’d indulge in so much PDA
that made people think we were fucking like rabbits.

But the crazy part of the affair was that we never had sex,
sure, we got naked and explored each other’s bodies,
but we just never got down to the act.

I guess the truth is that I wasn’t physically attracted to her
and she thought I was prude pretending to be a player (which
was true then.)

Anyhow, the question I’m trying to ask is why
do we let ourselves get trapped in Sicilian Bulls of
doomed relationships, heated by the fires
of insecurities or false affection?

All those relationships are, are rose petals covering flick-knives
or a silky velvet drape covering a corpse
or a poorly written book that becomes a bestseller
or a shitty soap opera that manages to run for ten seasons.

It’s bullshit, and after I finally got a hold of myself, I broke up
and slept properly without hearing the phone ring at twelve in
the morning.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

The pugilist

Does fate enshrine a few in a temple of fame while discarding others more worthy?

I don’t know how I’m world champion with a 40-4 record,
my punches are mosquito stings,
my dance is an unhinged waltz, missing beat, and tempo
my flabby arms and swing are an ode to the spastic,
my jaw shatters into fragments of counterfeit ivory
when they strike me hard,
and I’m scared, deer-spotting-leopard or ostrich-spotting-lion
scared,
I have no personality and cannot sell a fight,
my insults lack a preacher’s fire and brimstone,
my eyes tear up after a stare-down when I’m backstage,
away from sulfurous reporters with caustic spittle,
my paunch is repulsive, white dough that I massage
before dropping a fart,
my nose is a smashed in, little car wreck that I never bothered to fix
I don’t know how I’m world champion with a 40-4 record.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

For Real Toads and dVerse