Art and Life

This is a picture of jazz instruments displayed in a music store that's closed. I've used jazz to symbolize life and to talk about how art intrudes and causes chaos. Hence the image.

I’m leaving, and I doubt I’ll come back, but you know how the flick-knives of fate are, pushing you into a room with an empty canvas, the brush and the paint beckoning you to paint again. But I’ve learned that a stroll in a picturesque park can do away with the urge. Writing was never my life, and it’s my life that needs writing: pages and pages of musical notation with an odd time signature; piano jazz with light touch drumming with a Brad Mehldau or Triosence feel to it. Something ethereal and delicate that’s becoming this acquired taste that I can’t get enough off. And don’t look for me in my lines, or between them or in the minutiae spaces between the syllables. They never made me anyway. Don’t look for me in pictures posted on social networking sites. They’re just simulacrums of what’s there. A picture speaks, but doesn’t allow you to smell the soft earth, feel the breeze, or taste the sweet dew coating the leaves. I guess I was wrong about so much, and right about so little. And my mistakes taught me that this tobacco hazed room with its books and notes scribbled isn’t really the jazz that’s life. There’s so much more bebop in meeting people, light conversations, runs and swimming, so much exhilaration and thrill in listening to concerts by the local indie band, so much to perceive by just getting out there and watching somebody hum ‘Freedom,’ by Mingus rather than listening to it, resting against the headboard of my bed with my iPod on. There’s so much more fusion of senses found in places other than the local bookstore: maybe a bar with beer, where I’m just hanging out with a few old friends, and the girl I crushed on in college, or was it after college? And will I juxtapose art and life like cool jazz, the alto saxophone being life and the piano art? I don’t know and honestly, I don’t care. I want beauty, love and should I go far and say infinity? Not something esoteric, or out there, but just the infinity of each moment.

© 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)

Living and dying for you

You should know by now that I love you, even though I hardly say it. You should know by now that I’ll live and die for you, though my tears are dry. If only trial and circumstance didn’t make me hard, if only a cesspool of madness which fate baptized me in didn’t make me unpredictable, if only a vortex of apparitions didn’t carry me away and set me on a shore of agony, darkening each particle of my existence, making me unable to distinguish between reality and chimera, light and darkness, paranoia and angelic hope, I’d give you so much more, and love you with an intensity unparalleled. We’ve woven this story of togetherness and despite each inner window shutting, slowly barring my light, we’re clinging to each other: body to body, mind to mind, soul to soul. But if I’m gone tomorrow: a train wreck of a man with an arthritic mind, unable to grasp the simplest picture of you, I want you to move on. Life gives us hope, despair, recollections to cherish, and echoes of now to clasp and cling to with all passion and ardor, and in this moment, I’m crazy about you.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

A sonnet to existence

this is a picture of a man looking at a display of fireworks. I've used this image because I interpret it as a man watching his dreams from afar. He doesn't know if they'll ever materialize.

I’ve spent my life exploring works of those renown
Hoping some scintilla of touch would enrich
This tumbledown estate where weeds and vines unsown
Plague, afflict and curse with harvests never rich

And sometimes words like fireflies glow in my weak mind
Sparkling with exuberance, they guide the pen
I hold. They tell the world that I’m lost and confined
Living a subdued existence in some den

But there has to be more to life than strife and pain
More than clichés like, “We live for art alone.”
There must be wealth of circumstance, bestowing gain
On our hearts as we meander to the throne

But then our dreams are misty fairy tales and lore
Making us just waste our lives, demanding more

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Meeting November

This is a a picture of a meadow during Autumn. The picture embodies nostalgia and heartbreak to me. It complements my piece.

My love, life, dreams and fond reflections always meet November – the season of cinders, a period of transition between Autumn’s ripe melancholia and Winter’s mist and rattle. Didn’t I lie down beside you just yesterday, holding you in our nudity – skin and core? And here I am, walking the sidewalk and passing the throng – bearded, distinct, peculiar and still unnoticed. Walking on the mud, skirting the litter, and making sure I don’t step on that mongrel – sleeping, and oblivious to our lives that revolve around the clock – and pausing at the ramshackle cigarette shop, I pay the man for a few Marlboros. Didn’t yesterday give me lucidity? Didn’t each kiss shared, and the laughter that echoed in our space give me felicity? Well, I’m back in my zone now, the old inner ruckus – thoughts brawling like drunken football hooligans, and I guess a swig from the Old Admiral in the fridge lulls them. And then bloodied, they suddenly stop and erupt into rhapsodies of praise – a little bent, off-tune, interspersed with lilting and yodeling. Didn’t each sob when you took me in to our tempo, each sigh of euphoria when we reached that penultimate phase – before that deep moan of ultimate satisfaction, making us forget everything – tell me that here’s a woman to live and die for? But I’m just existing now, or maybe I keep regressing to some pre-existing state, huddled up in some fetal position, before birthing myself now and then for a smoke while the floor’s drenched with the blood of my brokenness, and the umbilical cord from this thing we call life lies severed and thrown in the dustbin.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

The same reflection

This is an image of a person trudging through the mist. It represents the hard road we walk on, which is a central theme in my piece.

I don’t know if I’m a saint or a sinner or if I’ve somehow transcended those notions through a nihilism that followed a dark night of the soul.

I’ve looked in the mirror a thousand times and I never find the same reflection. I’m like a song who can’t be played the same way twice, and once the musician discards me, I’ll fade into obscurity and oblivion, like a train entering an endless dark tunnel. Who am I? Where will I find myself after the apocalypse – on a barren land with a bloody moon, or some small redemptive corner where the Church bell still chimes and visions, gifts and prophecy endure?

The last time I looked in the mirror, I saw a disgruntled bearded man, having come to terms with the loss of youth’s vanity. No longer attractive, no longer possessing allure or personality, no longer finding solace in women. I never envisioned this man when I lived separated from reality in a city of romanticism, but bit by bit, the jade and sapphire turned into brick and rust, the smell of the earth gave way to a miasma of decay that singed my eyes and left a bitter aftertaste in my mouth.

I then spat and vomited, knowing things will never be the same. I ran on roads coated with ash and blood under a dying sky and on some crag spotted Tennyson’s eagle waiting to swoop down like a majestic golden-brown monarch. I reached up hoping he’d land on my arm and guide me, but I was denied providential grace. The buildings looked like putrefied flesh and I ran on to find my house lying in ruins and I was left with two choices: To cling to shattered idealism or to forge the new out of what remained and I still don’t know what I’ve done.

I feel strongly and don’t feel at all. I love strongly and hate bitterly. I call myself out for my duplicity, but I can’t repair myself. I don’t possess the tools and the wheel of my existence is losing a new spoke each day, which I stick haphazardly with duct tape and glue, never knowing if tomorrow it’ll still run and there’ll be freedom symbolizing the now clichéd, ‘This too has passed.’

And hence, all I can offer you is abstract expression. I sit now in a coffee shop, smoking my last cigarette, and see faces pass me, some mute, some saying something like, ‘hello,’ and I know they’ve got it sorted out, and with each tick of the clock, they’ll progress while I’ll stay like the ash in the tray, never knowing what’ll happen next, until they clean the tray.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Gomorrah

This is a picture of a cracked pavement. To me it represents the road sufferers from mental illness are forced to walk on. It's tough and excruciating.

My mind is a post-apocalyptic wasteland, riddled with disproportionate, cracked pavement ideas, and a consciousness like a filthy graveyard or derelict buildings, burning and crumbling. There are no verdant valleys here. I’m plagued by trauma and guilt, and crude madness blaming me severely for pathos that isn’t always my own. I hear echoes of lines straight from The Fall by Camus telling me that I’m responsible for all the misery I’ve seen, caused or endured; asking me to confront my duplicity. I only see my reflection in concave or convex mirrors giving me an out of shape picture when I look within. But through it all, you hold me, and our insatiable passion for each other isn’t always delicate with a childlike charm. We often go through the throes of lovemaking – the pleasure and the pain – even when we’re not entwined, becoming one. It’s difficult to distinguish love. It isn’t just feeling, though without it, it’s just cold false zeal. Perhaps, love is feeling backed by severe effort: a struggle to find in each other what’s unsayable, irresistible and luminous. A fight despite sweat and blood, and angst and grief. Whatever it is, it creates a balance, helping us move forward through November’s twilight. And perhaps one day Gomorrah will lie, reduced to ashes, but I’m more thankful that I’m in love with you.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

For RDP Monday

Clinkers of despair

This is an image of people walking on a street. It conveys the wealth of experience that life brings us. My prose poem examines just that from an angle of a relationship

The moon with her muted, ashen light partially illuminates my path, filled with clinkers of despair and hankering – an off-time, off-tune sequence with a murderous coda. I pass withered Jacarandas, hoping that I’ll find you after this battered car or after walking past the smog that coats the splintered sidewalks. I look yonder and see the mist coated peaks with snowflakes cascading. I dust off the grime that clings to me and keep walking though I look grey and everything looks like cigarette ash. I fucking love you, and I ask myself if the recollections and echoes of memories are worth the effort. But I’ve flipped this coin so many times before, over the years and regardless of how it falls, I can’t rid myself of you. You’re the green, vivacious wine that creeps over each broken, disjointed wall that personifies a fractured me. When we made love, did you only think of the now and completely discard the after? Was it something transient, and did the nirvana to the rhythm of that soft snare, slowly building up with the double bass and tom-toms and hi-hats mean nothing to you? I often think I need an exorcism – strapped, while a priest chants and rids me of you, but having loved you with the unmitigated desire of the Flame of the Forest, dancing to breezes of togetherness, having kissed you and having slowly slid down your neck and having gently bit you with both unparalleled sorrow and the pleasure of maniacal ardor, having slowly and fiercely found us on that peak I finally met after a long taxing sojourn makes these tough moments worth it, and gives me a plethora of new dimensions to explore, hoping one day they’ll be mine.

© 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)