Hope in desert places

This is a picture of a desert. I've chosen it because my post is about sorrow , pain and finding hope in desert places.

You and I amble past collapsing brownstones – circumscribed by decaying barks and withered grass – hand in hand, looking for a place where the common denominator is madness and the ecstasy that both pain and pleasure bring.

You and I see through ostentatious facades lacking depth and semantic: pretty, insipid Instagram photos and Facebook status updates, designed to impress.

You and I know the unknown and see the unseen, and that breaks us each day but ties us together with a fabric of blood that murmurs of a togetherness that transcends even the sweetest aubade of the songbird at dawn.

You and I haunt decrepit, tumbledown places, looking for solace, a place to sheath our swords until we fall to our knees and with red droplets of anguish creating our Gethsemane, we look at each other and know that the only way of battling the void is to embrace each other in that beautiful, twisted way that only we can.

Eden & Chernobyl, the Puppeteer & the puppet, the Wasteland & the Crucifix, the Glory & the Passion – these things we know intimately.

We’ve seen the horror that unhinges minds, alters personality and chokes with its paranormal tentacles, but we’ve come out both defeated and victorious.

We’ve felt the sorrow that kills, that feels like a spear in the side while the executioner hammers nail after nail, tearing skin and breaking bone, but we’ve come out both weeping and with renewed grit.

I look around me sitting on ruined pillars with broken gargoyles atop them and see the starless sky, the smog, the industry, but the thought of you making your way somewhere along these winding roads in a different space and time makes me think that there’s hope in desert places.

For Mia 

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Emma

This is an image of a lonely park bench surrounded by withered trees. I've chosen it because my poem is about heartbreak and sorrow.

I visited mother yesterday, my eyes like backgammon pieces,
just as sharp as the black keys on that old piano
with its chipped corner that she still keeps,
I wonder why, I guess some miasma of sentiment rises from it
and clouds her vision of now, maybe it saves, I don’t know,
she’s frailer with wispy grey hair and a semblance of a smile
gives her integrity and keeps the clock ticking, I guess,
she asked about you. “How’s Emma?” and I said, “I don’t know,”
nonchalantly, I drank a cup of coffee and left with
a half-hearted hug, I wonder why mother remembers you,
only you, always you, I didn’t tell her about last year
when I visited the ashen cul-de-sacs and crevices of the internet
looking for your poetry, I didn’t tell her about how it
only made sense two years ago, when I found myself
in that white hall of hell, where demons masquerading
as angels in pristine gowns with spotless teeth sedated me,
I didn’t tell her about how my father fake-wept
like a statued cherub after sending me straight to
white chintz perdition because I foolishly wanted closure,
I didn’t tell her about the absent-spirit
that seeps through bone and bleaches marrow
these days, but worst of all, I didn’t tell her about
reading your verse and laughing after I left you in college,
you knew these broken truths of life well before I did,
I suppressed things, but you dealt with them using art,
I looked for you using that phone that now looks like
plastic, but couldn’t find anything except chalky screens
with monochrome search results, I guess I took fate’s gambit
when I naïvely thought I’d mastered
the game and now the queen of black judgment, and the
rook of dark circumstance pushes this dethroned
monarch into hopelessness, a double checkmate, and
I’ll just have to let myself be knocked off the board
after saying that I fucking love you.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Well, if you’re really into unrequited love (Part 2)

This is an image of a prisoner. I've used it because my satirical post talks about unrequited love.

I would skin off a car tire for you, and eat it however you wish: Raw, medium or well done. He calls you, “Bae,” and you blush, but I call you my sweetest fragrance that exhilarates the scent of the morning dew to astronomical proportions and you don’t even smile. I have died twice. My first death, when you said that flat, “No,” and the second when you ‘friend zoned’ me. The second is the lake of fire, and here I am spiraling in a vortex of flames; my anguish you’ll never know, because it makes me a corpse on fire, though I still walk with my head bowed, and eyes averting the light of the moon. Oh, wash away this angst with the sparkling showers of your tender honeyed love! Oh, pull me out of this pit of maggots and soothe me with the balm of your essence! Oh, don’t you see, my sweet? Oh, don’t you fathom, my Blue Jay? Oh, don’t you hear, my everlasting sonnet? You’ve throttled me with rejection, while he throttles his shaft: First gear, second, third, fourth and fifth. That is all he’ll give you: white droplets on a dusty floor, while I’ll give you the deepest red. I’ll cut my heart out and serve it on a platter if you’d devour it. Oh, my divine! Oh, my definition! Will you forever leave me with the miasma of eventide forming a noose around my neck? I’ve fasted for your delight, and now emaciated and with soiled pants, I lie in my disgust, while my hands still caress a pen and write you odes. You say, “I might marry him,” and if that materializes, my skin will fade, and the bones will show! Oh, songbird of the celestial! Oh, my muse! Oh, my heart! Must I writhe forever in this lowest rung of hell, while your hands wear the ring of a man who is not aesthetically inclined? An architect who can only draw squares, while I can personify the placid blue and make her the goddess that you are. Oh, I long for you like a caravanserai! Will you not permit me that rapture, even if I’m old? Oh, this is Love in the Time of Cholera indeed, but unlike that pervert, and other secret Lotharios who preach morality and abstinence, only because they’re sexually frustrated, I have kept myself pure for you! Oh, I would abstain even if I had you, because it is your love I seek, my princess! Know, my sweetest carnation that there is no fire in my loins, but I only have the purest soul, rid of all worldliness and lust, which wishes to hear your sublime song, calming me. So please, my jaggery of the sweetest cane, reciprocate, before I die withered and forgotten, outside the gates of your kingdom, a beggar without a cause.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Part 1

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)

Ambiguity

This is an image of a road in the woods leading to light. I've chosen it to represent hope even though my poem ends on a note of uncertainty.

When I last met sister,
her reality was a Kafkaesque,
disjointed, dysfunctional
nightmare that gave me no
respite, rest, recess, I wanted
to let her pain sink in, empathize,
or at least sympathize, she lay on
a park bench, muttering, stuttering,
stammering, falling short,
“I’m…just…a…fucking…w..aste
of vo..lu..me,” she said Prozac
ridden, her hazy eyes,
speaking more than prescription,
“Turn…me…d..o..w..n, s..t..a..t..i..c,”
she said, but I couldn’t leave her
in that weedy reality riddled with scraps,
paunched men staring at her
like she was a whore, ready to prance,
pounce, prey, and that litter stinks more
than the debris in the outskirts
of this seemingly cosmopolitan, dark
eye-liner, dark red lipshade façade
that only people who know India smell,
and you can call it a messiah complex,
a Jack Shephard need to save, and yes,
I have a similar tattoo on my arm, or a
pseudo-Samaritan need to fake-help,
or just love, but I picked her up, despite
my nonchalance which soon splintered
into tears, a heart of shattered stars,
carried her home, with my little
lean muscle, and told her
there is no mute, or a tuneless
song, but a new dawn, day, a spark,
a speck of hope, and she listened,
drifting in and out of consciousness,
but soon walked away, dissipating, dissolving,
disappearing again, and I hope with all
my heart that she found a place
with her name engraved on a
good man’s heart, and not on
a pothole reeking of addiction,
where she’ll be a target without
a need for an aim, and that shakes,
splits my core, with a jagged,
rough-edged knife, because I may
never be able to save her again.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Polarity

This is an image of two maps: one with a compass on it and another without. I've chosen it because there's a line in my piece that talks about how time on the outside moves linearly while time inside a love-hate relationship switches between darkness and light.

I’m in love with you, but I also know it’s time to let go. Time within us remains the same flick between darkness and light, while time without moves linearly. These relationships are the hardest and will split cores and break skulls with sharp axes of a muted ‘why?’ We’re in love but also stay together for the sake of it. It’s this dichotomy that both divorces us, and makes each touch and words said and unsaid worth it. We’re killing each other, but our damaged cores spin on an axis of who we might become, or who we think we’ll become.

I fucking love you and the roots of this strong emotion grip my heart fiercely and furiously, but some other force hacked the stem; split the branches in two. We’re pivoting on broken heels on a floor of fire, and though the raw burn and charred flesh gives us a pain that transforms into guttural shrieks, we have nowhere to go for solace and so we cling to each other through it all, wistfully thinking that some Messiah on a cross, with a spear in his side will resurrect, and tear this pitch-black veil that separates us from a together sanctification, and clear the rubble and sweep the ashes, but darling, the stars stay in their place, glimmering just like glitter paper does. There aren’t saviors or forces that turn a sun-scorched garden with the tree of life into a paradisiacal Eden with the same tree. This duality will persist, and only a tear will help us both mature and seek something else, but will we find it?

I’ll always cherish our silly nicknames and quiet moments with lopsided grins and secrets kept. But then again, I’ll loathe myself for treating you with such disrespect and disregard. You said today, ‘I think we were never meant to be,’ but I know we’ll both weep over those words and abuses hurled back and forth. I guess gold meets rust, spring meets autumn, silver linings meet sepia skies, red meets crimson and love meets hate. And each adage like, ‘proximity breeds contempt,’ is tried, tested and proven. I wish I can forgive myself for all the hurt I’ve caused you, but the day I did, I’ll cease being human. What’s with love and vicious circles? What’s with romance like a serpent biting its own tail? I guess I’ll never understand and here I stand in the death-throes of this relationship which is also its rebirth.

I look in the mirror and know that just like the bearded man who stares back at me, no longer possessing the charm of his youth, these lines aren’t perfect, and maybe our search for perfection is causing this maelström of summer and winter, of brown sands with soft waves and the bitter cold chill. And I guess we’re too far in now to correct that flaw and know each other too much to stay in our brokenness. So, with the dying embers of tomorrow beckoning and the luminous reflection of yesterday – scintillating with both pain and joy; torn, threadbare, broken and beaten, I know it’s time to say goodbye. But know this darling, that though love manifests itself in ugly ways and tragically crushes souls when it doesn’t evolve, in the deepest recesses of my heart it’s forever you and me.

© 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)