Love and Reprobation

This is an image of ash and lava. The ash represents destruction while the lava represents love in a terrible place. My piece is about finding love in unfortunate circumstances.

Meet me where the earth cracks and a dying stream breathes its last, where the ashen peaks lose their charm and look tobacco stained, where the asphyxiated grass choked by some sadistic otherworldly force gasps and wheezes, where love meets reprobation and we’re broken, neglected sinners in the hands of a silent sovereign, because when fate fades and we’re watching our lives unfold in hazy sepia, when wheels of fortune lie splintered and there’s nothing left but to weep without tears, and look but not see anything, I’d rather love you in a fucked up way than write or read or fake laughter and merriment. No, I’d rather love you with all the force of my core, breaking out of my rib-cage, splintering skin, and giving you the raw, red blood of affection. No, I’d rather hold you in this oubliette, ignoring the trapdoor and igniting the cell with seething emotion. And I don’t give a damn if they call this hyperbole, it’s all I offer, and even then, it doesn’t compare to what you’ve given me. You gave me your all, accepted me despite my demonic idiosyncrasies: my angst, my raging paranoia, won me over and if I didn’t act, reciprocate, feel and hold, it’ll be cruel. So know that I love your shadow and bliss, your shifting avatars and your true quintessential self, your skin, lips, breath, taste, flavor, balance and imbalance, and I guess we’ll just stay twisted this way.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Fate

This is an image of a lonely man walking the city streets at night. It portrays grief which is the central theme of my poem.

He was a teetotaler, but his wife drank,
now and then, a little gin to relax her
after a hectic day, counseling teenagers with
existential problems, unnecessary, unwarranted,
undying, then one day they went to a party
with their 12-year-old, and she was a little tipsy,
but he kept his discipline, and as he drove back,
passing winding curve after curve, the son
asking questions, the wife’s laughter making
him smile, he kept his discipline, but
reality often pivots the rules we make like a
top spinning, a car spinning after a truck
nicked the edge, memories spinning, lives loved
slipping, he woke up, his life spinning,
spiraling down, and moments
paused for a long sequence,
and a new cycle began, watching everything
he had coast in the grey and touch
the blue, cold river,
his discipline slipping, and he visited a shrine,
his sanity slipping, hoping to look for the
dead still waltzing, walking, waiting,
but found nothing, no Cadmean victory,
and red droplets of anguish turned a fiery
orange, and he lost his discipline, relationships
with widows, their children unattended to,
uncared for, flings with married women,
their husbands too old and prosperous,
and then finally a glass, no…two…three…
four…ten glasses of gin each day, justifying
it with the nostalgia of that last moment with her,
walking down winding curve after curve,
haggardly, horribly scarred by the pockmarks
of fate, looking up in anger, yelling, “You’re
responsible! You’re responsible!” Looking down
in self-loathing, whispering, “I’m responsible,
I’m responsible,” looking back in disarray,
asking a mute, “Why?” Having lost work and purpose,
and finally drifting in and out of consciousness…

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

I think of her

This is an image of train tracks surrounded by a barren landscape. I've used it because it symbolizes a hard life which urges us to move on no matter what. Sometimes the thought of a loved one keeps us going and that's what my poem is about.

I thought of her when that romantic cottage
with its burgundy chimney, walls of stone
and dreamy garden leading up to a calm,
comforting, consoling canal became a favela:
a machine gun, overpopulated, tumbledown
town with littered streets, giving a sojourner
no succor.

I thought of her when post-rock songs by Mogwai,
If These Trees Could Talk, Explosions in the Sky and
Mono infused with a profound sadness became a
jarring, atonal cacophony – a noisy Tophet
where the off-tune screeching was the
scorching flame and the pneumatic drill reverberating
was the worm that didn’t stop gnawing.

I thought of her when Biblical verses didn’t speak anymore
and my reading of the Psalms turned against me,
making me David’s foe, and each Proverb stung
like a wasp and though I tried, tired and browbeaten,
I found no aesthetic, celestial grasp and needed
love; not validation, just love.

I thought of her when the temperature in my room
dropped, and I covered myself with bed sheets and
wore sweaters, but still shivered, my teeth chattering,
and no cigarette or swig of The Old Admiral helped,
and yesterday’s warmth seemed a sepia memory,
dissolving in the acid of self-loathing and scruples,
condemning me, chastising me and making
me wage war on myself, a personality split right
in the center with an ax of false guilt.

I thought of her when I sat among friends in some
noisy bar, the reckless revelry never appealing, the
gossip and the boisterous joking so repulsive,
and though they got me to dance, all I saw
were the faces of demons, ready to devour in their
intoxicated false fire, the clinking of the glasses
and the ‘Hurrahs!’ Only betraying a monochromatic
banality beneath a gaudy façade of togetherness.

I thought of her when I scored that goal on the football
field, a step-over and a low, left footed drive, an ephemeral
thrill, a false euphoria, a momentary increase of dopamine
levels that left just as quickly as it arrived, like the breeze,
and I didn’t bother celebrating or even acknowledging
pats on the back which became curses yelled the very next
day when nothing I did worked, and I went home and
tossed the studs in the corner of the attic,
vowing to never play again.

I thought of her when I kissed another, she smiled and so
did I, but my thoughts were elsewhere, a mistake, a foolish
thrill that loneliness made me seek, just like it
often makes me want to jump off this apartment
complex. We closed our eyes and it seemed perfect,
just like things masquerade wearing gilded crowns
adorned with gemstones, when they’re just thorns
stitched together haphazardly.

I thought of her when I read fantasy books, placing
myself in the protagonist’s shoes and her the other
who makes him whole, fighting demons using wards,
or drawing from the source and destroying the
forsaken, or just warring using sword and shield, a mere
mortal with her immortal talisman, until I found
myself on an ashen road purged of both magic
and technology, never-ending, a dystopian
journey, the very antithesis of life.

I think of her even now, though my thoughts don’t
reach her and I’ve kept all the poems I wrote her
locked, and plan on never re-reading them, though
I look at the crossroads outside my apartment complex
at night, the streets lit by dim streetlights and the
blaring headlights of speeding cars, each man or
woman journeying, traveling, traversing and
lost in transition.

© 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)