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)

Autumn

This is an image of autumn. I've chosen it because my poem relates autumn to my personal struggles. The title of my poem is also Autumn

During periods of distress, I seek the season of mangled leaves
and barks undressed, the whalebone dully lighting the undergrowth,
a tincture of purple dusk a stark contrast to the auburn canopy
of the red maple, my footfalls a solemn crunch like that of a
weather-worn, debilitated infantry that’s trudging on,
and at that moment, that silence of realms both earthly and eternal,
I find a hush within too, not one durable, but enough to see
That there’s time without that’s just as weary as the time within.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Post Tenebras Lux

This is an image of the aurora borealis. I've chosen this image because it's surreal and augments my post which is full of abstract symbolism.

They gather in a pristine room, spotless and immaculate, and unsullied places don’t haunt; it’s the clique that I can’t tolerate with teeth a little too transparent like glass, unwarranted piety which spells ‘duplicity’ in pitch-black on a serpentine tongue, rolled back, while gums either bold red or plain pink, flap or keep mute. They’re a book club that basks in self-proclaimed ‘esoteric’ gnosis with a pride that rages, howls, screams and shrieks. “The rest aren’t like us,” they scoff with a Pharisaic, “Our Father is Abraham,” philistinism, which only defeats them. “See man! For crying aloud! See!” I’d like to yell, and I recently somewhat did, and the leader and I had an anti-tête-à-tête, a war of the worlds and the words (or the Word) and I unmasked his contempt, disrespect and disregard, while he retreated like a turtle into a shell of armored self-righteousness. The thing about peering into people’s minds and intuiting, before using a justified sociopathy to manipulate the puppeteer that strings narrow or open-minded thoughts dangling and dancing to the tune of consciousness is simple: Know the hierarchy, know where you stand with respect to their mind’s eye, and upset it until their mind sees spots, because when you do that, they’ll regress immediately. “Him! I thought this scoundrel was beneath me! This bastard of all people!” They’ll exclaim with shrieks of a wounded ego, with cuts of that switch-blade still seething. And you can use a switch-blade of contempt, or sardonicism, or disregard, but cleverly use it. It doesn’t take physics for you to know that each action has a reciprocation. And here’s the question: Can you handle the heat with swashbuckling passive ardor? Ardor of a gym and protein shake variety breaks you in the long run: You become a one-dimensional pugilist, with a frigid, sore body, inflexible, and unable to stretch without breaking something. And I think we all know that tattoos and piercings are a statement or a proclamation; never the real deal.

So, I’m done with him, and then there’s the second point. Why do men lack love for absolute beauty? I lack it myself. I love finitude with its imperfection, but infinite absolute love, I can’t make myself love. I guess it’s reprobation. But if it’s that, then our notion of the absolute has flaws, because if the absolute hates, then beauty and wrath are connected. You delight in the wrath too if you truly love the absolute, but I can’t, and I can’t live one moment drinking the fiercest black coffee and looking up with an energy drink passion, and then be wishy-washy. So, it’s cold. But was it ever my choice? The butcher of Geneva will say never. But let this be. So, what now? I look to philosophy, literature, music and the higher pursuits given to finitude. I find in them a kind of cleansing. A baptism of sorts: Out with years of my own Janus-faced religiosity, and now I wear a multi-colored Joseph’s coat of ideas, theories, jazz, soft cadences, and abstractions. But must I trade this coat for one of a pure hue? That will be absolute foolishness. Please note the pun. When I’m not confronted with the absolute anymore, I embrace the abstract or the vague, and stay open to change, and the shift in balance of my inner dimension. And I call this a regeneration, or me wearing a new avatar.

Finally, ah! The question of all questions: The future? Right now, yes, it’s veiled by a curtain of doubt, and no, you don’t become what you think or feel. So will the journey end in an exclamation, a euphoric, “Post Tenebras Lux indeed!” Is it a part-time, “Well, it pays the bills?” Is it a book – the dream, finally a reality, and enough to live off the craft? Or is it a tougher, hard ground, “This is the last thing I wanted, but I don’t have a choice?” Or is it, “Take away the itch, until you lull me to sleep, while I spot trains until I die?” Or is it, “Fuck this! Come, get this emaciated self, but though my bones break, and my beard grows, though my head throbs, and I bleed, my fucking heart’s made of steel! So, come! Fucking come!” Whatever, the answer is, the key to life is the journey: each step, victories or defeats, “Yes, I did it!” Or, “I’m fucking comatose,” and looking at the long road behind, and not the short one, and with that I’ll end.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

As if

This is an image of a plane wreck floating on the sea. I've chosen it because it augments the nihilism which is the central theme of my poem

I write poems of myself, as if there is a point of writing.
I wake each morning to the sight of the ceiling fan,
as if there is a point to sleeping and waking.
I breathe the fresh air, as I walk to the rhythm of
the thrush, as if there is a point to breathing and walking.

What is existence, but the dregs of the past carried
by the illusion of tomorrow?
What is solace, but a myth punched in our skulls
using a societal pneumatic drill of ‘thinking positive
thoughts’ and ‘high self-esteem’?

I walk on a cracked road, strewn with dead leaves,
crushed paper cups and the stench of over-ripeness,
the road is broad and here and there I find a tavern
or a whorehouse that only elevates my guilt,
the road is barren except for a few humps
like an old hag with sagging tits,
the road has stark tress, fruitless and leafless
on both sides, menacing, haunting, monstrous,
hideous like wooden upright cadavers,
the road leads to a murky horizon, askew
and blurry, never telling me what awaits.

The stories I’ve known, I’ve shared with no one –
because ears hear, but they don’t hear at all –
and so, I trudge alone beneath the sun –
embracing seasons dying – the filth – fall –

I write songs of remembrance, as if recollection
abets salvation, memories or flashes of them
forming a false beatific vision, lasting an hour
before the mind’s uneasy, unsettled, untidy,
unaided.

I write sonnets of love, as if I hold it in my heart,
which in truth is a headstone with an epitaph saying,
‘Here lies one unknown who died before he died,
here lies one obscure who never lived though he lived,
here lies one unseen who saw though he never saw.’

I write villanelles of ache, as if sorrow is the muse
that refines, coats hearts with the golden dew of
resilience, but my tears refuse to flood my eyes,
my pain has given way to apathy like that of a soldier who
first cries in sorrow over a dying friend before seeing
one too many fall and then desensitized and disillusioned
carries on.

I write prose both lyrical and anti-lyrical calling
the hyacinth layers of velvety tenderness or
calling it a myriad chopped off tongues stitched
together, but does it matter? I ask you, does it matter?

I can sing of myself, but I’m not myself.
I can rise to meet life, but I’ve never risen.
I can talk of rebirth, but I’ve never known birth.
I can talk of death, but I’m already gone.

And all this, the songs and their echoes,
the women and the cigarettes, the laughter
and the beer, the muted tears and the numbness,
the journey and the destination rises like
a monster with a scaly carapace, irises of fire,
a mouth with demonic teeth, sharp like needles,
four-footed, with vicious claws and wings with an
aura of a death-spirit, seeking to devour life, but
only to find itself thrown in the abyss,
only to find itself lost to obscurity and oblivion,
forgotten and erased.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

An ode to self

This is an image of myself with an overgrown beard. I've used it because my poem describes me as a shabby poet who's given up on life.

Walt Whitman, you shabby bastard, reincarnated
as a straight man with dying honey skin, teeth like
sorrowed Chiclets, bleeding yellow—a coward,
a hypocrite, a liar, a farce, a façade of a man,
speaking with an almost bass smoky voice,
thickened by the Indian accent, just like belly fat.

Does the rum give you solace, a harsh catharsis?
Do cigarettes & coffee give you an old school aubade?
Do the pills you pop give you a blurry epiphany?

Forever histrionic and theatrical—
a pitiful demoniac’s twisted, sick despair—
a drift between distress and the hysterical—
forever searching for a life that’s just and fair—

Your wife’s cuckolding you in the next room
while you search for answers reading books
you hear her moans, sighs and deep sobs
and a part of you is titillated, aroused and likes it

Oh Walt Whitman, you filthy bastard, going weeks
without a shave or a shower, walking to the cigarette
shop in the track pants you shagged in, and then
to the supermarket where faces turn because you
look like a beachcomber but have a credit card

Oh Walt Whitman, you dirty bastard, coming home
with three cans of Red Bull and then spilling it on the floor,
and then licking the floor and lapping it up like a dog,
before you’re frustrated and need your porn.

© 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)