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

A hard knock life

This is a picture of wood burning. It represents a difficult life, trial and agony.

Whoever said, ‘Life is beautiful,’ was either caught up in grandiose delusions like green sunsets or sought solace in excruciating pain and became a tragic optimist of sorts.

Life isn’t beautiful, and it’s not fair. It’s bleak like an arid landscape devoid of any vegetation and tortured by the spiteful sun. It roars with pain like the waves that thrash madly and then sweep away the shore in their angst. It agonizes you like a throbbing hangover after a night spent drinking a bottle of rum. It tortures you emotionally and physically like a man with cancer who also happens to be on death row.

Life can ebb away before you know it, and all you’ll become is a redundant machine like an outdated computer with dust and grime coating its screen. Life can break you like a wrestler puts his opponent in a hold and crushes his arm. Life can gut you like a thief sneaking up on you and pushing that blade into your belly for just a little cash. Life makes its demands and when you don’t heed; you may not suffer the consequences now, but there will come a time when it’ll take every drop of blood from you.

Philosophers have sought explanations as to why there is sorrow, and as to why we live in a fractured world. Some have made that bold nihilistic statement – ‘God is dead,’ and have envisioned a world in which humanity has absolute freedom without consequences. Some have gone further and added that every human is responsible for every cataclysmic event that happens even though there is no purpose. These days we argue about the very nature of reality. ‘Are we living in a simulation?’ Some ask.

But theories meet theories and anti-theories, and ultimately the search for purpose becomes what it truly is – a never-ending struggle with time, space and our place in reality. ‘Everything is meaningless and just a chase after the breeze,’ said Solomon who was probably the first real nihilist.

The truth is that all his metaphors and exploits and wisdom gained him nothing. Then defeated, he wrote Ecclesiastes and projected his grimness while he did. I’ll end with a story of a prodigal son. Except in this one, there’s no closure, no catharsis, and no epiphany.

Once there lived a man who demanded his father’s inheritance and spent it quickly on buying himself an apartment. He believed he was absolutely free and spent more money on women, cigarettes, and alcohol. The money flowed because his father was rich, and he set up bank accounts and tried using it responsibly while maintaining his bohemian lifestyle. But pleasure always catches up and overthrows direction, and he fell into drugs and horrible company. Towards the end, battered and bruised, he said, ‘I’ll get my shit together,’ and tried, but he found his pattern of recklessness inescapable. He found himself becoming the man in the iron cage, the reprobate; abandoned by God and forsaken by men. His father passed away, and he went back to live with his mother. She showed him love, but he never reciprocated it. He’d become so used to getting what he wanted that now he projected his failures on her and verbally and physically started abusing the poor old woman. One day, he struck her too hard, and she collapsed and lay there, breathless. ‘Oh, mother! Oh, sweet mother! My angel! What have I done? What have I done?’ He sobbed bitterly. Then too cowardly to face the law and shame, he resorted to taking his own life.

Life isn’t beautiful because it always leaves you wanting more.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

Pensive

You and I walk past brownstones, the color of rust, the melancholic artificiality endowing us with Plathian muses, making us wish for something more than facades and magniloquent odes lacking the depth and authenticity that only despair forges in the fires of harrowing experiences using a hammer possessed by death-spirits.

You and I walk beneath amber sunsets on potholed roads where buskers cut their fingers on sad but sharp violin strings, and the music’s an ode to obscurity. The call to oblivion is so strong then, and the waspish ache within makes us rage at tyrannical gods and hate humanity like anti-Bodhisattvas. But then a numbing that even an anti-psychotic can’t provide coats our hearts like the paper leaves of Autumn cover the mossy ground, and yes, there’s beauty in not feeling anything sometimes.

You and I perceive existential angst in ways that leave us devoured by madness, but also empathetic, and it’s this dichotomy within us that makes us unique and sets us apart from the half-baked crowd. It’s a roaring silence and a darkened light, but these hackneyed oxymorons don’t really give it justice. It’s the Big Bang of the all the lines we write, a sudden jolt of the consciousness leading to streams and streams of macabre yet beautiful thoughts like black rivulets under the gentle glow of a crescent moon.

You and I know tragedy intimately like Gnostics directly communicating with their gods through mystical experiences. But, this wealth of pain has taught us, even though it severed us from the magnetic throng – ostentatiously attracted to or bitterly repulsed by one another. We’re freaks and vagabonds, misfits and pilgrims with causes augmented by throes.

You and I connect in ways that supersede the yes, no, and okay though the weight we carry differs not in intensity, but in form. We grasp the deeper semantic that forms the undercurrent of good conversation, and we let it carry us to the shores of honesty, which is why we can pause talk today and restore it three weeks from now with the same ardor, and I’d like to believe that’s something precious.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

For Mia

Real Toads’

A Wisteria now gnarled

At the edge in a small favela,
a maculate shelf with unclean tomes
you knew that there was no redemption
in that machine gun, gaudy, bland town,
and so you moved to the Elysian
Sierra with its minty peaks and
breeze that enlivens and white-rose sky
and there you knew true beauty, stillness,
but only for a day, a short time
and now you wish to rest again, sleep
but sadly walk afresh on the stain
at the edge in a small favela.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

For Poets United

Everyone seems so far away

I’m listening to Look on Down from the Bridge by Mazzy Star and there’s something about the concept of finding freedom by abandoning everything I’ve known that appeals to me. I’m sick of it all honestly. The women and the sex. The cigarettes and the booze. And this isn’t some ephemeral disease of the soul like heartbreak or failure. No, this is a deeper cry that resounds through my very core beating any millennial petulance. When I was younger, I dreamt and dreamt of things I thought will materialize, coalesce and take shape, carrying me to objects of affection and wreaths of adoration. Now, I’m older, writing bawdy, perverted, shitty poetry on Google Hangouts to people who get me (or don’t) but the truth is I’m in this ramshackle bar of my depravity. The puke of consciousness staining everything, and in this nasty Tophet I’m shaking the bartender by the collar. ‘Give me something stronger! Or break this fucking place down!’ I scream, but he’s mute and does nothing. The only light I know seeps in through the gaps in the roof boards like gaps in a lecher’s teeth. The frosted window looks like an ugly splotch of curd. I need an escape. I fall to my knees and look down because I’ve stopped praying or can’t remember how to. The wooden flooring with its nails sticking out and splinters screams back at me. ‘You’re a failure!’ It shrieks, and I want to take one of those nails and gouge my eyes out, or just collapse and let the splinters split flesh and embed themselves in me. I get up and stumble in a hazy state to the bathroom and look in the cracked mirror. I have nicotine stained lips and eyes with natural mascara. I don’t know when I last slept. And when I try, I’m always in this state between sleep and wakefulness. A horrifying purgatory between the Abraham’s Bosom of deep sleep and the hell of nightmares. I try lucid dreaming and succeed for a while, and I guess they’ll eventually find me like this, obscure and lost to oblivion, lost between dreams and actuality with spittle running down my mouth.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

Drop D Shakespeare

I hate this flannel and this mangled jean
this crowd, distortion, my impassive face
they’re so exuberant and bloody keen
they’re just here for the silly, throbbing bass
I never wanted note or heroin
I think I’ll smash this mike stand. So much hate!
I won’t complete this song; I need some gin!
You often get what you despise, that’s fate!
I’m playing, and I cannot quit at all!
I can and will. I’ll say I’m done. Last show!
The drug is kicking in; I think I’ll fall!
I’ll finish, travel to some lake and row.
I secretly said yes to all this fame.
Ideas never die. Erase my name!

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

For dVerse  Continue reading

Searching for you

In moments of profound despair and deepest pain
I long, I seek, I search for a lover’s heated embrace
But fate to man is cruel, conquering his gain
Displacing him so violently with no grace

In moments of profound despair and deepest pain
I write to you — these notes to my passion’s hardest support
But pages tear and everything seems so inane
And to lonely beds and painful reverie I retort

Must love be this hurtful and riddled with deepest, hardest pain?
Or do somber colors reverb with sheen, shine — some gain?

Originally published in Poetry Under Cover

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)