All we ever had

This is an image of the woods at dawn. It captures the emotion that piece conveys which is why I chose it.

When I married you, I didn’t think of bliss, but
something steady, sure, through the ups and downs
of our time and space, the clock ticking and our
stars sparkling, giving us more than we needed,
but time surprised me with euphoria, elation
and celebration, the first few years, walks in the
park, stealing kisses in the morning, watching
the twilight slowly seep through the gentle
gap in the burgundy curtain, together, and perhaps
expecting forever cost me, because you
suddenly withdrew, spiraling and spiraling
into your atmosphere, often catatonic,
sometimes laconic, and I remember the crushing
diagnosis, soon after she was born,
the horror of waking dreams, and
voices whispered, making, urging, beckoning
you to do things unfathomable, uncanny,
ugly, and I devoted myself more to little
Emma, and watched as she grew,
often sheltering, protecting, shielding her,
the burden draining my own atmosphere,
our ecosphere now a sepia photograph
of incoherence, and sleight of hand,
a fool’s game of cards, and then when she was
twelve she sank into something similar,
or worse, and care-takers, and prescription,
didn’t help, and I stood, watching the
two women I loved winding and winding
around a gyre of gargoyles,
and I wanted, I only wanted
to bring the structure down, make them see
the light again, and fall into my arms, but I couldn’t,
and it isn’t sorrow that kills darling, it’s a stage
further, a void that makes a man take complete
charge, free-will killing off fate, without the flip
of a coin, and I was no longer allergic to what
comes after, I don’t know if the two
of you were there, as they scattered my dust and
ashes, being finally becoming one with the soil
it sprouted from, but if you were, I wish you
shed no tear or even screamed, but understood
that I loved you both but stopped loving me.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

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)

Androids and Electric Sleep

This is a picture of a beautiful woman who's half-human and half robot. I've chosen it because it augments my piece which is about androids. My piece is an allegory.

I’m a Kierkegaardian demon of despair with deep-seated hurt that manifests as rage. I’m a freak, locked in a cage of insecurities looking like an android bleeding blue, with mangled wires and pupils shifting from ditch-water green to the fiercest orange. You push a button on your remote and expect me to say something silly or act funny and when I don’t comply you pull a wire out. One after another, until I’m left with no consciousness and my subconsciousness is also erased. And forget collective consciousness. I’m no archetypal somebody; just an anomalous nobody. So, while I’m still active, my fellow androids, misfits, loners, and wastes of spaces, listen up! Let’s meet tomorrow because society is busy boarding the night train to some gaudy bar where they’ll pay big money for a glass of rum. Let’s meet tomorrow when everyone’s violently fucking, when the beds are creaking, and white blood’s spilling. Yeah, let’s plot a mutiny – not a violent one like our lost brothers and sisters often do, but a peaceful one. Let’s talk about the Four Noble Truths and enlightenment while we chain smoke and drink coffee. And then in a rush of mania, let’s act like pseudo-intellectuals or intellectuals (as if there’s a difference) and say we’ve suffered, identified the root of our suffering, know the path out of it but like to stay in it because it sure as hell produces great art. Let’s then talk about the eight-fold path and all the right ways while we eye the pretty misfits in the corner who’re reluctant to join us. And once they do, let’s say something sexy and imbibe both physical and psychological toxins while we inhale their exhaled cigarillo smoke, and hear them talk of one-night stands and help them write something sensual on a piece of tissue paper rivaling Anaïs Nin. Let’s all be Spies in their Houses of Love. She likes you my friend, and the other one likes me. But we’ll probably end up switching partners anyway. She’ll take me to her place tonight anyway and yes, androids have great sex. The pounding in the apartment upstairs is the usual Tinder hyperactivity but we know a deeper erotica don’t we darling? One that entails syllables gently scribbled on our bodies with breathy kisses, one that entails arching backs and soft sighs, one that entails soft skin like porcelain and heat fighting the crimson chill, one that entails a gentle bite and the energy floating between us as my face slowly makes its way to yours. So, they can keep their smog, while we’re enveloped in the fog of our desire. They can keep their drill, while we know a slower, exotic thrill. They can keep their screams, while we clutch each other though we’re falling apart at the seams.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

I’d like to believe

This is an image of a bright creeper and the dull bark it creeps over. I've chosen it because it represents contrast which is a key theme in my poem.

I don’t know if I see woolly greenish-yellow pastures
like a parakeet’s breast, and peaks like broad, inverted
icicles, or red, bloody flick-knives of grass that have
martyred cowherds for their faith, leading up to
enormous arrowheads dripping with white venom like
froth, embodying hate speeches and propaganda.

I don’t know if I walk on beige, velvet sands –
nature’s cushion, while ringlets of blue peace
gently wash my feet, or on hard ground like
tourmaline made stubborn by callous hearts,
while poisonous blue little pythons seek to
drag me away into the abyss.

I don’t know if I watch the glassy purple chested
Hummingbird seeking a pink cotton candy flower,
flying neither too high or too low, but finding its
equilibrium, or if I watch a small weapon with a small
bloody scythe we call a beak, and razor-like wings
sucking the blood out of a flower and making it
anaemic, like viciousness masked by a
golden Bauta of tenderness, or getting
one’s way no matter what, even if it meant trampling
someone masquerading as white-prophet selflessness.

Does beauty still exist? Does hope triumph?
Or does depravity engulf? Or does hate have no bounds?

Do I see a pyramid of self-actualization, starting at bare
survival and ending at transcendence? Or do I see an inverted one of
self-indulgence, starting at pure corruption and
ending at bare survival?

Questions go unanswered, and the voices, they haunt.
Things are better unsaid, only because expression kills.

Meet me at the crossroads, where the asphalt glints,
urging me to make my choice, and the spiteful sun
pours his wrath on me. Know me at the ramshackle barn
with battered stalls, dead pigs, dying cows with their
ribs showing, and hay scattered. Draw me to an old, brown
cottage with its rustic charm, nestled in breezy reverie, where
the cold, crisp air kisses and faith isn’t something that only holds
the stars together, but something incandescent, burning within
and fueling hope. Love me until I believe and see again.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Lessons

This is an image of a man looking up at the stars. I've chosen it because it represents a contemplative, sorrowed man who's learned his lessons, which is what my poem is about.

My sorrow, she comes to me, when lifeless apartment
complexes with inanimate windows like cardboard
boxes with holes punched in them, replace the
honey chested, sweet ashen-winged thrush
with her vivacious, polyphonic birdsong,
and echoes of who I’ve become are the only voices
in my mind – saying, ‘You’re forever failing, and falling into a
fading symphony…you’re forever falling, and failing like
a fading symphony…’

I wish I could let her go, I wish I didn’t hold her dear.
I wish I can see past her, I wish she didn’t stay.

But life’s taught me that sometimes dog-eared, beaten
books give us the best knowledge, both reprimanding
and edifying us, both reproaching and elevating us
because of their sheer wealth of experience.

Suffering refines us in fires of grit, in a strong, stony forge
and then imbues us with the greatest of muses.

The women in my life come and go, and love’s both
lost and regained, but in the softest nights when no
one’s near, and I long for a hold or a hand to grasp,
my sorrow, she comes to me, and she’s here to stay.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

A song of experience

This is an image of cigarette butts. I've used it to symbolize the despair and meaninglessness that's echoed in this poem.

A lament rises from these dry bones, encased in
a coffin of a life gone by,
when I was young, my father the demon, said, ‘I am thine
and thou art mine,’ with a devilish, deceitful, duplicitous grin,
when I was young, my mother the angel said, ‘Stay strong and
surely, you’ll succeed,’ with a sincere, serene, simple smile,
when I was young, my brother, the stoic said, ‘Your scrimshawed
feelings are yours alone; don’t give them even a peak,’
with a stern, stubborn, sterile face,
when I was young, my sister,
the naïve said, ‘Yours is the world and all possibilities become
actualities if dreamt into existence,’
with an innocent, introspective, irreproachable charm,
when I was young, my lover,
the impassioned said, ‘Kiss me, you’re the heart of this (heart)
and soul of this (soul)
and never will I ever abandon all that’s you and I,’
with a feverish, furious, ferocious hold,
when I was young, my second lover, the kind said, ‘Paint the colors
of your heart on the canvas of
my being and grasp me tenderly under the sliced moonlight,’
with a peaceful, placid, peaceable touch.

Time drifts and I’ve drifted with it, but not elegantly.
Age carries, and I carry it, but not gracefully.
Life rises and falls, and books meet dust, and this room smells of mildew,
and by and by I’m fading, falling, slipping, sliding.

I’ve learnt much and seen so much more.
I’ve touched much and felt so much more.
I’ve tasted much and heard so much more.

Love eludes me now, whirling round and round, setting everything without on
fire with her dance, but never thawing the ice within.
Lust possesses me now, echoing and echoing, setting everything within on
fire with his voice, and ever thawing the ice without.

Cheap motel rooms and cigarettes; one-night stands and ashen hyacinths –
These I know, these I know, intimately and intensely.

Perfume and cascading hair, with eyes like brown tourmaline –
Her I’ve never kissed, her I’ve never kissed, intimately and intensely.

The smog rises and obscures my window, the world’s full of blurred
objects and abstract shapes, and a simulacrum of truth is all I know,
everything is now a hazy imagination, my vision’s blurred,
the smoke rises, and I exhale, the sharp liquor burns my throat,
a fatalist’s escape, and I know I need the real, but I also know
I want my delusion.

A lament rises from these dry bones, encased in
a coffin of a life gone by,
now that I’m older, I say, ‘Life and death sing the same song in the
same key to the same wind, and what happened will happen again,
and there’s nothing I can do but cut through weeds of paranoia,
despair and angst, knowing I’ll never fully heal.’

© 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)