Life as I know it

This is a black and white picture of a depressed man's face. I've chosen it because my prose piece is a personal confessional about my struggles with depression.

I’m a broken man who leads a very lonely life. I don’t have any friends or ‘treasured acquaintances’ as Sheldon Cooper puts it. I’m highly introverted and gravely misunderstood. I have made my share of mistakes, and they haunt me like the spirits that made Legion break his chains and torture himself.

I’ve lost my sense of duty, and I’m as irresponsible as they come. Hours pass with me smoking cigarette after cigarette and listening to the same song on repeat. And when I’m feeling a little determined, I try losing myself to a book. But there are days when I can’t read, let alone write. I feel numb then and try to stimulate my mind with a lot of caffeine; hoping some feral burst of inspiration will strike me, but it rarely works. And I’m left like a defeated prisoner, bound up and tossed in a cage; looking down at the grime and piss.

Once, I was idealistic and believed that I’d hold the stars in my hand like the Son of man. But fate dealt with me harshly and made me realize that I’m dust and ashes, and nothing more. He cruelly stomped on my feet as I chased the will-o’-the-wisp, taking from me the people and dreams I held close to my heart. He made me live out a reality that I once mocked – nurses in pristine white gowns injecting me with tranquilizers, doctors plotting to throw me in a halfway home and over-medicating me like I was a lab rat, and even my parents looking away with contempt.

Then, I looked for solace in religion. I went through mad spiritual phases in my life where I thought serving God is the only purpose in life. But religion only accentuated my grief. I found more terror in faith than love. I had horrific visions which led to more white-gowned nurses and doctors.

Finally, I accepted my circumstances and walked away from wanting validation from people, and no wrath from God. I can’t say that I’ve gained closure, and I doubt I ever will, but for whatever it’s worth I’ve decided to exist as long as there is breath in me; not caring if I’ll fade like discarded Polaroid over time or if I’ll find myself framed on someone’s mantelshelf.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

We

This is a surreal image of a couple looking at each other. I've used it because to me it represents not being in love but still being together which is the theme of my prose poem.

I don’t know when we fell out of love. Did it happen gradually like a candle melting or did it occur abruptly like a glass plate slipping from a waiter’s fingers and shattering into pieces on the floor?

I remember when we were swashbuckling romantics who walked under the distress of noon, and the august, solemn canopy of Autumn, hand in hand, driven by quixotic passion and a raw lust for life.

Maybe it’s that very idealism that killed us. Maybe we woke up one night and realized that though we shared the same bed and lived under the same roof, we were just two extremely different people who could only find themselves if they went their separate ways.

Or maybe there was an incandescent spark once but like a firecracker that becomes ash and debris after an exuberant display; we became redundant – just immature children make-believing that we were swimming in a sea of turquoise when all there was, was an unfruitful land with skulls and bones.

But what bothers me is that we’re still together, not out of necessity or the need for solace, but out of subconscious choice. We suppress the truth that insists that we let go and bind each other with toxic threads of unity for the sake of it.

We’ve known charm and Chernobyl. We’ve seen thriving forests with wood nymphs and the seventh stage of the abyss. We’ve felt dashes of joy and ebullitions of sorrow. We’ve held love and hate.

But what saddens me is that all we’ve known, seen, felt and held hasn’t given us the will to walk away and plunge ourselves in the unknown where we’ll find insight and freedom.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

A villanelle for the broken

This is a picture of a sorrowed man praying. I've chosen this image because it augments my villanelle which is about grief

If life has meaning, then do tell me what it is
Do whispers of distress become a din of ache
Or do we wait in sorrow for outstanding bliss?

I’ve walked beside these rusty tracks, I’ve heard the hiss
Of broken trains. I’ve frequented regret’s long wake
If life has meaning, then do tell me what it is

Is it a puzzle that needs solving? A grim quiz?
Or do we conjure up lies for intention’s sake?
Or do we wait in sorrow for outstanding bliss?

I’ve heard the wails of pain from the perturbed abyss
I’ve seen the donjon crumble and I’ve felt the quake
If life has meaning, then do tell me what it is

Is it wild joy that’s toasted with champagne and fizz?
A guileless thrill for skewers, well-done steak, and cake?
Or do we wait in sorrow for outstanding bliss?

I’ve held her, and I’ve lost her like a bygone kiss
I’ve felt my torment echo and my stronghold shake
If life has meaning, then my grief is all there is
Or do I wait in sorrow for outstanding bliss?

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

The five stages of Grief with Binky the Clown

This is an image of a sad clown. I've used it because my post is about a heartbroken clown forced into self-deprecating work because of fate.

 

My job’s to make you laugh, to give you joy and to coat your hearts with effervescence, and that I’ll do as long as I’m standing on this stage. I lost my second wife a month ago, and since then I’ve spiraled into alcoholism. But I guess it’s better than shooting crap into my arm. I’ve lost my day job selling popcorn at the fair, and I’m struggling to foot the bills, to get by. But enough self-loathing. I’m here to make you laugh, to help take your minds off the stress of actuality.

You come here – every Friday night – after paying the cheap five-dollar entrance because you long for entertainment. You crave for more than sleazy motel room sex with hookers. You want me to make you laugh and then satiate your vulgar appetites. But all I have…okay enough of that!

You’re here now, and it’s time to make you laugh. I’ve worn the green nose and the green lipstick because that’s what Mayor Green favors. He won the lottery this week, and I was mad when the owner said, “It’s green today Binky.” I mean, green! Fuck man! You’re one egotistical prick, aren’t you? Even after all these years of snorting J&J’s Big C, some shred of malicious ego makes you want to humiliate me. Do I have to yell, “Green!” too while you proceed with whatever the fuck you plan on doing with me tonight. Then again, you’re entitled to your fetishes, and I knew what I was getting into when I signed up for this. So, I’m sorry sir. Please take no offense. And please don’t report me. This is all I have left!

I wish my wife, Molly the mime could pull me out of this rut I’m in. But she’s in heaven now, finally speaking, saying, “You’ll get through this Binky! Hang in there!” If only I could have prevented the accident, but we’re a circus, and we take risks. But still, I wish I was powerful and in command. I would have saved her then.

My job is to make you laugh, but I don’t have it in me. I’m exhausted and riddled with the most painful grief. So, take your turns, sirs. Let’s skip this showy sick display and get on with it. Snort your coke off my nose until your mustaches turn white and proceed with all the nasty shit you want to do. I’m all yours. Haha. Haha. Molly! Oh, Molly!

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Binky the Clown 

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)

Breathe life into me

This is a picture of a grief-stricken man smoking a cigarette. I've used this image because it captures the essence of my post which revolves around sorrow.

What are we but shards of stars, trapped in this paperweight we call existence? A sight to behold, peer into and then placed on the dusty shelf. I’m bruised, and with each uppercut, on the verge of being knocked out. I guess I only dreamed I could trade blows with fate with a Hagler chin. I’m tired of these ashes, this sackcloth. I’m jaded and the pills I pop, which once gave me a false transcendence, now toss me in the lowest rung of the Pyramid. Even your touch, the love you’ve given me seems so far away. I’m silent and put on a façade of strength, because I don’t want to burden you with my demons, when you have your own. But beneath appearances, if stripped down, I’m just ashes, drifting away with the slightest breeze. So, hold me, love me more ferociously, until something within sets the withered canopy that envelops my soul ablaze. Make me feel again, help me breathe again, because I’m standing on the ledge, waiting for gravity to be my last muse. I often want my name erased from Fate’s Gazette: the pictures, the pages and the dates. Give me something to hope in again. I know you’re here, sitting beside me, but you still feel so far away, so distant. And it’s not like I don’t love you, I want to feel it more. I want every ounce of the emotion, each iota of the affection, because without it, I’ll never feel like I’m worthy of you. What are we but crushed love letters – the lines now crossed out – tossed in a basket of what was? Something once cherished, but now forgotten. Look into my eyes and let me look into yours and let something drift both between and within us: some song of beauty that’s woven from melancholia’s time and notation. I’m fading…falling…I need you now more than ever. I know it sounds selfish, but I need you, so that I can reciprocate the same love you’ve given me, the same passion you once grounded me in. So, hold me, breathe love into me, make me walk again, hand in hand into the unknown.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Old Souls

This is an image of the blue ocean. it conveys lucidity and I've used it because it augments my piece which is about a relationship grounded in reality

If you’re gone tomorrow, I’d find myself meandering cracked sidewalk after cracked sidewalk, trapped in a Kafkaesque reality; loneliness the bigger, brutal, menacing, monstrous pugilist and I, the grief-ridden journeyman wishfully hoping for a Buster Douglas knockout.

They say, ‘Never make a person your everything because even the most beautiful people in your life are finite and flawed,’ but what we’ve seen together, what we’ve fought together creates a bond that inches close to perfection like a boy on a stool almost touching that cookie jar.

They say, ‘Never venerate or worship a person because we’re inherently depraved; fundamentally twisted,’ but I don’t idolize you, or picture you as a goddess in white one moment and a false prophetess the next. No, I love you and I know that what I offer isn’t perfect but I’m giving it my all because you do the same for me.

In this age filled with cyber Bautas and big screen emulation where people create unnecessary drama because they’re quick to imitate what they see on cheesy romcoms or ground themselves in the verses of the Book of Buzzfeed; where lust and love are synonyms in an urban dictionary that’s so tech-savvy and theater-oriented; complete with floodlights and background Indie music, we know true suffering and those hearts don’t go dry, darling.

In this age filled with picture perfect selfies of togetherness and bizarre notions like ‘breaking up when we’re still in love,’ we rise beyond a constant need for a cyber reinforcement of likes, re-blogs, and claps. We do this because love is a gentle commitment that’s long-standing and come wither or weather stands like the strong oak (if I were to use cliched imagery). We do this because love is a profound emotion that’s a far cry from millennial infatuation. It comes from peeling layers and layers of the onion of each other’s personality, and though that stings and hurts sometimes, it creates a strong synergy, a symbiosis that endures despite parasitical tendencies. We do this because love isn’t playing make-believe with emoticons and hearts, a delusional carousel of romantic jargon that the internet’s filled with. We do this because love isn’t acting out a character or playing a part like life’s a movie and reality is something some unseen hand records while we flaunt our pseudo-eccentricities.

We do this because I love you and you me.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

When the heart’s gone

This is a picture of two glasses of whiskey. I've used it to symbolize the deterioration of a relationship from something beautiful to something prosaic that needs alcohol to keep it running.

When we said, “For better or for worse,” some dewy-eyed part of us hypothesized a forever walk under an innocent Jacaranda, purple Cherub-flowered tunnel, through sickness or fortune, seamlessly walking to the sweetest song, hand in hand, laughing or smiling, kissing or just thinking of each other. But as the years rolled by, some wistful reverie made us theorize about creating our own tunnel, out of the wood and golden auburn leaves that remained: if not something surreal, then something more earthy, natural, like a soft, glinting Maple Tree tunnel in Autumn with its own subdued, slightly muted enthusiasm. But then time being the strongman he is, shaped the heated metal of our relationship on an anvil of work, pressure and forgotten dreams. And this made us practical, and we stopped chasing the will-o’-the-wisp, and made the most of embers on the hearth, prodding to create a quick spark now and then, because little affection is better than faking something long gone. But merciless fate changed our work shifts: you working as a teacher from 9 to 5, and I working my call center shift starting at 6. And the hour between throbbed with a jaded you, coming home after battling unnecessary childhood angst, real trauma and a profession noble but hardly helping foot the bills, and the black coffee lay on the table, with a white sheen on it, perhaps embodying the pretense we’d become: a couple purely mechanical, almost machine like. We drank in silence with the occasional forced smile, said our goodbyes with a façade of a kiss, and I left, returning with bloodshot eyes, to find you gone with a note saying, “Heat the sandwich up. I left it in the fridge,” and so, I guess we both think now; never nostalgically or even practically, but just impulsively about where we went wrong, and I guess we both have thoughts of an affair or a fling, but some clockwork keeps us ticking, just like the whiskey I drink secretly once I’m done with the sandwich, trying to wash away a memory of a memory, or a simulacrum of when we said, “For better or for worse.”

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Breaking your heart the right way

This is a picture of mist and late autumn. I've chosen it because it symbolizes grief which is a central theme in my poem.

When I spoke to you today, in that café, a Portishead song
played in the background, I don’t like them much, but
a part of me wanted to drift with the tune, slowly
with you, uncaring, unyielding, unbending,
I guess naïvety flits through consciousness,
even now, a false moonlight, chock-full of diversions,
delusions, disturbances, I love you because you admit that
you’ve messed up too, unlike the people who
hate facing the real places in
their lives, denying, suppressing, blaming,
and pretending, but that’s not the only reason,
I love you because you showed me more
to life than both imagination and hard ground
did, and I just love you for reasons unexplained,
unsaid, unfelt, but you and I cannot deny
circumstance, things happen that both
knowledge and insight can never comprehend,
I try, but I’m often falling short, relying too
much on inspiration while I’m studying
and writing, and a part of me knows
that sonnets fade, and passion becomes
a parched lip kiss, and tragedy untunes
strings of will, we only think of whispering to the stars,
and I don’t want you to stand by me if
I’m crushed, I don’t want you to try
to futilely make me remember us,
I don’t want you to try to help me fight a
war that gives me no Cadmean victory,
you’ll find that in fables, and so I tried hard,
holding back everything, and then choking
and spluttering, before saying things hurriedly,
and running off, but I told you about
this place, where I’ve provoked, moved, admired and
liked people, and when you read this,
you’ll know why I left short-lived flawed togetherness,
and left you staring at my back, breaking your heart
the right way.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

For Alisha

This is an image of a moody landscape. I've chosen it to convey grief which is a central theme my poem revolves around

Walking past these headstones,
in this churchyard, I kneel, look back
at the little Presbyterian prayer
hall you used to frequent,
pristine white, with blue-cushioned pews,
its simple beige altar, grey steeple, little cross,
and a miasma of nostalgia seems rise from
the architecture, slowly creeping towards me,
the twilight complementing it. I read your epitaph,
“I’m grateful, and content now, as I was when I walked,”
it says, and I choke, holding back tears
because it’s true, I remember you holding
my hand when I was utterly despondent,
finding no beauty even in the simple things
like a cup of coffee, or a stroll in a picturesque
park with marble statuettes, or the photographs
we took of that crimson horned pheasant with its breast
like a red satin cloth embossed with little white
raindrops, you said, “Remember we’ll always
have each other, and I’ll walk with you, even if
we’re trapped in this prison maze of regret,” and that
was enough reason for me to start seeing
again. And it wasn’t something without, it
was a breathtaking, inner waltz of emotion
I got a glimpse of, warmth, and kindness
turning round and round on the floor of passion.
I felt it, so intense, and I can only call it love.
You fought a war with fate, refused bending
and bowing, rejected servitude, and stood strong,
and you still do, maybe not as something tangible,
but as an indomitable essence, a force that helps me
carry on even though I pass illuminated billboards,
country houses, and alleyways imbued with poverty,
reeking from the potholes, and bits of scrap alone;
but I still come here when I’m weak, when I forget
to remember, and find myself trapped in a paperweight
of a haunted existence, the swirling mass threatening to
overwhelm me. I come here even though something within,
maybe a part of you says, “Let go, move on,”
because I’ve never loved anyone like I loved you,
with my very being, and as I clasp that stone now
and wet it with tears of anguish, the cold, icy droplets
of Pyrrhic victory, leaking from a hypothermic
soul who longs for the fever of yesterday’s touch,
I want you…no,
I need you to know.

Originally published in aaduna’s 2016 Spring Issue