How to translate into words
a river without a sun? the sky
in the water, rain in the bones,
on the skin, and a deluge
emerging from storm clouds
like night crossing day
heavy with shadow and burden;
and a wind and the sound that it makes
like an echo in darkness,
or a swan swooping down like a god;
and an old boat covered in rust
lurching by the wall like my form
hunched against memory,
bitterness, loss; and the river a spill
at the bank, tumbling
and heaving, flooding me also.
I came across an angel in the road
beaten by the rising wind and heavy rain;
a descending angel, his wings lay all around him
like a cloak. Not Raphael, I asked, not Gabriel?
He shook his head, and told me how he’d touched
each star along this world’s outer ring,
ridden higher than the moon through interstellar
space, and now here, homeless, lost, each glance
whirlpool deep, thunderclouds reflected in his eyes.
He led me to the ocean to hear the waves
and their discordant notes, an un-played tune
of his vocabulary, language only an echo
of the true weight of pain.
He says God is here as well as there,
but I’m not convinced. Yet every morning he stands
and listens, facing east in the uplift of the sunrise.
He casts no shadow, has no body.
I come here to find him and see only empty road.
From my seat outside this street café
I see them come, satin-sleek and well-fed,
trailing their long-looped tails like the rats
belonging to some horror film;
they eat better than any Calcutta street kid,
nosing between the trash and open bin bags,
the cola cans and KFC (an ancient rage
flares up then from the core of who I am).
A girl walks past but doesn’t see them,
tuned instead to the secrets contained
within her iPhone, losing time to the whispers
of that eternal glow,
me in mind of an evening we spent
together watching a TV show
during a summer storm (you know how
a certain scent takes you back, or birdsong,
or the deepening dusk?). Outside a swarm
of bees were beating at the window,
clustered atop one another,
a pollen-drenched ball of wing and fur
all wanting in,
and there came
a lifting from my eyes then
from society and all its simulacrum,
as to why we take all this and wear it like a cage,
(don’t you sometimes feel you’ve been born
at the wrong time in the wrong age
with the geography of hurt, the tyranny of pain
still pulling at your throat?)
where we listen
to some celebrity and his plastic sculptured face
like it’s something important, something to worship
from the depths of the choices we make,
when the truth is instead
as real and fragile as the proboscis
extending from a moth.
Imagine me now, another day
lost in stationery and the agonies
of paper. But I have mastered
the stops and gaps between
the photocopier and water-cooler,
the riddles and mysteries
present in the paper clips, the in-trays
and scribbled post-it notes.
Every day I sit across from her,
watch as she dazzles in the heavens
of the professional, wondering
if I too share her white face
and manilla folders of absolutes.
The phone on her desk drowns
out the small sounds. Her head
turns, catches sunlight,
the sweep of blue at the window.
Photo credit: WWF Indonesia
Something moves in the forest.
Birds startle, explode above the canopy
like a thunderclap. A power is at play
deeper down in the shifts of light,
a twitch of an ear, a whisker, an eye,
then, there she is, the tigress emerging
from shadows in the undergrowth,
every nerve and sinew finely tuned
to the breeze, the scents grazing thorn
and leaf. She holds the sun between
her shoulder blades – when I touch the screen
my fingers burn. And for a second
she hesitates, looks right at me, umber gaze
intent, before moving on again, slipping
silently from this moment into the next.