even as the impossibility of the thing
its rhythmic clang reverberates vaguely,
eyes center inquiringly--
where one expects to hear
loud explosion of
an artificial combustion;
witness the blue smoke curling,
the masquerades falling
to devour the orchestra harping
the requiem of the guilty
and the river billows along-
its gray warm waves beaten up
by an indifferent chilly wind;
grabbing the longing by its nape
chasing the rafts with a puny
falling back on their dark, sloppy sides
with a hiss --
the cold travels with me
it envelopes like a shell
Yes, it is a dreary life.. and yet..
I hardly think I’ve lived,
except during many instants when,
plunged in dreams I permitted,
life to desert me for awhile;
as you discern the desire
melting from my eyes,
examining teary smiles that we sport on
the way to death --
in these final moments
when life is cherished
I am up for sale --
I wish you had a proposition..
The afternoon sun was beating down; its vertical rays scorching the living sufferers, all save one, who was rapt utterly in his ‘chase’. He flickered and darted in the baked radiance, like a mirage summoned by feverish mind. The man, tall, thin, with knotted hair had a square jaw which foreboded obstinacy, and his pallor was cadaverous. No one knew his name, age, whereabouts; he was a part of the blistered street. The throng of everyday crowd from nearby tall-buildings were scattered about him, men and women in stiff office apparels, lurkers and shoppers in casuals, a group of idlers in road-side tea-shops, chattering, smoking, drinking chais, sodas, and munching refreshments on the pavement.
The man’s peculiarity was his one eye, which Cyclops-like appeared as if a flaming jewel in the center of his forehead completely overshadowing his sightless left eye. That mammoth bloodshot orb glared like a piece of broken glass if bystanders poked fun at his all engrossing ‘chase’. In other respects like other madmen he was harmless ergo they left him alone after few curious glances. He never begged but people dropped food near his ragged bedding heaped beside a dingy dhaba.
The idiosyncrasy of this city is the manner in which, men, beast, hunger, opulence, poverty, luxury, beauty and foul co-exist in her variegated corners. Bits of this with splashes of that. Motley carousal. The mound of goodies and a load of trash stuffed with such burden of deceit that you can not tell one from the other. Proserpina, sitting over her neat stole spread on the dirty pavement, sipping her solitary lemon-soda, observing the madman Cyclops had an intimate knowledge of that life both in its tenebrous and luminous forms.
There was something bucolic about Prosy; oozing of farms and pastures. She should have been a shepherdess in Arcadia rather than a girl toiling in the marketing office. How such a rustic flower had blossomed in that garish city was an enigma even to the dhaba-walla, Lycorus. He stole quietly towards her, holding the bread-roll wrapped in paper, approving the solemn picture she made with a shaft of sunlight making splendor of her hair. She extended her arm, held the piece of morsel in one hand, pointed the other toward Cyclops and gave him a quizzing look.
“what is that man doing?”
“ohhhh HE! Nothing. He is demented.” Lycorus whispered, as if imparting a secret.
“I can figure that much.. but what exactly is he running after?”
“.. chasing his shadow”. He grinned and turned to attend other customers leaving Prosy to contemplate that confounding problem.
What had first absorbed her attention was his unsure, focused, roving, quasi-thoughtful shape flashing with panther-like abruptness, which pierced her like the thrust of a hot knife. He reclined on trees, to catch his breath, and his queer eye collected the wandering brightness, dazzling with supernatural depth. He was alone is his own world, far enough from everyone, on that shaky rim, where sanity ceases, and the delusion of absurdity begins. Having discovered his antiquated Eden still surviving in primitive glory, he relished it. He did not seem to notice any one.
When Prosy stepped out from office the pure honey of setting sun had turned into spirited crimson flushing her eager countenance. It was a tart late summer evening with that far-off touch of melancholy which harbingers the ascent of monsoon even in the midst of a vulgar city. Lycorus waived his friendly hand and Cyclops had given up his chase. The street lamps were not yet lighted and the shadows were indistinct in last beams of the dropping day. Cyclops’ dark face had heartbroken look as he cracked his gnarled knuckles. Prosey walked towards the bus-stop, close to his shelter near the dhaba, dismissing him from thoughts though the man who chased his shadow kept returning with troublesome persistence.
She was indeed, as Lycorus had observed, an incandescent flower, but with sensual and turbulent hues in her vigor. She shrunk from society while her whole Bohemian spirit preferred to stay locked after work, buried amongst old books in her sepulchral apartment, swapping jobs, alternating between narcotic and ambition, the lassitude of morphia and her own fierce exuberance.
Like most of us Prosy led a double life. The external modification when she dressed for the prosaic job did not alter her inner self which groped in dark. She remained more Proserpina than Prosy to the last. Proserpina differed from her kindred Prosy in a grave, mossy, fossil attitude. She had a mutilated air as if she meditated solemnly on the wrong done to both and from that inner self she got her vagrancy, despondency, her angst and her bad luck.
--- ---- ----- ---
In a violent night, rainy and damp, Proserpina was unusually late from office. Lycorus was in the process of shutting his dhaba. Few individuals loitered about the street that had buzzed during the business hours. Lycorus observed her from the corner of his short-sighted eyes. He did not believe in picking blooming flowers. He knew that they dropped their witchery outside indigenous domain. To savor wildflowers one had to track them in their own ground, savor them and leave them alone, catching backward glimpses, taking away only their captivating charm and fragrance.
Oblivious to him, Proserpina sat and shivered at the bus-stop, awaiting transport, as the rough wind whistled down the awning. She stared at the bordering lights that extended like strings of hazy jewels, seen mistily through the driving rain. Looking out through eyes befogged with rain and tears she wished to cling on to something tangible, to love someone whom she could clasp against her body, someone she could watch, feel and do things for. And then she perceived that she was not alone. A vision hypnotized her, which moved slowly between the blue-tinted patter, and had occupied the far-end of the iron bench; an embodiment of sober manhood, silhouetted against the silken rain. The stranger sat with a deprecating air in his tall figure, a slight stoop, and a tender look on his pale long face. He gave her a transient wintry smile and looked gratefully at the rain.
Then a serpentine melody, pellucid and delicious, drifted in a lulling sway, imparting a mystic glow over the player. As the final note broke off, his sole audience, from her whimsical trance, exclaimed spontaneous bravos. He dropped his mouth-organ. His face though handsome, on a closer scrutiny, indicated habitual prevalence and indulgence of diabolic passions. But the dusk was intense, the rain keen. The black figure dissolved. In retrospect it was as unreal as a phantom. The raindrops whispered ironically. The wind jeered.
For a week she waited for rains but sun spat his merciless rays venomously against her very heart which pined to behold that specter of night for the second time. The insidious enemy having thus entered her heart, in the guise of Orpheus, had assumed a more dangerous form of Hades. She caught the plaintive notes of his organ in dreams; they electrified every nerve with an odd power as if it were a requiem sung by the dead over her own buried hopes. She was aware of this shifting sensation, detested it, fought it, yielded to it and treasured it.
She contemplated nothing but that whirling vision seen through her cocaine -crazy eyes; then at last once again she awoke to find herself defenseless, tired, blear-eyed, waiting for the bus. The twilight was sultry and overcast; and before she had reached her destination huge drops of rain had spattered down and the grumble of thunder blended with the everlasting roll of traffic. Somewhere ahead was home, which guided only to bed, a place of petty comfort for someone whose fantasies were attuned to the rhapsodic string, and whose fervid hopes were just then riotously moved.
She had loved before. Loved and lost. The anguish into which lovers like her fall when they discover by personal wisdom that earnestly to pledge eternal love is one thing, and genuinely giving it quite another. She had endured the fearful period of temptation, wherein she had heeded longingly to the pleading of her heart; resolved to stifle all mad fancy, deferring the discovery of soulmate on mere chance, and to avoid, at all costs, getting wounded by those who swore to be true.
And when a short amnesia, a blessed blackout, could be bought at the expense of a slight puncture in the skin, or a few drags of nirvana, it was foolish to be circumspect. But the dreams, the hunger, for something alleviating or elevating, that filled her soul during the spell of sobriety, if one could have sensed a single pang of that netherworld thirst in her struggle which followed, accompanying the inevitable fall into a gutter of lust, not forgetting the sermonizers and well-wishers who pretended to never sin, if they had cared to observe her bitter agony, the lamenting horror of self-deprecation that ended in debauchery. Sigh! At any rate the hurt was always there, deep and vicious, and the new actor stepped up into the ancient, grim drama, and was about to set off his role with an indefatigable sincerity, but it could be lethal if she lost.
A second glance was not needed to inform that he was there. His wet locks fell confusedly over forehead and ears. His shirt was chequered, unbuttoned at the neck and chest. His feet and arms were bare. His features were the sanctuary of wild and tranquil gravity, but his eyes bespoke music. As she concentrated there crept over her a dim, weary feeling, as if she was familiar with this ruin, the forlorn hopes, and the florid wreck embodied in that mysterious tune.
The night set in, it became clamoring and gusty. Dark clouds came bundling up in the west, and now and then a growl of thunder or a flash of lightning told that a dust storm was close. The advent of his misty apparition in the midst of the universal silence of her being unfolded her heart to maniacal emotions. She imagined that an aerial goblin touched with a sense of her solitude had come to visit her and the idea melted her to tears.
“why should I see you only when it rains.. ?”
the stranger bowed acquiescence..
A fortnight slipped by giving way to a heavenly morning, the dry and shimmering air full of crispy glow that gets into head like sparkling champagne. The street glistened in the golden sunshine and the pale blue sky had not yet taken the pitiless gilt hue of the blatant afternoon. Weary of wait, indifferent to the balmy weather, reeking of tobacco, Prosy staggered towards office and found Cyclops standing at the gate of her building. He gave a malicious smile and walked away. She shuddered. Cyclops, like some people on street had remarked, may have been devilish, but no hermit could have led, on the face of it, a more ascetic life. Though his face at first sight wasn’t unpleasing it was corrupted with intensity and to which an unearthly effect was bestowed by his unseeing eye.
Unexpectedly in the evening, twilight was veiled by clouds that rolled up from the west, heralding a deluge; and in another minute a fresh splatter had commenced. And again gawking at the rain Proserpina visualized she had once lived where the amethyst grapes were supple and ripe, and where all day there was a melody such as she'd never heard since, but which had come back to her in the form Orpheus. At the thought of whom the raindrops flitted about, caroling, in gladsome strains.
She held him with her eyes in a wild, nervous thrill. She knew not how long. Time and space had no part in that ecstasy. She thought nothing, did naught, merely felt, the warm blood flooding her brain, falling back in whipping downpour, and a pain that was exquisite pleasure.
Profound dejection, flourishing darkness, the dead noise of a hopeless soul immobilized in stark cold of space filled the pauses between music. Silence took over, during which Proserpina saw the white face before her alternately fading and returning. And the face was like that of a dead man.
She was afraid, at that moment, she meant to turn her back forever but the gust came purging along, the wind hurled rain in pearly surges, the music rattled amongst leaves, thunder bellowed, the lightning lapped the deluge, and in next instant Proserpina was snugly sheltered in his arms, it did not matter who, crouching under a tree, rocking upon his heaving chest until they fell asleep.
Next morning the street awakened to a queer sight. The blusterous storm of night had rolled away, leaving traces, in the piled up leaves and frail branches, heaps of rubbish, and wreckage of the dhaba lighted up by the morning sun, which appeared like a silver lamp hanging in the castle of clouds. In the strewn havoc was also the lifeless supine figure of Cyclops. The sunrays, silent, majestic, had submerged his forehead and grotesque eyes, and an otherworldly calm suffused his disheveled head.
A couple of yards away sat the throbbing image of Prosy. They envisioned the murkiness of death undulating about her body. She carried that exalted expression on her face since she had clutched the nightly companion in her arms. Proserpina was a woman bursting with love, compellingly beautiful, and absolved to everything. Life wasn’t barren any more, and death could dupe her of nothing. Love had nipped the final fear. Love! How scaling, torturing, soothing it was! That possession of body, soul and mind! The substance in its crux subtle and spiritual as a hint of cerulean in the string of pearls! She embraced him tightly and gazed around but a curious feeling of cold passed over her as she noted the icy glare of Lycorus. Trembling, she looked down, and a scream escaped her lips. She found that she was hugging her shadow and the person she had held in her arms was shadowless.
years keep rolling by
with a providential rapidity
which stains time
when youth is --
on the rear side
the moon is salacious
a holy lantern in wrinkled sky
among aged sins
am subliminally indifferent
for within me is an orgasmic imagination
proportioned to the orgasmic sensation
a vague territory of yearning
that love can not satiate
I spend my days on stretched wings,
longing to tread the vivid cosmos
I’d sensed afar
a shadowy and hopeless knowledge –
the soul shrivels within,
thirsting for lips
that can neither be kissed nor spared,
for which I can not choose but crave
I am wandering again –
it’s the defect with an untrained mind
it zigzags back and forth
can't grip the wind;
dumps the fucking character
and sinks with it ..
forgetting the hoi polloi
skillet and other cauldrons –
if it acquires a love affair,
it croaks an ardent "God forbid"
fleeing the matrimonial gallows
before the chapter begins..
An hour! In an hour I can say good-bye
one of those heart-breaking farewells
when we leave an entire short togetherness behind,
forgetting that the real parting is when
there is any ‘love’ to part from..
Even in the mist I can trace
the invisible lancets of
your moss-grown lips, a queer
hangs about em , as if
something within stealthily gropes for
means of an escape..
It’s a struggle
to conduct this mind
around a fucking practicality
it insists though
weaving fantastic, tear-stained conjectures
in drifting tobacco smoke. .
at last rationality thrives
under the allaying sway of
an exquisite whiskey, the incident of midnight
floats into nothingness-
Love affairs; real, tangible lovers
purchase our attention.
forgive me, if there is suffused with it
an utterly selfish yearning to be kissed by you
once, only once again, in my proper character
of a sinning woman,
rid of my righteous disguise
I’ve had my desires, it has metamorphosed into
scars of remorse on my lips.
You were rational. All we can do now
is preserve the ghost ..
She had an odd fascination; exclusively her own; it wasn’t really beauty, but a characteristic far more disturbing, something a man couldn’t resist. The garden was strewn with jasmine and pansies, among them bunches of Chrysanthemums, roses, marigolds, and other hues that impregnate the still violet air. A spring, flimsy and murky, seemed profusely placed in a corner to resemble the sacred Yamuna. There the nightingale sang the birth of her favorite rose while bewailing its short lived charm, the doves mourned steadily, and the peacock danced to enliven the creation. The unified melodies of birds and flowers imbued the painting amidst which Zebunissa, Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb’s daughter, reclined alone, on a bower of Bougainvillea, waiting and weary, bearing in her spirit, the regrets and waywardness of her heavy heart.
The apartment was small, on the fifth floor of a building, in a congested street. The painting occupied a yellowed wall of its solitary bedroom. Outside the windows the relentless concert of the city played on, the vehicles, the people, the ceaseless voices. Through the open shutters also came the fresh night air of December. Zebunissa stepped out of the canvas and peeped outside. She had often imbibed this dulcet Delhi air. Even the smoke and dust could not stifle the nip of a wild perfume akin to the bygone medieval era. She inhaled a mouthful, gazing out across the tangled cosmos of roofs and lamp-posts. She saw the headlights, she caught some stars, she saw a crescent moon, the lights from street falling in a shower of silver upon the floor, bed-posts, and a table stacked with sheets and brushes. And something inside her moved; something that had never stirred before.
After a long day, unlocking and stepping inside his living room, Kalakar, the sole occupant of that flat, turned with a dreadful spasm. A discomfort leaped within him like an animal. He sensed a presence. The chill air fanned his face. Beauty had often brushed the surface of his soul without penetrating in. He had passed them by often. He had troubled his fingers in drawing them not his brain. He did not scorn it, as an artist he glorified it on canvas, but it had not moved his life to consume his passion.
Zebunissa hastened in the other room. As she turned, warm glows melted in her eyes through tears, like stars in a lagoon. Her long hair rolled over her smooth oval forehead in dark curls, and outlining her exquisite curves, hung a long silken dress with colors of sumptuous hue and lace. She tore a piece of fabric from that rich garment, placed it on the table and stepped back into the painting. Kalakar entered the room and she stood before him, hanging on the wall, a vision from the old world, full of innate royalty, simple as an ordinary woman, at once shy and dominating, beautiful.
He faced her, peering over that immense painting, he had chanced upon in a derelict gallery, beauty beckoned, and smote between his eyes. She came headlong, with her train of stars mystery and perfumes. She was painted by an anonymous painter and since he had brought her home in an amber twilight, he had kept smiling. She was his masterpiece, whoever he was. An enchanting muse. Kalakar wished to claim her. The lonely table in the corner was heaped with sheets of his disjointed efforts. Consequently he had abandoned the hope of capturing her perfect delicacy. In the faint light, she looked flawless, real. So much so, that he had convinced himself she wasn’t painted, but sported those colors as a shelter against the approach of undesirables. He had no words to express that new sensation. His eyes lingered on her figure. He dropped his gaze with a sigh and saw the mysterious fabric on the table. He started. He understood.
If he could not comprehend her reason, he did not fail to appreciate that token of her presence. He held the fabric between his fingers, caressed the softness and perceived her thoughtful brow contradicting by that touch and his own soul drowning in the twin wells of her wide apart, entrapping, limpid eyes.
He hadn’t bothered to think about women’s legs more than the legs of the wooden stretchers that held his canvas. He had sketched many legs but none were as exquisite as those that peeked out from the flimsy material he grasped in his hand. It is the unpredictable that occurs, the kind of instances which we could never guess doing, engaging, or feeling. We fight against fancies but there blows a brazen wind from nowhere, similar to the impulse which had moved Zebunissa’s pre-historic garment and our life is like a kaleidoscope suddenly disturbed and it displays a novel pattern.
So it continued. Days months rolled by till Zebunissa was left with only a piece of clothing which barely covered her archaic modesty. And it paused. He had known that women had whims, his models had suffered from theirs. Devoted, they would sit for hours, patiently evolving under his brush. And then complainingly they disappeared without a promise. It had annoyed him then but it aroused him now. The awareness was like freshly savored wine, crimson, peachy, steaming through his veins, climbing to his head. However, his patience wore off.
“my love.. you give no more sign? “ he implored and tore his hair ..
But Zebunissa snugly composed in her own position could examine the darkness in his soul, taking a delight in observing the immeasurable pleasure she could impart with a little gesture. She did not marvel at her apparent power. All women relish the sway they possess over the mortals who submit to their altar of vanity.
It is a common understanding that we are less miserable when we have companions to share our tragedy. This is a natural human craving. Wretched ones are instinctively drawn toward gloomy persons. Sight of happiness is injurious in this mood but two dejected souls are like frail branches of a tree braving a storm, they mutually support each other.
So Kalakar sought out his friend of distress Ranganath. They had labored together in the mad world of art. They were talented but that one masterpiece which could win the approval of callous critics was still elusive in their armor. Ranganath had risen temporarily from his narcotic created chimera and was hot upon the scent of a new puzzle. The puzzle was whiskey. He was ruddy, the veins on his forehead were swollen, visible like cords. The whiskey on his table was strong and burned through his eyes. He greeted Kalakar with a toast, fondled his bottle, and exclaimed,
“I have heard people describe whiskey as unromantic! I am sure I can paint my masterpiece under the influence of one! Let us have a drink, it may not be effective tonight but this bottle is simply charming”
Kalakar was in no mood to gauge the whiskey’s potency. He gulped enough drinks to unbury his love for a woman buried centuries ago. The queer narrative ended and Ranganath broke forth into a devilish laugh.
“A mummy dropping her cerements? Haha.. get yourself laid by a living one... ”
“you do not believe me.. ! come along” screamed Kalakar.
Her still eyes were blatant, the red lips seemed pouted scornfully, and she was looking askance. She had the look of a woman upon whom a rare grace had fallen. Divested of the royal robe, her external appearance dazzled with spiritual dominance and splendor. To the coarse male nature the depth of female passion and caprice remains an enigma. Woman-like Zebunissa had teased her beau. That very night she had decided to reward Kalakar’s patience by tearing off a chunk of garment under her throat. The two men stood gaping in wonder mingled with admiration, at the sight of Zebunissa’s imperial bosom, which met them, when they rushed into Kalakar’s apartment. She seemed furious. Ranganath broke the voluminous silence.
“Why.. this semi-nude.. ? She is only covered waist down! She may not be Zebunissa after all..”
“Shoot me Ranga but she was covered from head to toes when I bought her. She is offended because you are here.. I can sense..” he ejaculated dejectedly.
Kalakar longed to live the supernatural life of one who is captive of a secret passion. He was wiser than before and made no further attempt of parading his treasure. That exotic elixir, flower of happiness which enchanted in the dark, scorned him in the secluded recesses of his heart, how did he know that the prying heat of another’s eye might not shrink and burn her grand petals? He could not risk repeating that mistake.
Tardily the days lingered on. Jewels and moonlight, scent and incense, the tinkling of her anklets, Zebunissa clung to his mind though she remained unmoved in her painting. Her bare bosom mocked him. It was a bleak, forsaken world that engulfed him, a world of shadows, clinging fog that trailed along in his dingy apartment, a frowning humanity, terribly depressing. But there was a reverent spot on the wall, where hope was still clear, despite the growing impatience, love glowed there, so he walked, keeping his eyes on her.
He gently removed the painting from the wall and tenderly secured it on stretcher bars. He could sniff the haunting fragrance of painted flowers, their iridescent hues and melody of birds that conveyed deep shafts of brightness to pierce his sorrow, making Zebunissa even more mysterious. She had never loved! Locked in a harem, surrounded with beauty, she had pined for one soul who could claim her virgin heart. Just like Kalakar. She had reached out to him with her pre-historic youth and Kalkar had sullied her trust by bringing in an intruder. Could she forgive him?
He did not require a fresh canvas. The hopeless passion ran like a corrupting poison through his combustible system. To the impassive world it was nothing more than sheer moonshine, winter madness. That night he painted his masterpiece; another leafy bower, in the very same painting, just beside her. His own figure seated on it, facing Zebunissa. A masterpiece within masterpiece. It was a scene of riotous amorphousness, exotic poison, gurgling, simmering, scintillating, distorting, and menacingly bubbling, in cosmic and vague chiaroscuro.
After the last stroke of his brush, weary from labor, he dropped on his bed, dreaming deathless dreams of long-dead artists, their muses, their romances. There were splashes of colors, soft music of rustling garments and voices that called him from the depth of their soul. Night intoxicated, her haunting shadows infested his heart. He never woke up. On the wall, Zebunissa smiled in her canvas. She tossed her lustrous hair in guileless coquetry gamboling with beguiling grace and there the Kalakar embraced her.
blank noise, a pinprick
the blessed black-out --
world is forgotten here,
not the world merely,
also its memory ..
I’m done with holding back,
bubbles of pain surge
in turbulent maze--
a perfect asymmetry
dazed on shaky rim
in his orgasmic embrace
the monster is haunting
a manna in wilderness
living, mystifying, pearly; a power
he lays the naked spell
of wild perplexity
rises, follows, he isn’t shrouded
copulating with moonbeams
at the sepulcher of surrender
dropping his noxious arms
he grips my neck,
he can not detain me
I acquired celestial legs
a syringe that injects
the beauty of stars
in my eager veins
I can see them fading
in numbed ether of dreams;
the human beasts -
their paws of
and the vivacity
from this oblivious lethargy. .
there is no hint left
of monotonous melancholy ..
I can measure infinity
a tranquil cosmos
behind the masque of death
am accumulating life
of psychedelic fancy
squirming in morbid hope
I catch my mind occasionally
an addict’s wavering hope is tenacious,
for it is her last
she tends the corner of the aisle
by the Altar of Sins,
inspecting freckled sun fade
in conquering shadows,
picturing forlorn day-dreams
until the day-dreams blend
with nightmares -
she falls asleep
to stab the incubus
with his artifacts of masculinity
until they crawl back
into a nebulous nothingness
whence only her bitterest fears
to creep forth…
his first service
to her ‘built-in’ town,
which, to its own humiliation,
had endured the souvenir of
an Egyptian darkness,
or worse, of Skepticism,
here in the midst of
a Garish city
you intrigue me
for how can we
arrive ‘at it’
unless we dig a little?”
The present has such a coarse plan
for treading ‘it’ down.
there are new manifestations,
kisses, gropings, tears, and yet
threading new strands
in blurred warp and woof
of something they term
"I am better off," he screams,
the ghostly shuttle of dreams
in a psychological loom
he knows, she knows
he never wished to set it off
or cared for
an illumination from
‘that’ shuttle or ‘those’ dreams
what he desired was
to flaunt it before her eyes, and insert
a prohibitive price over it..