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Let's play

With Srebrenica and Prizren,
old Banja Luka shot to fame:
the grounds for a jolly new game,
played over and over again.
The rule was to chop a man when
he had a good Bosniak surname;
If he had a Serb-sounding name,
the rule was to rape his women.

Let's find a foe, make his blood spill,
and gloat over his dying scream;
we will emerge victors won't we?
To build muscles, to bolster will,
to strengthen the bonds of the team,
let's play genocide, you and me.

Love messages

Raindrops in Braille:love messages on my windshield.
(Adapted from N. Madhavan's
Dewdrops write Morse code:: there's a poem neatly typed on the windshield)

जंग के नगाड़े

ਜੋ ਜੰਗ ਦੇ ਨਗਾੜੇ ਵਜਦੇ ਹਨ, ਅਮਨ ਦੀ ਸਾਜ਼ ਹੋ ਤੁੱਸੀ
ਇਲਜ਼ਾਮਾਂ ਦੀ ਕ਼ਤਲ-ਏ-ਆਮ ਵਿਚ ਸੁਕੂਨ ਦੇ ਅਲਫ਼ਾਜ਼ ਹੋ ਤੁੱਸੀ|
ਖ਼ਾਨਾਬਦੋਸ਼ ਨਹੀਂ ਓੜ੍ਹੋ ਤੁੱਸੀ ਪਰਦਾ ਖਾਮੋਸ਼ੀ ਦਾ
ਇਨ ਕੋਹਰੇ ਦੇ ਰੇਗਿਸਤਾਨ ਵਿਚ ਕ਼ਨੁਨ ਦੀ ਆਵਾਜ਼ ਹੋ ਤੁੱਸੀ||

जो जंग के नगाड़े बजते हैं, अमन की साज़ हैं आप,
इल्ज़ामात के क़त्ल ए आम में, सुकून के अल्फाज़ हैं आप|
ख़ानाबदोश न ओढ़ियेगा परदा ख़ामोशी का,
इन कोहरों के रेगिस्तान में, क़नून की आवाज़ हैं आप||

हमसफ़र

इन सितारों से चकाचौन्द आसमान में, चान्द भी क्या कभी तन्हाई महसूस करता है, क्या वह भी हमसफ़र के इन्तेज़ार में सिसकता है?

अगर काँटा ही समझेंगे

हमें गुलदाउदी समझिये, बाग़ान में बहार ले आइये; या महज़ गुल ही समझकर अपने ज़ुल्फ़ों की निख़ार बढ़ाइये| अगर काँटा ही समझेंगे, तो उससे भी सहमत है ख़ानाबदोश, बतौर सूई अपने आशिक़ के ख़तों का मुख़्तियार बनाइये||
हमें गुलदाउदी समझकर, हम ही से गुलिस्तान सजाइये; या गुल ए अहमर समझकर अपने ज़ुल्फ़ों को बाग़ान बनाइये| अगर काँटा ही समझेंगे, तो उससे भी सहमत है ख़ानाबदोश, बतौर सूई अपने आशिक़ के ख़तों का निगेहबान बनाइये||
(यह और भी अच्छा बन सकता है, क्या आप मदद फ़रमाएँगे?)

जशन

हर साँस को जाम ए शबाब गर मान ले,
तो जीना हर पल जशन है जान ले|
ना दौड़ है ना होड़ है ख़ानाबदोश,
गर हैवान को भी तू इनसान मान ले||

दर्द

किसी सेहतमन्द से न करो मुलाक़ात मेरी, उसे जीना क्या मालूम जिसने कोई दर्द ना पाला!

यारों-दोस्तों से...

यारों-दोस्तों से ज़रा होशियार, रंग कब बदल जाएँ वह ख़ुद नहीं जानते| दुश्मनों के लिए रखो कुछ प्यार, मुहिब्ब कब बन जाएँ वह ख़ुद नहीं जानते||

வெள்ளீ

வெள்ளீக்கு அழகு அதின் மின்மினிப்பிலா, இல்லை உன் காலில் கட்டிய கொளுசின் மெல்லிசையிலா?
(Is silver's beauty in its cold shine, or the soft tinkles of the anklets on your feet?)

शब-ए-हिज्र / Night of rupture

पगले रो दे इस शब-ए-हिज्र को,
के दर्द-ए-जुदाई आँसुओं में बह जाए...

जो ख़लिश-ए-अज़्ल के बरूह हैं,
क्या गर्ज़ उन्हे तेरी यादों के कफ़न की?

پگلے رو دے اس شب حجر کو ،
کہ درد جدائ آنسؤں میں بہ جائ ۔ ۔ ۔

جو خلش ازل کہ بروہ ہےں ،
کیا گرز انہےں تیری یادوں کہ کفن کی

Cry fool, this night of rupture,
that separation's pain wash away in tears...

those facing the void of eternity,
need they the shroud of your memories?

Happy Diwali

Some lamps you light will burn through the night,
Many will die with the wind, some won't light at all.
But the flame that you must never let die away,
Is the flame that lets you see your dreams.

ghazal in progress

यह चिराग़ रौशन कर भी अन्धेरा है, जो तेरा नूर ए रूह नामौजूद है, जब तिश्नगी जलाकर बुझ ना पाए, यूरिश ए मॊहब्बत कम ना होगी|

Dow Jones

Nothing elevateslike watching dough rising and the Joneses falling.
or
Nothing elevates like watching the Dow rise and the Joneses falling.
(Second one on a interpretation of the original by S. Balakrishnan)

सपने

कुछ सपने पूरे होंगे, और बहुत अधूरे, कुछ सपने सपने ही रह जाएँगे| लेकिन उस चिराग़ को कभी बुझने मत देना, जिसक रौशनी से सपने दिखते हैं|

नीयत है दिल की...

नीयत है दिल की ख़्वाहिशों पर मचलना, नसीब है पैरों का पत्थरों पर चलना, पर सिर्फ़ वक़्त फ़ैसला करता है ख़ाना बदोश, किस दिन मुरझाना है, किस तारीख़ को खिलना

She's complicated

She's complicated.
She'll charm you with charts,
statistics and that corporate smile.
But look into those eyes,
they're fiercely bohemian.

She's complicated.
Her chatterings seem to resonate
with happy sounds,
but listen with the other ear,
to an unhidden lament.

She's complicated.
Her silences agonise,
her voice echoes in her absence.
And yet there is a mild dread
as her name flashes on the ringing phone.

She's complicated.
Sometimes she's a poetess,
shallow, romantic,
trying to hide a sardonic,
world-weary wit.

She's complicated.
She could be a spiteful Fury,
wrath unabated,
but that's just to hide
the lamb-hugging girl within.

She's complicated.
She's an enchantress, a fool,
a tyrant, a nurse, an imp, a priestess,
but she's generally
a good friend.

She's complicated.

Published in Making Waves - A Poetry Anthology, ed. Pam & Bill Swyers; Swyers Publishing 2011. ISBN: 978-0-9843113-6-1.

To make a man of a mouse

Take a mouse, cut off its tail,
And make it stand up, hobbling
On crutches named Pride and Honour.

Feed it with many things -
The bitter bile of frustrated years,
The sour curds of congealed dreams,
The sickly sweetness of petty triumphs.

Make it breathe the rancid stench
Of Gucci-scented wretchedness
And middle-class motionlessness.

Retain the ability to compete fiercely,
For scraps thrown by the rich,
The instinct to abandon the weak
In moments of testing danger
and to gorge as if tomorrow will die.

Put in a hundred emotions -
Petty envy, religious zeal,
Impotent greed and the craving bloodlust
Of seeing neighbours stumble,
The joy of minuscule cleverness,
The urge to steal coins from blind beggars
And to luxuriate in the pain
Of butchered animals. Add above all
A genocidal hate of all that is not me.

Suture on a thumb useful for strangulating,
A beer belly bursting
With undigested unpleasantness,
A lye-laden tongue,
And the tribal smirk of triumphant bigotry.

The mouse is now made man.

आज शहर में मेला लगा है

आज शहर में मेला लगा है|

बस की खिड़की से आज नज़ारा बदल गया है,
आज न टूटा फ़ुटपाथ दिखा, न सड़क के गड्ढे,
उन्हें रंग-बिरंगे चीज़ें बेचनेवालों के ठेलों ने ढक दिया,
आज सिर्फ़ रंग दिखे ‍ हज़ारों खिलखिलाते रंग -
हरे, नीले, लाल, गुलाबी, पीले, श्वेत, श्याम -
मिट्टी, प्लास्टिक और लकड़ी से बने खिलौनों का रंग,
गुब्बारों का रंग, कागज़ की टोपियों का रंग,
काँच की चूड़ियों का रंग, नकली फूलों का रंग,
अजीबोग़रीब तरह-‍तरह के कान की बालियों का रंग,
और इन सब में घुले बच्चों की लाली का रंग|

आज न सड़ते कचरे की बू थी न मोटर के धुएँ की
आज बस थी ताज़े गजरों की सुगन्ध,
गरम तलते इमरतियों की मोह का सुगन्ध,
कचौड़ियों की ललचाती ख़ुशबू, इडली-वडे की,
और कुल्फ़ी की वह पलभर की नाज़ुक सी ख़ुशबू|

आज ट्राफ़िक के हार्न तो बजे थे रोज़ की तरह,
और यत्रियों की गालियाँ भी थीं शायद,
पर मेरा ग़ौर कहीं और था -
लडकियाँ चूड़ी खनखना रहे थे,
बच्चे-बच्चे का शोर था, हँसते बच्चे, रोते बच्चे,
ज़िद्द पे अडे ज़ोर-ज़ोर से चिल्लाते बच्चे -
ठेलेवालों की पुकार थी - गरमा-गरम समोसे,
मनमोहक चुनरियाँ, मस्ती भरे प्लास्टिक के ट्रम्पेट,
सब बिक रहे थे, "भारत का नाम, चीन का दाम"|

और इन सब…

तलाश

मेले के गुब्बारे भी ख़ामोशी की तलाश में भटकते होंगे,
पूनम का चान्द अमावस की आस रखता होगा,
शहर की बसें किसी गाँव का रस्ता ढूँढती होँगी,
सागर की मछलियाँ किसी वीरान कुएँ का ख़्वाब देखतीं|

मैंने न तलाश की न ख़्वाब देखे,
इन सियाही की लकीरों में
मैं कबसे गुमशुदा हूँ|

Pockmarks

My face is
pockmarked
with breaking dreams, hope
oozing
away like yellow-red pus;
the body
haemorrhages
desires to the ceaseless
illness of survival.

But the blood
festers
within,
raging
impassionedly, impotently until it
bursts
through,
ebbs,
clots
and
dries
among feeding flies.

Published in Making Waves - A Poetry Anthology, ed. Pam & Bill Swyers; Swyers Publishing 2011. ISBN: 978-0-9843113-6-1.

Dusk & Dawn

Sometimes it is hard to know,
which is dusk and which is dawn.
For was the day a mere eclipse,
careening into the blackness
of unending night?
...Or is night but an eye-blink,
waiting for the light to come,
first in trickles,
and then in torrents?
Sometimes it is hard to know,
which is dusk and which is dawn.

महरबान हो जाओ

ख़्वाबों में जो रोज़ाना आती हो,
एक बार खुली आँखों पर महरबान हो जाओ,
कि हमें भी अहसास हो ज़िन्दगी जी ली हमने

आँखों-आँखों में

आँखों-आँखों में हुई एक छोटी सी बात,
हलकी सी मुस्कुराहट टिमटिमायी,
और बीच सड़क पर ग़ुलिस्ताँ महक उठी

पुरानी वाली:
आँखें मिलीं, एक मुस्कान महकी,
और फिर कायनात में कहीं
खो गयी

Conversations

I look at the ceiling
the blank, blank ceiling
and the blemish-less, soulless
angel white walls
loneliness my paramour
prostituting my fingers.

Black, muscular bodies
dripping with the sweat
of construction bricks
torsos barely contained
in tattering loincloths
did they feed each other?

Or was it a place to
make out consenting
or seduce or gang-rape
some starving servant-maid?

There clearly is sweat
in the congealed cement,
spittle, semen perhaps,
blood too, rich red blood,
either fallen or murdered;
concrete needs its sacrifice.

It never is an anodyne,
colourless, antiseptic
suburban flat;
listen to the walls,
for there is always
a conversation to be had.

Published in Making Waves - A Poetry Anthology, ed. Pam & Bill Swyers; Swyers Publishing 2011. ISBN: 978-0-9843113-6-1.

A fool

Words haunt sometimes.
Sometimes, like grit
in an oyster's shell.
That hurt, the fester.

They ferment the poet's heart,
causing her to lay
layer after layer
of mother-of-pearl,
till at last a pearl gleams through.

Willst thou bless the fool,
who uttered the grit
in the first place?

வா கண்ணா

வா கண்ணா, வா, என் வீட்டுக்கு வா,
படி ப்டியாக வா, என் வீட்டுக்குள் தான்
உன் வீடு இருக்கு?
என் இதயத்தில் இருக்கிரவனே வா,
வா, வா, வா
குங்குமம் பூசிய காலால் படி படியாக வா
என் வீட்டுத்தரையில்
ஒவ்வொரு அணுக்கும்
உன் ஆசிர்வாதம கொடுத்து வா
என் வாசப்ப்டியைத் தாண்டு கண்ணா,
அதுடன் கொண்டு வா,
உன் குரும்பு, உன் அரிவு,
உன் விலையாட்டு, உன் தைவீகம்,
என்னைப்போல் நீயும் அலைந்தாய்,
நீ மதுரா, கோகுலம்,
துவாரகா, குருக்ஷேத்திரம்,
நான் மும்பாய், கோல்காதா,
ஃபஸில்கா, கோடேகாம்,
நீ இதயம் இதயமாக் அலையுவாய்,
நான் இதயத்தை தேடி அலைகிரேன்,

எனக்கு இது ஒரு சின்ன மனம் கண்ணா,
வா, வா, இந்து மனத்தை வீடாக மாற்ற வா

Bachir Gemayel

What am I?
A body and brain,
Products
Of carbon concatenation chemistry,
An intelligence and conscience
To enable bits of DNA evolve.
I'm someone, anyone;
I might be Bachir Gemayel
Among guns and shells a Maronite;
I might be an Afghan
Between powers a puppet
Pawned in a Great Game;
Weak, then powerful;
Alive, then dead;
Somebody, anybody, nobody.

I might be someone else,
Maybe a pharaoh,
Maybe a dung-beetle,
I might be you,
I might be a third person;
Never more than
A safe conduit for some genes.

Yesternight and Yesterday

Yesternight I thought the stars came out,
twinkling towards infinity,
the moon was a sil'vry orb
as she played hide-and-seek with the dream mists;
I thought I met the Queen of England
and the Prime Minister of Bangladesh
on a helicopter over the Caribbean
sharing a turqoise curacao
in an electric-lighted reverie ;
I thought I saw the sun rise,
red, orange, yellow
to the avian symphony of
magpie-robins, mynahs and
red-whiskered bulbuls;

I thought I saw the hibiscus buds open
and the frangipani leaves shed dew;
But what I truly saw
was the grime-laden red city buses
with their overloaded,
quarrelling commuters;
What I truly saw was
the trains stuck at bright red signals
that wouldn't change
to the green glow of progress;
What I truly saw
were my office lights in the false ceiling,
the monotone of the air conditioner
and the stern, upstanding computer screen;
What I truly saw,
was yesterday.

(A bit of the Carpenters' 'Yesterday Once More' might be in this, but just a bit.)

Published in Making Waves…

Pourquoi

Pourquoi est-ce que
qu'il y a
des temps pour
danser,
chanter,
courir,
tomber,
voler,
embrasser,
étreindre,
crier,
rire,
sourire,
nager,
grimper aux arbres,
rouler,
jouer
quand on n'est que
l'enfant?

Pourquoi
grandissons nous?

Rat

I'm a rat, I'm a rat, I scurry and I bite,
I eat what I get, And I fuck and I fight,
I dodge the black crows, I run from your shoes,
But I'm old or sick, you'll trample over me.

दोस्ती

दोस्ती करना भी तो निभाना है,
कभी डायरी में हमेशा ख़ामोश
एक नाम दर्ज है,
कभी ट्रेन में घण्टे भर की गुफ़्तगू
को ही याराना मान लिया

अवाज़

जान देने वाले बूँदें आपके अल्फ़ाज़ थे, अवाज़ मेरा बस दरिया था
जो ख़ूबसूरती थी आपके अल्फ़ाज़ में थी, अवाज़ मेरा बस ज़रिया था

शेर पर शेर

ऐ इनसान तुझे देखकर ख़ौफ़ नहीं होता,
न तेरे दान्त हैं, न नोकीले नाखून,
फिर ऐसा क्यों कि मेरा शिकार भी तू,
मेरा शिकारी भी तू?

Profit

As turnover, they'll put
gold, land, conquests
and a few genes to my name.
As profit, I'll get to take
with me
a cheap cotton shroud.

हवस

आया था बेलिबास, जाऊँगा बाकफ़न,
क्यों रखूँ हवस रेशम-ओ-ज़र का?

It

must it care
where,
what,
when,
who,
why?
Congress, BJP,
Shining Path, Tea Party,
balding Czechs, sexy Mexicans,
sanyasins, witches,
Mandodari, Sita,
Ayodhya, Lanka,
sluts and wives,
smog, spring, ash clouds,
Casanovas and Popes,
lamas and rapists,
jihadis, hippies,
cobras, humans, dung-beetles
where,
what,
when,
who,
why?
does it really care?

کفن / कक़न

میرے کفن کو چاشنی میں ڈبوکر لپیٹنا ، و گورکن ،
تاکی مٹٌی کے کیڑوں کو بھی کوٴی کڑواہٹ محسوس نا ہو


मेरे कफ़न को चाशनी में डुबोकर लपेटना ओ गोरकन,
ताकि मिट्टी के कीड़ों को भी कोई कड़वाहट महसूस न हो

सूई से क्या वफ़ा / سوٴی سے کیا وفہ

तेरा मुन्तज़िर घड़ी पर क्यों ग़ौर करे,
जब तू वक़्त की महकूम नहीं,
तेरी राह को तकती आँखों को
सूई से क्या वफ़ा?

تیرا منتزر گھڑی پر کےوں غور کرے،
جب تو وقت کی محکوم نہیں،
تیری راہ کو تکتی آنکھوں کو سوٴی سے کیا وفہ

यह आसमाँ क़फ़न...

यह आसमाँ क़फ़न बनेगी मेरी, हवा रुदाली मेरी,
गिद्द उठा ले जायेंगे लाश मेरी, मक्खियाँ जनाज़ा पढ़ लेंगी,
आप से बस इतनी ग़ुज़ारिश है हज़रत मेरे,
के जब साँसों की जिद्दोजिहद रुक जाए,
इस ख़ानाबदोश का सर मक्के की तरफ़ कर देना

To the dog who tore my heart

indolent, half-lifted eyelid.
A tail wagged drowsily.
A half-whine of acknowledgment.

A limp, reluctant handshake
and taunting dejection
on not getting the promised biscuit.

A quiet, piercing stare
as the clock strikes six
that hour of his business.

An ambling unconcerned walk,
immune to tugs on the leash
and no interest in thrown balls.

Fingers clasped firmly in teeth,
a demonstration of power
that was right now not being used.

Hungry, innocent eyes
pleading for dinner, not counting
the meal consumed minutes ago.

The quiet snore,
teeth half-exposed in warning
to let sleeping dogs lie.

Just like the quiet vacuum
unfilled by furry memories
of the dog who tore my heart.

On Niceness

Yesterday, someone was nice to us.
They came home to invite us nicely
- nicely and personally -
for a wedding in their nice family.
We nicely appreciated that
someone was being nice to us.
But how nicely
does one appreciate niceness?

By saying thanks for all that niceness?
Or saying thanks for all that niceness
and also nicely pointing out
how that someone was nice
while someone not nice, someone else not nice
and someone else not nice at all
were not being nice?

I mean, if someone is nice,
let's be thankful for that, and nicely so?
Are we being nice
in not-so-nicely pointing out
how someone else was not nice?
Could one think it's like nicely saying
well, thank you for niceness
but we don't care for your niceness
because what would would really be nice
is that someone else being nice.
Is that nice?

At A Historic Site

I have before me a tourist brochure.
I think it is laughing at me.
The way ink soaked into paper can laugh.
A way that is silent, malignant.
It seems amused.
That I have come to gawk, to gape.
Where my forefather once cut down other people's forefathers.
Like that of the brochure writer's.
Or did not.
I must trust the story the ink tells me.
For the blood soaked in the ground never speaks.

Poems

to some they're just words
strung together
that may mean something
or nothing at all
or mean different things
at different times

to some they're expressions
of desperate souls
entrapped in their existences
conjuring shangrila
elysian fields, ruritania
by inked stains on paper

to some they're everything
truth & escape
existence and fantasy
being and dying
the only way to live
and to die

फ़ासले

ख़्वाहिश तो यही है कि
तुमसे फ़ासले रखूँ
पर हर राह तुम्हें ही
मनज़िल बनाती है

क्योंकि

फूलों में इतनी सुगन्ध क्यों होती है?
क्योंकि आपने उन्हें स्पर्ष किया|
लहरें धीमे से गुनगुनाती क्यों हैं?
क्योंकि आपने उनमें राग सजाया|
इन्द्रधनुष मेघ में क्यों छुप जाता है?
क्योंकि आपके तेजस से शर्माता है|
हम प्रेमकवि क्यों बन गए हैं?
क्योंकि आपकी वन्दना ही अब
जीवन का लक्ष्य बन गया है|

Sleeping Beauty Awakes

One hundred years they made her sleep!
One hundred years she could not weep,
or skip or sing or laugh or dance,
Until a prince had had his chance.

One kiss of love did break the charm!
He held her fondly in his arm,
But she recoiled back in fear
And summoned her guards to come near.

For when she woke she could not tell
That she had been under a spell.
She thought he was an intruder
And not her destined saviour.

But when they had questioned the youth
They came to know the bitter truth
That time had moved a hundred years
And then their eyes were filled with tears.

The princess and her loyal maid
Were very truly much dismayed.
Both began then to loudly wail
To hear them no one could fail.

On waking from so long a sleep
You too dear, would vainly weep,
If you realised what you wore
Was out of fashion long before!

Phone Tapping

The sound of tapping goes beep beep
Good folk, switch off your black Blackberry
Beware the deadly radio sweep
Unless you have had too much sherry

Government, Government, they tap a good man's phone
Government, Government, their motives are unknown

Tap: They spare not an iPhone
Tap: They do it when comatose
They even know your new ringtone
But say they do not act on purpose

Government, Government, with many a bumbling plan
Government, Government, they can't end what they began!

(With apologies to Edmund Blackadder)

Canto Caligulae

What wondrous miracle a human neck is!
Divine, slender, lissome; a bridge to connect
The heart's beating passion with analysis,
From the cold, calculating brain; a perfect
Feature of Paris, Anubis, or Isis;
That vulnerable, captivating effect
Of David's ponderous marble poise - his
veins as they stand out for a knife to transect;

Does it not tempt the hand to reach out and clasp
Between the palms, and feel the throat convulsing,
Pulsating wildly, in its desperate gasp
To break free; Or would it be deemed revulsing
To gloat as slit veins leak blood and hear the rasp
Of the dying, as one's own nerves are pulsing?

A variant of 'Escape'

A gunshot in my temple, tempered by cocaine;
Barbiturates, so honeyed dreams shall never fade;
Or seppuku and its seizing, searing pain
As my tenderly nurtured flesh meets whetted blade;

Plunge a dagger into my dear neck, and wailing
Screeching, screaming qualis artifex pereo;
Or must it be by self-immolation, flailing,
Buckling, gyrating in an obscene rodeo;

Fall upon my sword, or trust my loyal maiden
To smuggle in an asp and to it surrender;
Perhaps a ripened apple, cyanide-laden
To exit without pain, and go out in splendour;

Which do I adopt, the most beautiful way
To pass into freedom, and escape from today?

Solomon Grundy

We're all of us Solomon Grundy

Born by auspicious Caesarean on Monday
Dying for 90% marks on Tuesday
Demographic dividend on Wednesday
Pension plans on Thursday
Marrying daughters on Friday
Ayah-ing grandchildren on Saturday
And an urnful of ashes on Sunday

We're all of us Solomon Grundy

Ninety nine

It is an interesting number 5
one short of the one that 6 (11)
is held as a gold standard 6 (17)
for measures of success and failure, 6 (23)
the number that judges everything 5 (28)
from someone's sincerity to 4 (32)
the contamination in a bar of iron. 7 (39)
It is a hungry number, besmirched 6 (45)
by an accusation of incompleteness 5 (50)
though it is so perfect in form, 7 (57)
its twin members so beautifully 5 (62)
illustrating its two divisors 3 (65)
the first one less, the second one more 8 (73)
than that other fabulous number 5 (78)
which multiplied by itself yields 5 (83)
that magic figure all men yearn for. 7 (90)
Perfect and yet always incomplete. 5 (95)
Ever hungry, ninety nine. 4 (99)

(Exactly 99 words)

To Mary Anning

"She sells seashells on the seashore"
Is all we remember of her.
Not that she found the pterosaur
Nor that she was a Dissenter.

She had a talent for finding
Whole skeletons of dinosaurs.
She made her living by selling
Ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs.

Wrong class, wrong sex, wrong religion
- Doomed her to be a peasant woman.
All the fame and recognition
Went to idle wealthy gentlemen.

But now we're finally giving
The credit due to Mary Anning.

(She deserves a far better poet; she gets me)

Neighbours: An acrostic

When we bought our flat we hoped we would
Have neighbours with whom to build an
Outstanding comity of trust and fraternity

The family in flat 24 (we're in #23)
Has never spoken to us in 9 years
Except once (when they borrowed milk)

Flat no. 21 and 22 have in them
Unsocial folks who keep to themselves, or
Compulsive obsessives who think we are
Kleptomaniacs out to strip them bare

I might have to admit that I'm not
Such a wonderful neighbour myself

A voluminous book or a lengthy
Letter from a friend overseas
Is my idea of diverting company; I
Care not to exchange fake 'how are you?'s
Even in shared elevator journeys.

(From Gompie's parody of Smokie's 'Living next door to Alice')

Prime Numbers

One
Photographs of a birthday
I never knew

Two
A memory I want to visit
Blank state that it is


Three
Pram rolling downhill
In it an unwelcome sibling

Five
First friend across the balcony
First crush in the opposite flat

Seven
Bedtime extends past nine
into the world of adults

Eleven
Breasts seem to make sense
Half-ticket status despised

Thirteen
Hot flushes burn within
Red initials spatter my math book

Seventeen
School ends
as does adolescence

Nineteen
ambition crystallises
A hurrah the world can hear

Twenty-three
The dream goes sour
First thoughts of suicide

Twenty-nine
Salaries chase deadlines
As aspirations dehydrate

Mother

Mother has many names.

Anak Krakatau might be one of them,
Or Uttarkashi or Qinghai,
Haiti certainly is.

She's the mother that swallowed
Maui into her womb,
the mother that disarmed Karna,
who led Oedipus to sin.

She plays pranks too,
in that cheerful way unique to her.
We find strange names to give them
- tsunami, hurricane.

Kalki is another name
we've given her, for when she
will be an old woman
looking for some kind of elixir of youth.
Perhaps some quack will mislead
her to find it in our blood.

She has a heart of gold they say -
pure, molten lava,
that sometimes erupts on her skin
like a ripe pimple.

She loves nothing more
than the sound of babies crying -
orphaned, bloodied, hungry, dying
their carcasses feeding hyaenas.
But hyaenas are her children too.

But she is the green mother
who feeds us, clothes us,
protects us from the sun's
ionizing radiation,
we came from her loins,
which is where we go.

Over Tea

"Here's the ring
and the ear-rings
you gave last Diwali."

"You can keep them."
"No."
"Tea?"
"Yes."
"The usual?
No sugar,
no milk?"
"The usual."
" "
"Yes?"
"Nothing."

"Your letters."
"Thanks."
"Your phone."
"That was a,
a gift."
"Give it,
to her. Not me."



" "
"Anything?"
"Nothing."
"Here's my share -
twenty-two rupees."
"Yes."



"Yes?"
"Uh!"
"Yes?"
"Oh, no.
Nothing."
"Bye, then."

(Reworked from Shadows)

इबादत

तल-अल-अराफ़ात पर तेरी इबादत कुफ़्र है,
जो तूने ख़ुदा को दिल के मसनत पर ना बिठाया

The Panjandrum and the Apostrophe

Beware the mighty panjandrum,
Who holds his court at Trivandrum!
For one misplaced apostrophe
Would cause a great catastrophe!

Do mind your plural possessive
And about it's be obsessive.
Know where it goes in won't and can't
And when you don't and when you shan't.

About spellings he is not vain,
Bad syntax does not cause him pain,
Semicolons may come to grief
For such matters his time is brief.

But an abused apostrophe
Would break his mighty heart in three;
The panjandrum's benevolence
Doth turn to foul malevolence.

He'll punish you for such vile deeds
By rubbing you with prickly weeds;
You must recite a thousand times
That you will not repeat your crimes.

But once a most uncommon thing
Did cause a lot of worrying.
A grocer did cause much chagrin
And so this ballad doth begin.

This grocer's thick viscosity
Inflicted much atrocity -
What was owned by his potato
Posterity would never know!

His board said ten cents potato's
Was it its head? Were they its toes?
The entire panjandru…

Sudden summer rain

Sudden summer rain.
The smell of earth meeting sky
- clouds of gloom clear.

(originally by Sharath Rao)

OR

Sudden summer rain.
Hearts fill with ecstasy as
joy rises skywards.