Saturday, March 24, 2012
They met by rushing coolies and tea stalls.
Two ordinary men grown gray with old age:
Stained shirts yellow with sweat and wrinkles,
That spoke of lives speeding like express trains.
They stood in the overcrowded platform
As the steam engine whistled impatiently.
I do not know how many years had passed
Since their last meeting but no words were needed.
Tears streamed from their eyes as they laughed
Like two boys, calling each other the names
Even they had forgotten ever existed.
Two grown men laughing and crying together.
I could see their backs straighten and frowns melt.
They were back in the forgotten country,
Talking a language they’d kept locked in their minds.
For a few moments the long wasted years
Lay behind them and they were once again
The pranksters and the world conquerors to be.
They stood giggling as the old train waited
To take them back on their time-worn journeys.
He dreams about the mountains,
With winding roads green with moss
And valleys where long grass grows;
He can see the petals on
He almost tastes the sweetness
Of apples in the orchards.
He hears the muezzin’s echoing call,
The peal of bells in the temple;
He traces the gurgling stream
Spluttering through the leaf-strewn fields;
The skies are bluer than opals.
The forests greener than emeralds,
But something still feels incomplete.
In his dream he can’t remember,
A face with those dimpled cheeks,
The wave of raven black hair
Falling on an always open book:
He tries to imagine her presence
Again by his favorite window.
But the window is empty.
Symphony in White
The winter morning emerges reluctantly
From the dark blanket of mist-laden night:
The hesitant light, made silver by the fog,
Enters slowly from the Eastern windows;
Outside, the pines and aspens are heavy
With snow that fell silently in the night.
The whole world has vanished into the sea
Of white: nothing exists outside my home.
A cup of tea with wisps of rising steam
By my bedside tells me I’m not alone.
My white quilt still retains a soft fragrance
Of one who was here and may return yet.
When he announced he was not leaving yet
She pretended it did not matter at all.
But later, during lunch when their eyes met,
She lingered a while and appeared to stall
For words like she had something to confess
But did not know what she wanted to say.
He read in her eyes what she could not express:
Gladness that he’d found an excuse to stay.
This man is not me: someone dark
Has taken over me:
He pulls me towards pettiness
And hollow acts of shame.
I resist much, but he is strong,
And I’m just a boy in a man’s shoes.
He is deliberately mean.
I strike back with kindness.
He talks of drab despair;
But I retain vibrant dreams.
Like a chess grandmaster
I attack with my random goodness.
But only one of us
Will stand in the end.
If you see me and I don’t smile
Somehow you know the worst.
And if I embrace you
With unfeigned eagerness,
Know that I’ve seen the dark side
But returned back, only for you.
I have walked on these windy roads
For many a beautiful season:
The clear sunsets and silent hills
Were always a good reason.
The still mornings of mist and rain,
The mating robin’s playful call,
The colors of awakening spring,
And grandeur of autumnal fall.
Then you came, and love came along,
And now love stirs in us no more.
But the restless winds blow again,
And the hills are greener than before.
A child will find you in every beautiful thing.
You paint the azure skies and the purple sunset;
You wake the sleeping buds in verdant spring.
You are the shelter when the storm will not let.
A mystic seeks you in perfection he has seen.
The edge of the vast ocean, first light after sleep;
The long unending rows of the giant evergreen,
The silent mountains, the moving roar of the deep.
The faithful calls you his purpose, the only right.
You are the Eternal and Indestructible:
The genesis of the universe, the day, and night;
The one true master of both heaven and of hell.
And sometimes you appear to these, my atheist eyes:
In acts of love, my second chances, this new start.
When I look up at the endless star-crusted skies,
This faint presence, a persisting hope in my heart.
The time will come when you’ll realize
The long and lonely nights
Have not put in your heart
The seeds of bitter sorrow;
That will be the beginning
Of the end of your sufferings.
Have you thought why the winter wind
Is fragrant with April’s scent,
Though hyacinths are long gone;
Why does the falling rain
On empty wind-swept streets
Move you to sudden tears?
Something remains deep inside you
That keeps your heart afloat;
Open the fastened windows.
The skies are overcast:
Let the rain fill your roots,
Dream the green dreams again.
Friday, March 23, 2012
Some days everything falls in place:
You meet the impossible deadline,
Every mistake you can erase,
You know that your plans will go fine.
On such days I leave all the things,
That I wanted from far and wide:
I let loose the ties, and the strings,
And quietly sit by your side.
From my window I see the park,
The forest leaves are shining gold;
It’s not too long before the dark,
The winds that blow are getting cold.
The clouds float silently above,
Higher than lonely birds can go,
A winter twilight without love
And the first gently falling snow.
The door which we must cross one day
To enter the long promised realm.
Not the end of the beautiful journey,
Not even a brief intermission:
Simply a door we must open
To lands we are all yet to see.
We have sometime visited that land
In our dreams, past that curtained door:
A glimpse of the perfect golden sands
And the bluest skies imagined;
The bright stars that will never fade
And flowers no autumn winds can shake.
One fine day we will cross that door,
To start those old conversations:
The long walks on those winding roads
With those who have crossed before us
And waited for us all this while
To resume the incomplete journey.
As we grow old, a change comes to us all.
We tend to fall into the easy rhythm
Of nine-to-five life and two day weekends;
The river of life has been flowing long,
We learn to flow with it till we have shed,
Our worries and the pains, and then our dreams;
Till the day comes when we lose ourselves too
To become just like everybody else.
But there’s a voice that whispers to our heart.
As all the sand in our hour glass runs out,
As the strong strings pull the kite to earth,
Sometimes we are left with one brave gesture
Of defiance: the tale is not over yet.
The graying poet, the aged explorer,
The dreams still lurking in the dark corners
Of our fractured heart, waiting for our word.
If we are ready, the last ounce of regret
Is smashed into a million sparkling diamonds.
We fling our dark hands into the night sky
And gather the twinkling stars into our heart
Where they glow like fireflies in moonless nights.
In the twilight years we learn to dream again.
If that happens, the only light we’ll need
We carry in our untamed foolish hearts.
One day, the autumn wind,
Smelling of Shiuli buds,
Knocked on my door;
The October streets lay empty
As all day long
The restless wind
Ran through harvested fields
Urging the last yellow leaves
To tremble and fall.
It rattled my window panes
And tossed my poems aside,
Whispering to me
Tales of vast, untraveled roads,
The distant lands
Yet to come; and it spoke,
With autumn scented breath,
One word, a name.
The old fates are heartless:
They care not for suffering.
They do not love.
How silly it has been
To give my heart
To the restless wind,
And expect anything but
The autumn scent and the sound
Of falling leaves.
The old farmer sits on the bench watching the sun go down.
In a while the moon will rise over the quiet mountains.
The shadows rise and a lark sings from the darkening woods.
The mist-scented October breeze flits over wheat-laden fields.
The stream gurgles and splutters meandering, full of leaves.
The last rays linger. The lights come on. The stars appear.
He feels the cold and senses Death. Content, he looks at his home
And waits for the new season: silent, snow-laden and final.
As years advance the memory falters.
The familiar names of old friends
And lanes which were a part of me
Struggle at the tip of my tongue
Like dates of wars, the laws of physics,
The names of all the constellations,
And algebra and trigonometry
Which are all irrevocably lost.
On the shores of my mind these names
Alternately vanish and reappear.
The light of the abandoned lighthouse
Wavers in the slowly gathering mist.
Evening comes with long shadows,
And smells of jasmine buds;
Are those lights on the distant hills?
Or only the first shimmering stars?
The darkening woods resound
With restless nest-bound birds;
The wind blows, crickets chirp,
And then there is silence.
The philosophers will tell you
There’s nothing quite perfect.
Contentment has a twin
And you will suffer alone.
But on clear starlit evenings
Happiness speaks clearly
To lonely souls who understand
The language of silence.
One day I’ll leave this town for good.
No one shall know I’m gone
Till some trespasser on my lawns
Makes sense of the silence,
The piles of newspapers and mail,
The cobwebbed porch and flourishing weeds.
I would be gone and won’t look back.
I shall seek the future:
The road that’s yet to be traveled,
Mistakes yet to be made,
New towns to wake up in, new friends,
All the stories yet to be told.
And nothing would hold me back.
This free spirit will be
The greatest of all my triumphs;
But since nothing would hold me back
This uncompromised freedom
Will be my only regret.
A strand of gray hair startles me.
No amount of dyes will hide this:
Our story of hellos and goodbyes
Has but one certain last chapter.
So I look back and I am filled
With tenderness and gratitude
Thinking about what I once thought
Were the inconsequential things.
I remember one summer day
Under drifting white clouds, hearing
A lark in the green, leafy woods;
I think of evenings spent alone,
As the radio played out my songs
While it rained softly on the roof.
My days are fragrant with the scent
Of favorite books and wild flowers.
At the vast edge of this silence
Why do I swell with thankfulness?
Brief though it may be, and incomplete,
How glorious it is to exist:
To speak soft words of beating love,
To think for myself, to believe
In great things, and to be one
With hills and streams and endless stars.
Love: Version 1
Love this may not quite be
But something very close
That has kept me awake
Thinking about the words
You may have said,
When you turned at the door
And half looked back at me
You have planted questions
Providing no answers:
Was that look love,
I shall cast off my doubts
And offer you just this:
The unkempt words I write
In childlike simple faith.
This then is love.
Once it came unbidden to the lips
Of slaves in storm-tossed Roman ships.
Half-remembered homes and lost worlds
Came back in stubborn songs and tunes
No lashes could silence.
It still lingers in harvesting fields
Where sorrow is a way of life
And youth is lost in stacks of wheat;
The barren earth only pays back
In tears and handful songs.
And why do the exiled have their songs?
Why does music flow through broken hearts?
As long as sorrows will persist
In this cold and uncaring world,
We’ll have songs in our hearts.
I have nothing:
I have not spread my roots in this beautiful world.
I have not built a house that shall grow old with me.
The dust on my face speaks of roads I have traveled.
My young heart is beating in a creaking body.
I am alone, but who is not alone sometime?
Who is truly never alone in this wide world?
Though I’m older:
I am but an empty vessel yet to be filled.
I am the potter’s wet clay that has not been shaped.
I am a dream, still unrealized, but not broken.
I am a traveler seeking my own destiny.
In a house full of moth-eaten books
I have stayed indoors all winter long.
I did not know of the blowing winds
As I lay rediscovering my Frost;
The relentless rain on my window
Was lost to the words of Neruda.
But now February knocks on my door.
The first tinge of green is on the branches.
Do I hear the approaching footsteps
Of what I think can only be spring?
My soul is drunk with Rumi and Hafiz
My heart is hungry for white hyacinths.