Phoenix

Photo by Alex Wigan

The spark of smiles

And innocent longings

Turned to a flame;

Deep red and pure,

Of passion and warmth, hopes and dreams.

 

As she watched the flame turn to harsh fire

That threatened to cremate the very love

Which it was built from,

Panic washed over her,

And she stood paralyzed,

Forced to watch the destruction all night.

 

The fire had burned without restrictions

And brought to light all good and bad.

She now surveyed the landscape of the hearts

Where residue flames still burned around;

Bright stars in ebony dark.

The venom had flowed out due to heat;

In rivulets of poisonous green. And the love?

 

The memory of the pure, red flame

Danced in front of her eyes

And she saw the light igniting far off,

As crimson sun broke the night.

Gaining strength from warming rays

She promised aloud to burn just as bright

And sent her word to the fiery being

With messengers of both lands still stirring;

Phoenixes, after all, are reborn from the ashes.

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Celestial Ballad

Photo by Vicentiu Solomon

An unlikely friendship, theirs;

The Sun’s and the Moon’s.

It was the talk of the universe,

This strange celestial bond.

When stars wondered why

The Sun chose to light up

The  Moon, unlit by herself.

The Earth wondered why

The Moon glowed brighter

In response to the Sun.

 

Was it an unequal bond,

The Moon wondered sometimes.

For the Sun was always constant,

His light never subject to time

Whereas the Moon changed in cycles,

Now waning, now growing.

“Allow me to light you”, said Sun,

“At all the times”.

“I’m afraid of favoring light”, said she,

“The dark finds its way”.

 

And so it did when once,

The Moon in her earthly duties,

Allowed distance so long between

That Earth came in the way,

And obscured all Moon’s light.

And when she came at last

Leaving the Earth right behind,

Moon cast a shadow so big,

The fiery radiance dimmed

And eclipsed, this time, the Sun.

 

The cycle swept her again,

And Moon started waning.

At last she was down to nothing,

No light of her own to guide her;

The Sun, a distant friend.

Would Sun now keep her light-less,

And shower his rays on others?

Would darkness be all she had,

Her only friend in regret,

For causing mayhem of eclipses?

 

She willed herself to burn

Like other stars, Sun’s equals.

She willed herself  to cast light

And perhaps a higher power heard her,

For she saw her being illuminate.

Surprised, she found Sun’s rays reaching her.

Far though they may be,

They were enough to give her strength.

And Moon set about, now growing,

To find Sun across the caliginous sky.

 

A Bookish Love

Photo by Alejandro Escamilla

It was a stupid decision, they said. You are wasting your grades; you could easily get a better internship! But they did not understand. They did not know the absolute need, the compulsion to be there, among all those long, towering shelves of books. It was there, amidst the musty smell of books, that he could breathe.

He had his table by the classics section. It was the best table; he could see the black penguin covers, even if he was not allowed to pick any and read it during the day time. Their being there in front of him, just existing, was such a comfort. He helped people find the books; rarely did he use his computer to locate any book; he remembered where each of them was. Tolstoy’s War and Peace next to Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment… Bronte’s Jane Eyre besides the row of Jane Austen books. His  hands lingered on the books; the touch was both familiar and exhilarating.

*

She had not been to the bookstore for four months now; an eternity. The work at the make-up aisle was mind-numbing, and hardly paid for the bills. There was no extra money for books, no extra time for perusing the different sections of the bookstore.

But she was here finally; a Tuesday when the mall was unexpectedly closed for maintenance. She felt herself in familiar territory; there was an ease in her walking now. She had a fixed routine. First, she went to the New Arrivals, reading the back covers of expensive hardbacks that she could never afford. She kept in mind the titles of the books she liked, making a mental note to buy them once they were old enough to be paperbacks or second-hands. Next, she browsed the Fiction section. Here, she opened the latest John Grisham, and read about 50 pages, standing. She would continue it from there the next time she was here. Crime and Mysteries came next, after which she walked straight past the Romance section to the one she loved best; the Classics section. Here, she walked up and down the line of shelves, reading the titles and mentally ticking off the ones she had already read. In this section, she could transport herself back to older times, tragedies of the war and the pain of betrayal. Here, she could rejoice in the “happily ever after” of Pride and Prejudice and cry at the unresolved ending of Gone with the Wind.

*

He saw her take a book in her hand and put it in a different shelf below. He stood up to prevent her from messing the shelves, but stopped. The book was A Picture of Dorian Gray, and it did belong to the lower shelf; someone must have picked it and then put it back in the most convenient spot on the higher shelf. He was surprised; she was a customer, why should it matter to her?

He slid back in his chair and watched closely. He saw her picking up book after book, reading the back covers, reading the first few pages, smiling and nodding at times. Always, she put the book back in its right place. As she browsed, she straightened the books that were not in line. It was almost an unconscious action; she displayed no exasperation on her face.

He saw her picking up yet another book now. After deliberating for a moment, she put it back. Then she picked it up again. He strained to see what book it was; Wuthering Heights.

*

She opened her purse. There were only Rs. 170 in it. The cost of the book was Rs. 160. That would leave her with just enough money to buy a bus ticket to home. There were still four days before the month end. There were still groceries to buy and bills to pay. Reluctantly, she put the book back on the shelf. She would buy it the next time. Slowly, she walked out of the bookstore.

*

He saw her returning ten minutes later. She walked with purpose now. Hurriedly, she went back to the Classics section, picked up Wuthering Heights, walked to the counter and bought it. He saw her smile once she held the book in her hands, now her own. The tension in her eyes eased gradually. With lighter steps, she walked out of the bookstore again.

He had never seen her in the bookstore before. He did not know who she was. But sitting here on his hard chair, among piles of books, he knew he had found the girl he would love.

There Was Nothing To Be Done

There was nothing to be done.

Nothing, except breaking it.

I took a deep breath;

It felt almost acidic.

 

Breathing hard, still,

I placed it in front of me.

Gathering all my strength,

I lifted that club.

 

You know the one;

It’s made of words.

The lethality of it is that

Each word is a weapon in itself.

 

Taking this club, then,

I moved towards it.

It was beating very fast,

Striving to survive.

 

Holding the club steadily

I inhaled one last time.

The astringent fumes

Nearly caused me to convulse.

 

But I squared myself

And brought the club down on it.

It broke into a million pieces

But strangely, contained life.

 

I looked at it in wonder.

The pieces were still moving.

The club slipped from my hands;

I could not do more.

 

But the acid had crept to my heart.

And there was really nothing to be done.

And there now lay two injured hearts,

One broken and one burnt.

You Lied, Mother

‘Leaving the Nest’ by Siobhan Knox

You lied, Mother.

You said it will be easy.

You said the world was a beautiful place to grow up.

 

You pushed me gently out

Coaxing me to go a little more,

Just a little further on the branch.

You told me not to be afraid

As the wind swayed me about.

You lied, Mother.

You said I will not fall.

 

I took off, nearly toppling,

In what was a miserable attempt at flight.

The nest seemed so far off,

Its thought itself so cozy.

You told me to enjoy the sunlight on my face.

You lied, Mother.

You said the world was warm.

 

You said I will not fall.

I fell many times,

Hard on my face, flat on my back.

You said the world was warm.

It cold-shouldered me,

Its tragedies chilled my bone.

Why did you lie, Mother?

 

The world keeps telling me

That each time I fell, I failed.

It keeps reminding me of my bloodied nose,

Of my injured, drained body.

Is that why you lied, Mother?

So that I would be unable to see

My falls as my failures?

 

The world keeps closing its doors

Leaving me out in snowy, wintry days.

It teases me by lighting fires far from my reach.

Evoking desires of what is not mine.

Is that why you lied, Mother?

To give me this gift

Of warm satisfaction with my flight?

 

Your lies have made me blind.

Your lies have made me strong.

You lied, Mother, but I forgive you.

Silent Love Poem

You saw me see you.

I saw you see me.

We both know, and yet

The world is oblivious.

And day after day

We continue to have

This tryst in front of the whole world.

 

Where eyes are the park

The bench, the ambiance.

The smoldering look

A holding of hands.

The hidden smile

A stem of rose.

The turning away our parting.

 

Our silences are music.

Our ears are so tuned

To unspoken words.

I glow as I listen

To your lucid confession.

Your eyes light up

As I sing to you this, a love poem.