29 May 2017

Who could have guessed, Marcus? He was like an old crumpled railway timetable with a black and white routine. Bathing in the river at four, dripping all over the polished mosaic, prayers rumbling in his throat, the ash smeared on his forehead white as the midsummer sun, he had gods scrambling out of their beds, so they would be ready to receive his prostrations.

And the day she arrived?

The men sitting on the porch dropped their cups of steaming filter coffee, the newspaper immediately turning stale. Around the house, children, women, maids, all trapped in the most inopportune freeze frame, playing, pushing, scrubbing, pouring, walking…only the television talking to no one in particular.

Enough embarrassment to pass around?

None! He brought her in like a monsoon cloud leading the rain, his wrinkled hand on her fragile arm, beaming like a full moon night, their slow shuffling steps walking straight into eleven open mouths. Then he asked for tea, in English. His wife, who could barely hear in any language, frowned at him incomprehensibly before a strange composure kicked in. The accusations started in the evening. The lady moved into the guest room that night.

And the wife?

She shrugged. She smiled. Then one day, she brought out the little blue trunk from her cupboard and showed the children pictures of a strange young man. With a pipe in his mouth. Stars in his eyes. Beaming like the full moon.

What did the children do?

Lit up cigarettes and asked for tea. In English.

all that smoke, all those mirrors
a fading ember
pretends to be a forest fire

23 May 2017

If I must pick one, Marcus, then the white tuberose is nature’s only hedonistic indulgence, just so she can revel each night in the decadent magnificence of her own creation.

Her soft spot then…her weakness?

The only one! Take away that flower and you have immeasurable beauty maybe, even a certain delicacy, maybe unimaginable fragrance, but no magic. That one creation is a delicious melancholy that picks at a single string in the moonlight, explaining in soft iambic rhyme why you exist in that moment, in that fragment of space, how you two-step perfectly with eternity.

Like a poem. The poem. Maybe we all have a poem like that. The one we are secretly proud of.

Even if it hasn’t been written yet.

that was it, that loud flap of wings,
the mynahs arguing again
with the wind

17 May 2017

There are so many poems now, Marcus, blooming everywhere, like wildflowers on the spring slopes, everyone is writing. There is the exquisite and the banal, the big ones creating revolutions, the little ones coaxing resolutions, the euphoric ones, the ones declaring clichéd love over and over again but mostly the soft ones coloured in the deep yellow of unknowable angst.

A most delectable sight, I’m sure. Anguish translates well, even into unseemly words.

I feel like I’m riding uphill on a little bicycle, unable to stop, unable to read, definitely unable to write or rhyme one more wildflower out of its weeping misery. I must throw my notebook away so I can ride like so many, just letting the undulating scent and colour pervade my senses. Feeling the hills, kissing the wind, ignoring poetry.

Will there still be flowers?

ask the cuckoo
if she has learnt to build a nest
there she is in the plum tree watching the badgers

11 May 2017

It’s what we do, Marcus. Read a poem and presume to know everything about the poet. A few drops of blood in the sink and suddenly every reader is Sherlock Holmes, pipe, hat and all.

Isn’t that the poet’s calling, to let his soul bleed on paper.

A poem is a dragonfly, you see it flash by, a blur of colour and hum and impending rain. There’s a story in it, a grimace, a sigh, a mirror. But it is not garden or the sky and surely not the poet.

That’s what the reader sees, not the ink stained hand that held out the mirror that captured the dragonfly that dropped out of the sky but the other hand shielding the mirror from the first raindrop.

Elementary, I suppose?

leaf by leaf
autumn paints the scene
bare branch and frozen water

03 May 2017

In a digital world ruled by algorithms that feed us the news we want to read, or they think we ought to read, our view of the world ends up so skewed, Marcus, I think mine is just resting on its side.

Those are the synthetic absolutes we respond to in so many different ways, the reality we wear, our straight horizon, our green sky, our renunciation of discernment.

Think of poems them, so slanted, their words are sliding out as they are written. We need upright poetry, Marcus, that creates harsh angles between stubborn voices and pre-conceived truths.

Try writing from oblique spaces, in blunt diagonals, lines that find their own direction, that cross out others. Try lying on your side.

you take off from the sigh of the mountain
brother eagle
those clouds never see you coming

24 Apr 2017

Maybe we are all just marionettes, Marcus, nodding wide-eyed at the end of a glowing digital string. The things we considered certainties now blow around like plastic clouds on a windless day.

Even a blatant falsehood is only as effective as the ignorance or apathy of the listener, isn’t it?

That creates a circle of masked puppets and blindfolded audience who don’t even realise they are in a show together, don’t even know if they are performing or viewing it. Or if there is a show. Or if they should care.

That could be the truth. If you want it to be.

what time is it, I asked the stormy sky
who knows, he said,
tomorrow I swallowed the sun

21 Apr 2017

So, Marcus, does the poet have to be really intelligent, able to comprehend and interpret the world he lives in, clever enough to simplify the complex nuances of the zeitgeist, wise enough to read the tired tea leaves at the bottom of his cup?

Or live on a tangent, dredging his own yearnings, a child of nature disconnected from the random pettiness of the now, laying just his solitary heart out in row after row of blood soaked words?

It is the subtlety of the verse, the interlocked, often hidden messages, the finesse of craft, the unasked questions, the unanswered inquiries that elevate a poem. How can distancing himself from political and social reality, how can the absence of shrewd analysis, the inability to write between lines, to pause long enough to let the reader unearth layer after layer of pure joy… how can the ingenuous, the artless, the rudderless poem make its way to a reader?

Who is the reader?

I know the night has more stories to tell
but the rain keeps falling
but the rain keeps falling