No wooing, no more wooing, I cannot find the voice
for it any more; the words I would say to you poise
themselves on the edge of my larynx, prance, stumble, fall in a stream
of laughs. It is getting too ridiculous these days. The heat
of undigested words and the sky like a pressed blue sheet
descending on us, on me, on you, ever so slowly. How does one speak
of love, or think, as an itch snakes its way from point to unwelcome point?
The skin turns alien like an indifferent sky
that can’t be bothered to contain me and you or us or the tide
of laughter that threatens to crack my ribs. Far easier to lie
unmoving like a mattress, the sheet pressing down, abide
in the touch of a slow descending wind that dries,
that cools itch-etched seams; to wait for the noise
to settle in liquid gurgles in the pit of my stomach, to void
the words I would say to you in a burst of rancid wind
that lifts the sky. There, I find my voice again. But no, no more wooing.
It is my time to walk away;
the ether has stretched itself over the days
of my passing. The light has grown dimmer
and the hours have run astray
of the steady fall of the calendar
The turning of the clock is a piece of paper
falling as white as the one yesterday.
The steady murmur of the usual clamor
no longer settles on my ears.
A chair for one, a meal for one, a single glass
poured from from a single pitcher
I do not hope to listen
and if listened, understand,
and if understood, know another
that would disrupt a single gray strand
of this senescent ether.
I do not think I can stand to make a stand
It is my time to build a shelter
a thing of small joys, of the stoic pleasures
still left to me. I have no desire
for a kingdom. A hut thrown together
from the meager leavings of my mind
That will suffice, a gray place for the gray times.
There, in the shade of its certainties,
in the familiar surprise of its incongruities,
in the remembered ache of its little discomforts,
I will write myself into the dust
As each day will fall as a numbered piece of paper,
as everything merges with the mist of the ether,
I will write myself into the dust.
The goddess behind the sole red bulb lives
In a cloud of smoke. Incense sticks and cigarettes
And our worn-out lungs are the clouds she craves
Like a moon patching its fair face from the mad distress
Of the night. A patch of redlit dark to my left forms the waiter
I drain another glass, go ‘A bourbon, a scotch, a beer.
Repeat.’ The walls breed cockroaches. The lone window
Wears the latest spiderwebs. Here, all things grow
Out of themselves, connect like fingers fumbling over
A dark table, finding what they seek, forming a clasp
Like a covenant, like the endless promise of an empty glass.
It’s the patch of man again. Time for ‘A bourbon, a scotch, a beer
Once more.’ There is a deep quiet people leave behind
After they have left, hands clasped unbroken.
Out of their absence swept clean from their tables, the dead eyes
Of the ceiling that pass off as flaking paint. The goddess
Rises now in this emptied space. Smiling, her picture
Announces, ‘Your time is up.’ ‘A bourbon, a scotch, a beer
To go.’ I will seek the turning street, watch time descend
Like a cartoon anvil from the sky. But this is not the end.
(NOTE: Every once in a while, a song gets stuck in my head. It repeats itself at the strangest of times throughout the day. It plays as a background score in my dreams. The Glee version and the John Lee Hooker version of “One bourbon, one scotch, one beer” both have been playing on my mind a lot these past few weeks. Hence, this poem.)
We lost because you were kept from singing.
Because correlation must be causation
If I am to live, to keep believing
That a win matters. That the kingdom
Will be nigh. The falling grace of your neck,
The secret turn of your lips behind a veil of hair
is the stuff of song. The note that breaks
The sky into stars, the death of the word in an air
Slowly melting to a solid state. Because I
Must war against the invisible. The real
Is a ghost that the eye cannot abide.
That must be broken, rebuilt, a dark castle
Forged as you sing. Now, I can rest though we lost
I will dream of my kingdom, of towers of song.
He has that smile, the benign yet certain kind
that you only see on those who’ve never
had to watch things grow. Oh, he’s sure
of himself, of the change he bears
like a hidden treasure in the folds
of his skin, of the star-eyed oaths
he swears, of the steel-slick cold
much-practiced gaze he throws
from his stage, of the thunder
of loudspeakers hosanna-ing
his name, of himself as the future
that must be, of his golden reign.
I don’t know a lot about a lot of things
I do my work to earn my keep. I think
when I must as a luxury I’m allowed,
and I watch my days roll away: clouds
too distant from his thunder. Too
slow to keep up with the future, too
tired to read the hidden horrors
in terrible oaths. I can’t see much farther
than tomorrow, and I much prefer
the certainty of days gone past:
like an old remembered trail in a forest
of dead trees and silent bones.
Whatever happens, my years will pass on.
Tree after tree, my trail will unfold itself
and you with your smiles in this commercial
I think I’ll add you as a cracked skull
a thing half-remembered in my forest.
It was a place we were never meant to be.
I wish I could tell you I told you so,
but I remember walking with you down that road
to the bones of Ur, to the corpse of the city.
In the black of the night, there was no distance.
The eye saw no farther than the farthest dark.
Our torches caught the dust, the flaking bodies
of trucks, wheelbarrows no more red, the arc
of a crane arm, dead in its rising. What was it
crunched with each step (I wonder now)? What
air pushed us past (why do I remember its hiss?)?
What cursed moon chose that dark hour
to light what loomed before us. What towers those,
like silent time in rows; windows spaced like empty eyes
staring (always staring, ah, those eyes!) at us?
What voice was it that screamed (was it mine?)
What echoed forth (do you remember?). And, at each door
that fed the mouth of each nescient tower,
a single chair with a pile of tinder
and a nameplate. The first bore yours.
There is a dead bedbug wedged between the cover and first page of a copy of the Gormenghast novels that was given to me once by a distant friend in a nameless past. In its death, it left no trail of blood. I estimate its death as some time between yesterday morning and late afternoon today. I imagine it scampered over the empty sheets of my bed, scouring this vast continent of dirty blue for a scrap of flesh, a sip of nourishing blood. Out of the sheer despair that routinely grips such creatures when hunger gnaws the windows of their minds and their senses start blurring and narrowing into a strait thin corridor of light, it perhaps sought to climb the walls of this Gormenghast. Too often, we forget ourselves caught in the throes of a feeling we cannot shake away like a fraying thread on a sleeve or a drop of bird shit. We carry it with us, we let it carry us in a headlong burst into unknown territory. Borders are forgotten, turrets, guns, the blinding shine of search lamps, all is unseen. She with the red tongue, she with the white eyes, a finger points and pew pew pew. Bullet holes sprout mysteriously, leaking mushrooms in the hollows between our ribs. A shriek will power us to climb the hills, the mounds, the highways in our way. And so it was, perhaps, that this bedbug clambered on, its insect mind howling for blood, blood, blood. A stray wind turned a page, held it close. Now I wait for my nails to grow longer and the holes in my body to re-seal themselves back to wholeness. Though everything is a single lengthening strand of light between me and the door and they are knocking and knocking and the hinges, they tremble. As the page trembles, the bedbug, the bedbug. Here, dead one. Here is blood.
“Hey, hey, Mithaiwala, what’s up? How’s monitor-giri working out?”