The Wind-up Bird Chronicle #8*

a few weeks ago you were in the forest
wandering among the silk cotton trees, their flaming
red flowers littered on the path
mirroring the passion in you;
the various birds flitting on their branches
calling softly to you, while the animals
moved about quietly in the bushes
their deep silence entering you; here was
nothing to tell one moment from the next,
as if the wind-up bird kept winding back
the spring, resetting the world,
saving you from time and memory and pain
and you understood why Miss Saeki** loved the forest.

this morning, you heard the screeching –
the wind-up bird, loud and distinctive, a desperate
cry like the winding of a spring.
it doesn’t surprise you –
it makes perfect sense in fact
why you had to hear it today for the first time;
and you can feel it in the center of your chest
just as Murakami said, “Nearly all within range
of the wind-up bird’s cry were ruined, lost.”
so you wait for it,
knowing you should have never left the forest.

*The title is the title of one of the chapters in Murakami’s The Wind-up Bird Chronicle.
** Miss Saeki is a character from Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore
This poem is heavily inspired by ideas in both these books.

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Used goods

the peel of a banana,
the wrapper of a chocolate,
a much anticipated love letter,
the package a gift came in,
I found these in the trash today;

these once contained things that
people held to their lips gently,
tasting their sweetness,
inhaling their heady smell;

things that they embraced to their chest
and it brought them peace
and satiated their desires;

things that they swallowed down
their damp throats into hungry bodies,
filling their appetites and their hearts;

things that were once wanted
their essence extracted,
their purpose fulfilled,
their beauty enjoyed,
now discarded
into a pile of meaninglessness,
like a damp, crumbled, used condom.

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A walk through tea gardens


The mist hangs down this Saturday morning
as I step onto the wet, slushy path
we walked on the moonless night before
its ups and downs becoming clear to me now.
You will leave soon, and I am inhaling
the dense morning air, still infused
with rain that dripped on us last night.

My footsteps try to retrace our path
but memory is uncertain, as I recall
where my feet sunk into the mud and
where they were surprised by firm ground;
all the while the outlines of the tall trees
and sounds of the insects reminding us
that we were not alone in the darkness.

This morning though my eyes perceive through
haze, what had been hidden last night.
The promising green leaves peek
out from the top of the plants,
full of the hope of fresh flavour,
protected gently by many trees –
some flowering, some green and some leafless.

I find the sun trying to emerge from the thicket
of clouds, a single ray reaching me from between
the trees. It is chilly, as it was last night and
I think of what you said, and what I said…
but last night could have been about anything.
The mist still hanging low over the path,
I wonder what this morning will make of it.

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A couple of days ago you invited me to join you
in Timbuktu, a bar we had visited before,
several times; As we entered, the place was
a little crowded and Imagine Dragons sang

Not Today in the background. The conversation
flowed like a mountain stream in the Monsoon,
while the noise around us grew, and the alcohol
helped drown it all out. I remember being there,

orange lights in my eyes and seeing your smile
as you held my hand and squeezed something
like hope into it; and then called for
one more shot, by which time I was incapable

of refusing. We all know how such stories end –
with your head in the toilet, as your hair falls
over your face and you wake up next morning with
a million little hammers in your head.

Except nothing like this happened; I woke up this
morning, and placed one foot gingerly into a world
in which you don’t exist. Timbuktu after all, is a
remote place and to all recent memory, imaginary.

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Empty Cafe at the End of the Corridor

This evening you sit at a table way up front
unlike previous days, when your regular table
is the one at the back, next to the railing,
from where the soft breeze and violent rains
sweep in at you, in equal measure.

You like that table, hidden away from the counter
and the entrance, so you usually sit there unnoticed, you
and your coffee, allowing the calm in the air
to percolate in, even when the voices rage
all around the cafe, and inside you.

But today that table is covered in darkness;
you are late, the man at the counter tells you,
we have started closing an hour early. There
is no coffee left but you can have tea, he says.
And the counters are all empty, all the food gone.

It’s only business, they will soon shut down,
you’ve heard. The flow is ending, you can feel it;
when there’s no flow, stay still. Assume you’re dead,
Mr. Honda* had said. So you sit with your tea,
perhaps for the last time, and wait for the darkness
as they slowly turn out the lights.

(*From “The Wind-up Bird Chronicle” by Haruki Murakami)

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A Travelers Guide to Adventure

For the safest, most memorable,
most adventurous travel experience you must

Have an insurance policy, preferably
one which will take care of health, accidents,
loss of luggage, heart, mind and happiness
on those days when the adventure seems unbearable
and fear binds your feet; for those days when you
need to unload yourself and heal, a policy with
no starred terms and conditions.

Carry a bright and sturdy torch, for those
long, unplanned walks through the forest, when the
path just doesn’t seem to end and
you are tempted to drift off into limbo;
the torch will guide you and keep you
on-track, unwavering and nurtured,
until the darkness ends.

Own a life-jacket for any water adventures,
for when you are entering waters
that threaten to drown you, it will help you
stay afloat and keep breathing
until the rescue ship comes and carries you
off into another glorious trip; so even on the ship
keep it close to your chest.

Keep a painting or two – this may appear strange,
but what art will do every time you look at it,
is slip unnoticed into the spaces between your
thoughts and over the mounds of darkness inside
your body, and bring peace to both;
like the air inside bubble wrap
protects delicate pieces of glass in transit.

Always have a warm blanket; for those days
when the cold in your bones refuses to go away
after several rounds of drinks and with
the heat stolen from many warm bodies; I have
found that one made of memory works well,
filled with images, words, past adventures,
smiles, tears and music.

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A room without a view

there is an elephant
in one of the rooms inside my head.
it’s big, with old, gentle eyes
and ears that flap like flags
in the wind; and clean, sharp tusks
that belie its calm demeanour.

the mahout displays him proudly
decorated in burgundy and gold,
ready for me to sit on him and
ride the world; and the flow of
memory and time slows down.

i know, i know, i said
i have separate rooms in my mind;
time and memory are separate
parallel flows in each of them.
but have you seen the elephant?

so, the other rooms gather
cobwebs on their windows and when
memory tries to look out, its
hands are covered in soot,
the dust from the curtains leaving it
wistful and grey; and time
sits in the center of the wooden floor,
contracting into itself, waiting
for the elephant to move.

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