Muscle Memory

I have heard that the body has memory –
walk, run, solve a Rubik’s cube, play piano, kiss –
it’s all muscle memory;
you can train your muscles to remember
the doing of anything,
until it is all one smooth motion;
and the memories of muscles
transform and grow into imagination.

***
I wonder what memories my muscles have;

do they remember
the warmth in my chest
as I pass by your former home?
the flutter in my stomach
from your whisper on a warm October night?
the melting of my neck
under your finger tips on a humid July afternoon?

do they remember
the collective drop of my insides
as I think of the time and space between us?
the restlessness in my limbs
from standing in a room you once stood in?

***
Today I crave pain;
I long to hold its malleable form
on my rough, jaded palms,
let it enter my muscles and travel upward,
replacing every memory they have.

My thigh muscles contract as I exercise,
I relish the burning in them,
the tingling of a single stream of sweat
rolling down my back,
the vertigo of being above myself,
at the boundary of possibility.

My insides shudder from unexpected chills
as my shoulder muscles surrender
after supporting a dislocated arm;
I bask in the glow of numbness,
of silence beyond the suppressed screams,
smiling stupidly at the corners of consciousness.

I will encode all of this into little impulses
and send it to my brain –
“pain”, I will label it.

Soon my muscles will only remember pain.

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Komorebi, or the sunlight filtering through the trees of leaves

meaning is the glimmer on a bunch of flowers
hanging gingerly from the bough of a tree,
as the rays of the sun trickle through the thinning foliage
and fall on the rotating petals;

it is the trellis the escaping sunlight creates on the path,
as it falls through the canopy of copper pod and rain trees,
so that one moment you are in the dark,
the next, saddled with a suffusion of light;

it is what you see when you close your eyes
and turn your face up to the muted rays
as you stand in the shade of the massive beech tree
whose shadow lands softly on the carpet of its dead blossoms;

it is the theatre of dancing squiggles on the inside of your eyelids
when the streaks of light falling on them
leak into your skin and you see them with your imagination,
caught as they are, like you, in this limbo of light;

meaning, like komorebi, is what remains of your experiences,
what diffuses into your body when you filter them
with something porous, like a word; and words,
like leaves do with light, hide as much as they reveal.

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Ephemera

Love is a bubble of soap and air,

made from a special soapy solution or a special trick
from the lips of a lover, an animated and radiant ball of air,

its wet, taut surface reflecting blues, greens and reds
as it floats in the gentle Mumbai night at Marine Drive,

looking like a colorful lantern with a flame visible from afar,
suspending momentarily in the humid, motionless sky;

in tune with peoples’ conversations in the background
it begins its slow dance to the oblivion of the sea,

its effervescence, so enthralling, so desperate, so joyful,
beyond words, beyond pictures, beyond memory, felled by time,

to be captured only with the eyes, as you warned me,
for to put it in a picture, would be to put in limbo

the bubble, whose destiny it is to splatter to the ground
and liberate the air from its liquid cage.

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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



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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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Timbuktu

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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