Alternating light

i sat in an arm chair
next to the window,
a book in my lap, pondering,
hearing the breeze rustle,
staring at the trees
and the apricot yellow rays of dusk
leaking in between the leaves.

as I returned to my book
and slipped from my own
into anothers’ imagination,
you came to my door,
which I had left open –
perhaps by mistake,
perhaps hoping for company.

you turned on the lamp –
my favorite one, hanging in a corner,
the one with the rust yellow shade-
and i came out of fiction
into a different reality,
seeing everything around me,
in hues of amber and gold.

sit down, I said, and you did;
we sipped on some tea,
i spoke of my book,
you spoke of the world outside,
of its sights, its wonders,
its weather and its people,
while i listened, enthralled.

dusk turned to night,
the air stilled, and so did our words,
you got up to leave,
come again, i said!
we will meet when we meet,
you said, and switching off the lamp,
left through the same open door.

you’ve come several times again
just as dusk settles in,
never announced, never expected,
turning on the lamp each time,
talking, smiling, sipping tea,
always leaving when you wish,
always switching off the light.

on some occasions you stand
by the door, your hand on the switch
while you speak in mumbled words,
turning the lamp on and off,
switching the world from golden to monochrome
in a short painless instant,
as if it didn’t matter either way.

i am thrilled by the light,
the conversation and the laughter
and the interminable cups of tea,
so on days you stand at the door
waffling, i wait for you to decide;
most often you come in later,
and we speak like we always did.

on days when you don’t come,
i get up at dusk and turn on the lamp,
make some tea and read my book;
wondering if I ought to risk
another evening of uncertain light,
or get up each evening at sunset,
lock the door and turn on the lights myself?

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Poem in a picture

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Litost (Czech) : (Milan Kundera described the emotion as “a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery.”)
i wonder
with all the beautiful colors on the ground
i notice the gray skies first
despite the water droplets on the bright green leaves
i look at the mist slipping between the branches
despite the red gulmohar smiling at me
i notice the clouds dancing on the hills
i cleared away
pieces of my life
carefully preserved
in plastic boxes and paper bags
only filing away
a few representative moments
captured in silicon binaries
if i have the energy
to fill up more boxes?

or should i breathe in
the gentleness of memory
that returns
on rainy afternoons such as today
i can taste the prawns
salty and saucy on the outside
bland and meaty on the inside
that I bit into in joy
the day before
my heart broke
so exposed was it
in its shell-less simplicity
i read recently
that the God of love is bodiless
its true
love causes
bodies to melt
and spread into space
like the clouds in the hills
dissipating in the valleys
and entire lives
packed in cartons
hurled down trash chutes

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Shades of gray

I created memories from thin air,
Breathing deeply while you were near,
And hid them inside me,
Whispy popcorn balls of smell and touch.

When I later tried
To hold them in my hands,
The memories erupted
Into dreams and imagination.


The clouds crept in,
The darkest shade I had ever seen.
Swift, as though weightless,
Even though their chests brimmed with water.

They breathed on the mountain
Drafts of cool, turbulent air,
Suffusing the world with grey –
The trees, the flowers and memory too.

The mountain tried
To hold them in her valleys,
But the clouds burst
Onto the hungry, silver mountain.

Waterfalls gush down the mountain side
For days afterwards – a gift of the clouds;
And tears down my face,
For the dreams and imagination never end.

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we held time in our hands
and made it stay still,
like a cup of water waiting to be drunk,
and painted memories on its surface,
believing that, like water on a cool day,
it wouldn’t change.


i’ve read that some memories are hereditary –
children recognize people their parents knew;
i wonder if my daughter will know you
the minute she sees you
crossing the street in a strange land,
many years after I am dead,
and say to you,
“i saw you painted on her skin.”

or will you pass by her on a street
we never walked, and see on her face
the portrait of that time,
painted in the same color,
on the same canvas,
by a different brush.

it was a warm, rainy night;
i saw a tree in uninspiring green,
her branches almost barren,
standing up against a solitary light,
looking like a tree in Fall,
a memory of last season
or a sign of things to come?

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Viola stood on the hilltop,
dwarfed amidst the cedars and pines;
yet rising up straight and strong,
delicately carved in cream and grey stone.

Her lips are set in a gentle smile
and her misty eyes radiate goodness,
and they come from across the hills and seas
to lay eyes on a masterful sculpture.

The Strong Wind came often,
whirling around her for hours;
come away with me, he insisted,
and i will make you better.

So persistent was he that Viola agreed,
even to break the base she stood on
and walk away with him;
alas, separated from her base she fell,
face down into the mountain slopes,
while the Wind receded back to its home.

The Forces pushed her downhill
until she rolled onto the seashore;
there she pulled herself up
and stood up on the legs carved into her.

The Water came and played at her feet,
teasing and licking her toes when it pleased,
but never when she called, as she often did,
because the Water did make her feel good.

But the Water was careless,
it gently seeped into her as it played,
cooling and making her smile;
so she didn’t feel her insides weaken.

And then the Strong Wind came back
and squeezed Viola’s shoulder again;
she shook and broke and crumbled to dust,
carried away by the Water and the Wind.

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E for Escape

The sunlight in the leaves,
The sweetness playing inside flowers,
The breaths of ripe fruits,
The eyes behind your stoic face,
The feet resting on the ground,
The stories brewing on your lips,
And the realities being born inside your head –
They all seek me;
Searching with nimble fingers
For the opportunities,
The pathways to conversations,
The connections to laughter,
The bridges to anywhere,
That I allude to.
In reality though,
I am a book in a library,
Read and returned.
For I command a high price –
A security deposit –
Much more than I am worth?

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