The Face in All Seasons


I’m no river

flowing toward the sea:

I must find my way

asking strangers in strange places

sensing soul, using insight.


The blank space between words

is the burnt skin of time

I couldn’t paint:

they stole the colours

and brush of the eyes.


There is no mirror to reflect the soul

except the acts one performs and motives

that guide utterances or gifts given

to remember the last dance which test fear

and sincerity in aloneness it pricks

one admits or brushes aside love shines

the face in all seasons in each land places

the self binds with its own light mirrors soul.


I don’t know how to follow the ridges

back to the trail and the dead river
but stand for a moment to rub the sand from my feet

before worrying about the lost vitality and fear

of the approaching night and rising smoke

dissolving in the sky or conspiring with elements

hardly in balance but contorting the psyche.
I don’t know what is there for me to hope

when the rains rejuvenate and flood both

the repulsive stench and the loss of pathways

linger longer than the flavour of the first drops

under the tree the puddle feeds no sparrows

but algae that couldn’t dry now trap tiny souls

that fail to swell with heaven’s breath.


Concealing mourning

in twilight gaze he explores

the shaping nightmares:

colours of the rainbow guard

the beasts at the day’s entrance.


They all walk with wounded feet seeking remedies

remain disturbed bargaining small pleasures in smallness

taint sun and moon and leap backward calling others turds

surrender to creatures created in impulse

unhealed, dance alone making moments more scary.


Looking for Taj in grains

through sand-storm find history

trapped between the toes

bleeding fingers draw

new domes of betrayal in

windy matrices.


Nobody bothers beheading women and children

with chainsaw in the name of God

Algerians torch their own watan

while in Zaire barbarians mull

sex of God and angels and soldiers loot

whatever they can to prolong war

like the Talibans who must spread

their values and shun truce for power

in the name of God turn the clock backward

imposing ordeals of all sorts

next door political fanatics

in the name of social justice

close eyes to sadhus killing housewives

teachers raping girls in classroom

and hoodlums burning women in slums.


Their rites of burning

incense, camphor, aloes, musks

match nuptial baptism

by sprinkling burnt nail parings

three eyelashes, seven head

hairs, seven pubic hairs

on her viands while he gets

the fare of crushed lion-

penises, cock’s testicles

and goat sperm to deflower maid

with or without mantra

or sacrifice at altar

can’t ensure Shiva’s

virility uniting

all the elements through earth

nor liberate the first

night in bed elaborate

genital enthusiasm

overflowing love

tender interlude?


The traps hidden in the candle flame

are the cages we make and unmake

to chart the future and yet fear

the emergency light at night

dream the concerns of slinky colleagues

and how to police their freedom

against owls, monkeys and bandicoots

that howl at each move to the lee

and yet pretend our poses intact

through several byways reach victory stand

breath by breath conspire against ourselves

only to hear the echoes that rise

or die down in silence the twangs

of memory reveal the pit

dug over the year or the earth

fermented with imaginary gains.


With sweat dripping down his legs he stands

under the gulmohur waits for the sun

to be less cruel at noon even

his shadow seethes in hot wind he thinks how

he’ll cross the whole bridge with dust blowing

over him every time a truck or car

passes by ridiculing his being

and the drying river oozing more sand

than promises of water to drink when

clouds burst in a month washing away

his shanty and all save memories.


Telling lies as truth at my door

they plant innocent graves

and taint their tongues with messiah’s blood:

they all aspire to godhood without cross

who can redeem their acts:

I’m no god or godfather to sacrifice

sun, spring, moon, morning breeze or rain

nor any gods of love visit my house

but it grieves to see so many martyrs

awaiting resurrection the short way.


The city shouts at anonymous strangers

seeking sojourn against puzzling hedgehog

and expectant past sticking future with choked

geniuses unable to flush their own muck

but embarrassed by lunar dust fallen from

nowhere stories prop to trigger riots all around

known and unknown faces bleed alike and they

bury histories or blame informers hired

to spread myths for non-payment cause shame to their

own kins and their own land turn epiphytic.


The morning in Banaras

along the Ganges

is no longer fresh:

smell of urine

dried and fresh excrement

merge with smoke, sweat and

stench of the rotting river

with eyes closed or open

it’s only the sight of

sexless genitals

or half-burnt bodies

that incite no nirvana

now infested with viruses

unknown to the city

dharma is eaten

by vultures in the streets

and the river awaits new birth

dream broker promise

in convulsion of lust.


A crow

picking sperms from his mouth

to feed anger

of an unwed mother

gang raped in the temple

dumb deity couldn’t father

the broken lives.


Drinking evening star

blue green patterns before eyes

no meditation

no god visits to forgive

the sinning soul in quietude.


Seven times he moves

round the vermilion god

under the peepal

sprinkling water to escape

the malefic Saturn.


Preaching Hinduism

they’ve lost God for politics

pull down churches

shed crocodile tears

killing the priest they kill truth:

pseudo seculars.


Naked children crowd

as I pass through the alleys

between smelly slums:

dogs bark to alert them to

the presence of a stranger.


Wild flowers everywhere:

out of the cracks in the cement

and plastic-covered tin roofs–

drains demarcate their spread

no matter uprooted

again and again they’ve nowhere

else to grow in a city

sinking under its own weight.


The bamboo garden

we picnicked and made love in

is now a concrete

managing environment

and pollution control.


More wintry shades

with sudden end of the sun:

the roof leaks again

unmasking the match

clouds play with the dying each day:

piles of frozen heads.


Their loose tattle

or loitering on the street

changes nothing

not even the hand they wave

to penetrate the body

surging like a wave

they image in the air and

end up wriggling worms

hiding through the thick hedges

digging the dark undergrowth.


He couldn’t change his caste

so he changed the religion

yet they didn’t change

nor could his small world:

the jackals, foxes and crows

couldn’t comfort the unease

of enlightenment with sky

as a coverlet for gods

the cage still pursues

in search of a bird and he

fights his battle alone

in hope of the sun.


It hurts to see my country die

slowly and steadily after

50 years of self-rule

many look back to the late ’40s

even now it smoulders

may burst into flame

it hardly matters

the new rulers are blind

to common man asking

a fair share and honest rule

everywhere obscenities stare

I worry my country is dying

with too little democracy

too much Hindu and Muslim

too much rich and poor.


The site readied for

another test on the sea

a Hiroshima

in the name of peace

politics of dominance

poisoning the poor.


A slice of my sex

forcibly cut

I can’t void the fear

nor explain

what it means

to be homeless

in my own home.


The otter watches

a duck walking on

the frozen river

icicles drop bit by bit

from a lone tree.


The lone fish

unmoving at the bottom


depth of the pond

height of the sun

or length of my shadow

I can’t stand

the heat and look for

the boudoir.


The painted paper-god and Christ on the cross

stand on the dawn-coloured wall of my bedroom

watching sex, prayers and restlessness each night.


Stretched between son and daughter

the mother has no time

to sleep with husband:

crying alone in pain after

midnight peeking out at stars.


He takes out the letter

and writes a poem on its back

recalling the last words

wind whispered through the few stars

still shining in the sky.


The sun of knowledge

shining through the beer bottle

under the neem tree:

carousing, singing in praise

of gods and ghosts that never drank.


The heat inside will

reduce with the flow of blood

and cactus may bloom

in desert of flesh again

the heart may feel the wave.


Taken out of me

the bone of my bones

I grow into her and be

each night discard the covers

seeking each other

return to the ancient nest.


I wake up

with longings of night


of love melting

dropping between

secret images


still-born poems

at midnight


her feminine hold

in lonely sun.


The truth of our

togetherness is more real

when we lie filling

our body with each other

silencing sensation.


Waving arms of trees

conspire with overcast day

to drench again

the two of us look for shade

under leaking umbrella.


The smile you weave splits the sun

I lose my direction in clouds

that cover the banks darkening

the white of the lake moon kissed.


Sifting days

from the past 50 years

we two reveal

secrets to each other

unshared over a drink.


The nude reads his skin peeling eyes

and curses the crumbled canvas

the wrinkling hands couldn’t set:

she suffers naked burial

for simple art crudities.


They descend from the ship

anchored on her navel

to paint sexact on thighs

and flowers and vines on breasts

before sailing backward

tattooed a lingam

devouring the sea.


Looking at her face

for the glint of her nosepin

or risk of renku

they couldn’t finish but form

in their eyes together.


She thinks a tight bra

Makes her look younger:

my touch pains the breasts

I seek to caress each night

she puts me off saying

I’ve ruined her figure

authored wrinkles and marks

on the thighs and belly

with my lust made her

suffer back and knee ache

et cetera, et cetera

and avoids those long kisses

that turn her on during

the periods challenging

my testosterone level

for a flush of relief

tonight she unhooks

whispering the season’s end.


She complains

I’ve dropped her from my album

fragmented memories

I wonder how to

fill the space between corners

with fresh images.


Before the foamy

water could sting her vulva

a jellyfish passed

through the crotch making her shy–

the sea whispered a new song.


Her eyes wash the kitchenware

and the fridge painted last year

there’s no water but stains

impatient as ever

even whispers annoy

she wipes vermilion

over-dusted in alcove

incense unuttered prayers

the goddess smiles her blessings

a hand splits the sun’s layers.


Raja Rao rightly said

” Women, all women, speak poetry

whether they are talking of

houses or aluminum vessels….”

My wife said this morning

Sudha gave birth to a girl-child

as she ate tamarind too much

the other day when I said

she’s still a raving beauty

she smiled: ” There’s life in the old bag yet.”


Wrapped in colours they wave the full moon

sipping tea in kitty part whisper

fresh rumours to share in bed or confound

fellow seekers in mushroom field next

morning curse the sun for rising early

end of mossy dreams dripping new puffballs.


To mark or conceal

his identity he leaves

the fleshly signature on night

and blames the sun after years

mulching between bites and laughter

he boasts he’s his own person–

no maso or horny– but

he’s no different in restroom

if she doesn’t mind it between
peasoup, pee and staple of breasts.


Grapes, gin, lime-cordial

and poetry of semen stars:

it’s a changed cocktail

before lunch to kill love or

touch the heart to change

the snake into bird.


Unable to clean

the cobweb of years he eats

the passover meal

but forgets to wash the feet:

now drinks good friday prayers.


Swallowing capsules

he trusts in absent healing

seeks intercessions

to cure allergic asthma

and the cyst not contracting.


It is not the form

or disposition alone

but the expression of thought

and the movement of body

that make her dear

to a man of art

whose love nature multiplies

each time he seeks her congress

with worries of an age

and ejaculates pleasure.


Sharing darkness in more real

than action on the screen

we stay unfocussed in a corner:

whisper the lose lingam on stone ring

in the old temple and pink and grey

laughter, shafts of sunlight, rain and

muddy rubbles, squeezing, curling arms

scanning inside, sensing voiceless changes

again plan for the day after two hours

the same old thoughts and never-ending acts

keep flowing like the stream through stones learn

the tongues water speaks in clutteredly.


I miss the sensuality of night

in icy bed the noisy breathing

holds no hope: there’s no drug to hoodwink

time that’s ever young or climatic

now the needle stabs each time I try

to sew the earth and sky or the waves

crashing on the belly that was truth

the seeds have dried inside no rains

can revive the lost world or create

anew I can’t hook fish with changed

position can’t push invaders

riding the chill to seek meaning

in chaos hurt depth of fluid bones

that could become magic warmth of sun.


I don’t know the constitution that happens

but the makeup matters: they see her novelty

or measure her from the bra over the top

I see the rain take off her underwear outside

the trousers that challenge liberty and pride:

she curls around to hide what she wears inside

and reveals much more, her flame and fragmented being

the day’s fabric in frail linen, dying night and

an absence: I see the colour change to cover

to make distances from the moral remains

and shadows of lowing cows in dried pasture

mate with throbbing dreams that look for space in the eyes.


I kept watching for some stranger

to come and execute one last miracle

my hair grayed but no one came

I couldn’t push time locked in my room.


A fear always lurks

shapes into nightmares

through sleeplessness image

loss of love haunting

since birth shadows chase

featureless but squeamish

now hard to make out

watery squiggles

swimming across the shore.


I don’t like to get lost in the crowd

or remain a non-entity feeling low

in my own eyes even if my host

is too high to shake hands with I know

he won’t remember my name or face

after reception he’ll go west and I’ll

turn homeward with numb feet in shame perhaps

cursing myself for smallness or shrunk

before fawning connections and banal shows.


Life doesn’t end with joys

of a day or two: it’s long

long time of living

ups and downs and forgetting

the happy and unhappy

in a short span and aging

with memories that become

self in action, our karma

moulding the life to come.


In the stillness of morning

hangs fog like smoke veils

her waiting in street

I watch my window

wavering shadow

announcing death.


Where will I reach running

with gluey feet on gashed earth

a relentless sun licks

leftover or a dying day.


Not that the world I see

is different from the world I dreamt

or I forget that I’m part

of my mother who scolded

in love it’s often late

to realize truth through grains

of wheat and petals of blood

here the crooked trees and stones

dictate the length of fire

not extinguished for ages

now awaiting justice

of the earth and its scammed owners.


I wasted my life

weaving it into hopes

that could never become

love or faith: now coping with

signs of degeneration

there’s no magic wand

to bring back the lost years

— howsoever unhappy–

the dreams of living were true:

even now I seek freedom

of a wider world

eloped with reality

I couldn’t change with wishes:

the destiny shackles

and anonymity shrouds.


I couldn’t find a charismatic guru

so made the idol one looked at the red face

any time I needed help and guidance

in the silence of my restless mind searched for love

and life’s purpose my ersatz faith couldn’t give:

the professional spirituals enraged the soul

as I ran into the cave to come out

of darkness tricksters encircled the exit steps

I could feel the shadows spreading their wings

my heart trembled at the shock of the ringing bell

now I fear opening my eyes to the sun

no iron hands could hold to burn the years’ garbage.


How long can I grow without roots

or make way for what is approaching

in digital noises I can’t be

inheritor of arrant cowards

smelling the arse on their fingers

nor can I be the priest checking

the burnt tongues to test criminals

stiff with cold I’m tired of animal

struggle for survival and last rites

in candle light digging cursed

treasure for night songs others croon

I can’t decipher names in smoke

nor forget the faces emerging

from the matrix of tremors

that are islands to shackle

feet in silence close the cycle

of the waters that feed the sea

I feel the lumps hinder and pain

now its time to break off and bury

the ash in the earth and plant afresh

foliage for rains or sun to nurse

a destiny I could take pride in


My years upon me

keep me from finding myself

in joys of love-making

under a groove of trees

or walking down to the stream

for a swim together:

the valley in greybrown

is now a burden

I must throw off before

the woes of collapse.


I want to burn the fallen leaves

but fear the flame will hurt the trees

I can’t stand the stench rains bring

the backyard is too big to clean

I can’t rescue my habitat

nor trim the trees for better light

this all reflects the shambles made

for disco of convenience

why regret burial by

taunting helplessness now?


The earth won’t wait for my dust

nor the sky hold rains till I descend

and someone places a stone

to remind how I couldn’t live

my wild ambition and destiny

couldn’t leap to being I was not.


I wish I had the freedom

to breathe a moment more or less

but I live my ignorance

each moment challenging myself

its no spiritual claptrap

but a blind can’t lead the blinds:

my poems without body can’t

breathe the spirit I want to feel.


I seek images for

my wordless experiences

in loneliness commune

for meaning in the world

lessen lonesomeness

for a moment and again

suffer the same angst

and frustration of failure

in haiku silence.


The poet doesn’t know

when words become poetry

or what he intends to say

he just says what he says

knitting together thoughts

ideas, feelings and

memories into a form

which looks good at the first glance

creating more meanings

in readers’ consciousness

that each one sees different sense

denying complete absorption

yet thrilling the spirit

so much that they read it

again and again and be

one with the poet.


Frazzled at the day’s end

when I smell her flesh

she curses my knots

and the two decades

of living the same routine

in kitchen and bed

and nowhere to go

in shameless convenience

I release my tensions:

she kicks my image

in the little pool of blood

and buries sex.


What is this world

with PCs, internet, e-com

robots and cloning

the moon and mars

remain lifeless as here without

roads, power and house

they dream I T

satellites, aerospace and

silence cries for water

honest bread and peace

the hungry billions seek

no hi-tech slavery

the global cheats promote

liberal economy

stealthily purvey

rights and environment

with politics of control

doom the future.


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