VERSE | MOON SONG

The full moon slips into my room 
With her gentle spotlight
I transform into a diva that has
Cozied up for the night

The moonlight glimmers on my skin
Soft and translucent
I become a mermaid in her cove
Glistening after a swim

The moon also teases her way
Where angels fear to tread
She’s not afraid of my dark spaces
That lie grey and heavy as lead

The silver shimmer of the waxing moon
Conjures my quickening wings
I fly to where the eagles dare
Where fairies laugh and sing

The lady glows and off she goes
Leaving starlight in her wake
She moves towards another heart
For to gently gleam awake

The moon tonight has shared her light
And lit up visions and dreams
I watch her glide off silently
From lids now heavy with sleep.

VERSE | KIDNEY-STONED

There’s an ache in my kidneys 
It’s stuck fast to me
It seems to go deeper
Than just physically

When I least expect it
The pain creeps up on me
Like a divine messenger
Whispering its prophecy

I clutch my aching flesh
On my left or my right
I press desperate fingers
On the tormenting side

And then I hear the words
As they form in my head
The pain cannon-balling them
Into shooting threads

It’s a manifestation of
Trying hard to fit in
Of being torn to pieces
Every single day within

It’s the gathering storm
On every page in my feed
Of a debt-propelled suicide
Of a billionaire’s feast

It’s the hungry eyes
That sit in their deathly sockets
It’s the bloated engines
Of Mars-bound rockets

It’s people breaking out of
Society’s pristine box
To be trodden underfoot
By the conventionally orthodox

It’s the clamour of politics
Economics and faith
It’s the thousand new ways
We resent and we hate

These barbs sit inside me
Each waiting its turn
They’ll wound and they’ll lance me
Until they’re felt and they’re heard

There’s an ache in my kidneys
Of a tragedy that’s new
Or one that’s lingered awhile
And now is screaming its truth.

VERSE | ATOMIC GRIEF

When I look inside of you 
Into the very depths of you
Do you know what I see?
Two stormy mushroom clouds
Looming wetly in your eyes
Grey harbingers of doom
They roil and linger in the room
I’m afraid; I’m mesmerized
Then Boom! Everything is gone
In the ferocity
Of your atom bomb
Atomic, Anatomic, Catatonic
The fearsome stillness after the storm
Your atoms ravaged out of form

When I look inside of you
I see vanquished fields beneath
The clouds of smoke and acid rain
I see the skeletons of trees
The mucid ashes of flowers and bees
They were rustling, bustling, hustling
Their atoms dancing merrily
You plucked each atom from its orbit
In the fierceness
Of your tragedy
Calamity, Catastrophe
You heaved your mighty weight upon it
Smote your world beneath your feet

When I look inside of you
I see the heaving cosmos
Suns and planets whirling, swirling
In the vast blue-blackness of space
Meteors like fireworks
Blazing exultant trails
Shimmering tails, star-burnished sails
The firmament a holy grail
You crush the heavens in your fist
You flick your angry blue-bruised wrist
The sky comes crashing down
Molten lava on the ground
Seismic vapor all around
I can taste it in my mouth

But when I look at you from here
You sit there statue-still
Not an ayelash moves at all
You are transparent, mystical
Ethereal, apparitional
But within
Clandestine, Hidden
There are ragged storms
Carrying sand and ice alike
I feel a chill in my bones
And all of hell’s feverous might
And all the while you look at me
Your skin shrouded in serenity
While in a loop, relentlessly
You break and shatter on the inside.

VERSE | A BLOOM OF ONE’S OWN

Sometimes I’m a foxtail orchid 
Needing extra care and warmth
Sometimes I’m a leaf skipping
Where the wind takes me along

Sometimes I feel fresh and light
Like just-cut summer grass
Sometimes things get cold and grey
Then I’m the winter frost

Sometimes earth’s shadowy arms
Are where I want to hide
I’m then the discreet Cereus that flowers
Once in a great big while

Other times my gladdened heart
Beats strong and rhythmically
My courage drapes me like a cloak
Then I’m the intrepid weed

Every day brings a new avatar
A new sensibility
I hug the day that comes my way
Or watch it drift from my safe niche

Nature’s blooms that make up my being
Rest in their special spaces
Each day I become the seed that keeps
Life marking its measured paces.

VERSE | SADLESS

My thoughts sometimes
Become like rebellious kids
They dart about my head
Swarm into my hippocampus
Making me sweat
I race after them
Calling to them
But they don’t heed me
They’re chimerical beings
Elves and pixies and aliens
Coins and marbles and peeling paint
A stubbed toe, a tired saint
A fierce cupid on a fountain
Rose bushes that run riot
And then I just lose sight
Of them at all
I hear the silence
Numbing, thrumming, sometimes strumming
Through my brain

Then I see them again
They’re out on the streets
They’ve run free, leaving me behind
They’ve escaped the prison of my mind
I watch them from afar
Tumbling around
Laughing, skipping, rumbling around
Moaning, groaning, fumbling around
Far away from me
I’m featherlight now
I float above them
Like I’m dead
The leaden weight of life
Has dropped
I watch it tumble with my thoughts
Rumble, tumble, sometimes stumble
In its frantic vitality

I’m timeless, sadless, gladless now
E m p t y
I float away
In a silent conspiracy
Of air and nothingness.

VERSE | FOR NOW

Dappled sunlight 
Upon my skin
Warm, streaming motes
Kiss my neck
My arms, my face
Whispering sweet nothings
Caressing, comforting
My shoulders drop
The weight of the world
That sits on them
Like twin rocks
I’m no longer Atlas
Holding up the sky
Shivering
In its storminess
Legs quivering
Under its burden of sighs
And tears and loss
For now
It has all melted away
The coldness, the heaviness, the grey
For now
There is only a quiet joy
A rainbow sprinkling
Of dappled sunlight
Upon my skin
Thawing me, warming me
From within.

BOOK READING | RIOTOUS LOVE

Reading from my book of short stories, “THE GIRL WITH THE PAISLEY DUPATTA”. The book is available at Sarasavi, Barefoot, Jam fruit Tree, Expographics and Pendi in Sri Lanka and at Readings, Liberty Books and Paramount Books in Pakistan.

Many of the stories in this book are from outside the bell curve of our lives, embracing sensitive social elements that are spoken of either in subdued whispers or not at all: from the brutal vigilante justice dispensed in the name of religion in “The Gods of Fury”; to the harrowing custom of honour revenge in the “Sins of our Fathers”; to the patriarchal ruthlessness that so many young women are subjected to in the title story “The Girl with the Paisley Dupatta”.

Some of the other stories are of women and men negotiating life, love, friendship, careers and tradition in the sometimes tumultuous and many times limiting folds of their families and their communities: from the enterprising love affair of 61 year old Nighat in “Love in Rawalpindi”; to the shenanigans of a dancing queen in “Riotous Love”; to the complicated friendship between two middle aged unmarried society girls in “Days of Purgatory”.

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VERSE | VEINS

She looks at the leaf 
Its serrated edges holding together
A cosmos of possibilities
Of alternate realities
Of burgeoning opportunities
She looks at a vein
A cholorophyllated pathway of dreams
A vital, verdant, emerald seam
Running like a stream
From the heart of the leaf to one serrated edge

Nearest
To her wrist

Where her own veins have seared a path
Specific, stark
Chiseled from the magma of predestined fate
Pre-blessed, pre-set, per-fected
Once a rolling ocean of fluid dreams
Now quiet, grief-stained, shadowy seams
Of still water that never skips
Never dances; it stays gripped
Even as it drips
In the finite space of one blue-purple vein

VERSE | HEAVEN CAN WAIT

There’s someone you see who can use your help 
Above and beyond the 2.5 percent
That has been made obligatory on you
By forces of faith, of habit now too
Don’t think twice because you have done
Your duty as prescribed by the One
Go ahead, give some extra, don’t hesitate
Don’t hesitate. Heaven can wait

You’re going on your blessed Hajj number two
You’ve been good, devout and true
But the farmer working in your fields
He needs a liver transplant critically
He looks to you for a helping hand
Should you divert funds from your pilgrimage plans?
You’re caught up in a quandary of faith
Don’t hesitate. Heaven can wait

The colony that you pass everyday
The one with the shanties, a riot of grey
It’s residents are different, they don’t share your beliefs
But you’ve spoken to some, you’re aware of their dreams
Should you give of your blessed prestige
To those who believe in a separate deity?
God’s benevolence does not discriminate
Don’t hesitate. Heaven can wait

When you feel pulled in directions unique
That speak to your heart abundantly
But seem to lie in realms that are
On the twilit edges of well trodden paths
Still your cacophonous heart, and listen
To the flow of lifeblood in your veins
Let it take you up the streams it creates
Don’t hesitate. That’s where heaven waits.

VERSE | THE AB-SIND CLUB

This is a fond tribute to all the microscosms of colonial design and demeanour/ architecture and attitude that continue to faithfully roost in various cities across what was once the coveted Jewel in the Crown.

I’m having a day that’s making me feel 
More sterile than a beetle on its back
I’m walking on the thin side
Of breaking down, losing sight
Of my psychedelic, privileged life
I need some of the forgetting tonic
That Pir Buksh so expertly whips up
That makes me happy, schizophrenic
With every sip and every glug
I drink the potion, and I duly grow
My Abs synth-esizing my lost bravado

Suddenly they’re all like flies
On the periphery of my eyes
They cease to make me wince and curse
They cease to be a part of my universe
I sit back, bark an order
In Bloodhound, German shepherd tones
Throw a carcass, throw some bones
Throw a tantrum for good measure
The club becomes a pyramid
I’m at the top, the very apex
Those hoisiting it upon their shoulders
The club like a majestic boulder
Matter not, they sit there
Like a pile of boring underwear
They’ve seen it all but you don’t care
They keep it all precisely together
The erstwhile jewels in their imperial leather

“One more!” I shout in thundering tones
“Absinth me up quick bartender!”
Before I lose the precious threads
Of the delicate lace of elegance
Pir Bukhsh gives me some more manna
From the counter in the shadows
And I swallow and I glide
In the throes of happy amnesia
The absinthe in the Ab-sind club
Makes me feel so damn superi-a
Heavens be praised I’ve had a day
Like I’m lord of a castle in the UK
Indeed, the last few hours have made me feel
Like a hero in a Bollywood reel.

VERSE | GRACE

Are you ready? said he softly 
I was sitting and watching tv
For what? I asked full well knowing
The implications of that simple question

For your journey onwards from here
He said quietly in my ear
I stared ahead, I couldn’t look
Into eyes that held the whole cosmos

I still have things to do I said
Even as my heart filled with dread
I still have dreams and wishes said I
Even as I felt my mouth go dry

He waited watching me silently
His shadow was now a part of me
I took a breath and looked at him
His eyes looked back serene, glowing

I cried, I am afraid to leave
Even if I have always believed
That one day I must walk away
Wrapped in death’s final embrace

But that faith has always surrounded me
On the outside, while inside of me
Has grown a choking, gnawing terror
Of the day that you would appear

He took my hand and held it fast
My hand in his we touched my heart
The blue-gray fear that sat in there
Evaporated into the air

I felt my soul for the first time
Floating, thrumming, humming inside
I smiled even as the tears flowed
Silver, sparkling, love- hallowed

I laughed, I cried, I laughed again
Life was beautiful even at the end
I loosened the strings bound to the past
And closed my eyes as I breathed my last.
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UPDATE- New Book Release | SHIMMERING SCRAPS OF POETRY AND MADNESS

My book SHIMMERING SCRAPS OF POETRY AND MADNESS is now available at the following locations:

SRI LANKA:
- THE BAREFOOT BOOKSTORE
- THE JAM FRUIT TREE BOOKSTORE
- PENDI
- SARSASAVI BOOKSTORES (Available by next week)
- EXPOGRAPHICS (Available by next week)

PAKISTAN:
- LIBERTY BOOKS
- PARAMOUNT BOOKS
- READINGS

ABOUT THE BOOK:

The book is a collection of poems and essays, and as the name suggests, the contents of the 243 pages range from the sublime to the ridiculous; from soaring on the wings of ecstacy to struggling with overwhelming despair; from the capricious joys of matrimony to the dubious delights of singledom; from the profound ecstasy in a mug of steaming latte to the ardent disappointment in a less than perfectly brewed cup of tea; from the comedic to the somber and from the customary to the controversial, this collection of poems and features encompasses them all, and like a sore-throated bulbul (who also has some clear-voice days) I have sung them all for you.