VERSE | CHECKMATE

I’m in the throes of such exhaustion 
At all of this deception
This shameless commandeering
Of the resources of our nation
This unbridalled corruption
This lewd and shameless arrogance
This swagger, this ostentation
Like a monstrous pile of steaming
Shit!

I feel so much frustration
Such griping exasperation
At this propaganda, misinformation
At our barefaced prostration
To the lords of subjugation.
At our global commoditisation
At all this brazen exploitation
Like the hapless one who’s used to hearing
Checkmate!

VERSE | IN THE SHADOWS OF NIGHT-TIME

LISTEN TO THE POEM BEING READ AT: https://vt.tiktok.com/ZSdaYMvKB/
I’m looking out through my balcony door
The glass gleaming - I never miss that
That sheen itself is a pleasure to see
The gloss, the shine makes my heart glad

Then I look outside at the city lights
Some glimmering others sunny bright
I look beyond at the skyline that now
Boasts a few high rises above the eighth floor

My mind telescopes into some homes
But please hold that thought, don’t let it roam!
It’s not a voyeuristic enterprise of the mind
It’s reading the drive behind the grind

What makes that man who lives alone
In a one room apartment on the third floor
Wake up day after day after day?
What makes him go out his front door?

What special dreams has he woven with time?
Which ones has he decided to leave behind?
Is the light in his eyes still glowing bright
Or is he just stolidly marking time?

That woman who is holding down
Two jobs in two different parts of town
What is she hurrying and scouring for?
What makes her oblivious to her aches and her sores?

That young boy barely into his teens
His moustache is yet to take place of state
On his young, adolescent face
What is he doing out on the steets so late?

The young girl who sits up late by herself
Stitching joras* that must go on the shelf
Of an elite boutique. Do her dreams still speak?
Or are they now mute wraiths of themselves?

In the pit of my stomach lies a spot of guilt
The quickening of my heart tells me the truth
Of the relentless grind, the killer odds
But I tell myself - what can you possibly do

The gleaming door now to my back
I look over my balcony railing this time
Beyond is a world that is dusty and raw
My own pleasure wanes in the shadows of night-time
* Jora: In Urdu, a set of clothes, usually shalwar kameeze.

VERSE | OUR HUMANITY-FREE DIET

I’m in Karachi after two and a half years of Pandemic gridlocks, and it’s been a whirlwind of a homecoming. Besides grappling with the major and minor curveballs that my micro and macro environments tend to throw at me off and on, I have also been able to indulge in some nostalgia: found my little book in which I’ve put down a few poems that I’d written in my teens. Even at that tender age, external stimuli hit hard! 😅 Below is one of my verses from my adolescent days.

I was walking through the woods one day
With my thoughts in a turmoil
Oblivious to nature was I -
To the trees and the grass and the soil

I was attempting to decipher
The meaning of strife and war
Was it political agitation
For the enforcement of a law?

Or was it as I believed the cause
Of a moment’s disarray
Of a value old as age itself -
The simple Human Way

Where was the compassion that
Bespoke the worth of one?
Had the shield of dignity and love
Been replaced by the gun?

Where was the pride in good deeds
Where was the humility?
Was everything really shrouded by
The veil of frailty?

Frailty of causes
And frailty of sense
Had the once true noble values
Become a mere pretence?

I was looking for the answers
I was seeking a refuge
From the grief and the confusion that
Had overcome me like a deluge

It was then that I heard whispering
The soil, the grass, the trees
“You already have the answers
Now you only have to see

When man was made a brother
Unto the other one
The moulding of a sacred
Tradition had begun

So when war threatens to break this bond
Their spirit shall hold them fast
For that was always meant to be
Unto the very last”.

VERSE | HEARTBREAK

I feel a rage 
It’s not the flaming, blazing kind
Nor is it the hating kind
It’s disappointment mixed with hurt
A betrayal mixed with cheerlessness
It’s a whipping, bruising buffeting
It’s a faded, jaded trustfulness
It’s a crashing and a burning
Without smoke, without fire
It’s the turning into ash
Of something held so close
Of something tender and so dear
Of a precious, precious thing
Of a pearl old as the years.

I feel a rage
But in its manifestation
There is no acid hotness
Only a painful heaviness
That sits mostly in my throat
Huddled there, straining to emerge
In tears or in words
I’m capable of neither.
Even as it squeezes me
Choking, asphyxiating me
In its throttling stranglehold
I’m hoping for some peace and grace
Hoping even in the throes
Of this weary, bleary rage.

KIDSBOOKS | THE CHEEKY GALA

There was once an apple 
The Gala variety
She would preen and pose all day
For all the world to see

The other apples told her
To be fruity and be kind
To watch the world quietly
But Gala paid no mind

One day while the apples
Sat in the produce aisle
A naughty little child came by
With a naughty little smile

They looked at him quietly
Maybe he’d go away
But Gala preened, oh she beamed
She loved being on display!

The little boy saw the apples
And almost passed them by
But then as she did a little jig
Cheeky Gala caught his eye

He pounced on the dancing fruit
She would be his lunch
Your imagination should tell you that
The next sound was a - “Crunch”!

KIDSBOOKS | THE SCARECROW PROTOCOL

Hi ho! I’m a scarecrow 
I’m made of sticks and sawdust
Any clothes that you don’t want
I very happily adjust

Your little shirt might be too small
Your pants may come to my knees
But I just take some sawdust out
Wearing them becomes a breeze

So if you see me somewhere
In a field or in a glade
Drop off a scarf, a glove or a hat
Or a drawing that you’ve made

If you can put them onto me
That would be just a charm
But if they don’t fit, sometimes I’m big
Then just knot them on my arm

And if I’m already wearing
Too many clothes and it is hot
Don’t share any outer wear
Just wave and say good luck!

And that’s the Scarecrow Protocol
For all who pass us by
Sometimes it’s your clothes we’d like
At others, just a friendly hi!

KIDSBOOKS | THE WONKY TOY BLOCK

There was once a toy block 
The kind that’s in a set
Of twenty blocks all sharp and square
Some blue and others red

Bendy Block stood starkly out
Because she was quite grey
She also had one dented edge
That made her lean sideways

While the other blocks climbed up
To build a tunnel or a house
Bendy would lean back and watch
As timid as a mouse

She’d straighten to ninety degrees
From the surface where she sat
But within a minute or two
She’d slowly lean right back

One day the building blocks all heard
A loud crash from within
The family photo had fallen down
With a mighty gust of wind

The glass was whole but the stand
Had broken into two
The lady tried to mend the break
With a tube of super glue

But that didn’t work so she looked
Around for inspiration
She spied the bendy little block
And used it for elevation

The photo with its smiling faces
Stands again up on the dresser
Bendy is the happy prop
As the frame now leans back on her.

KIDSBOOKS | THE LONELY SNOWMAN

There was once a snowman 
He had a heart of gold
He had stood in that one cold spot
For a hundred years or more

He had not seen sign or form
Of any man or beast
And so he had just waited on
Patient and solitary

It was over a century
Of his being in the expanse
That he saw the shadow of …
Could it be? Yes, a man!

He tried to wiggle his carrot nose
But it was frozen solid
Just like his eyes and his mouth
So he focused his energy inwards

He thought of jolly polar bears
And penguins in the sun
And then he thought of ice cream
Chocolate seemed like fun!

With all these happy musings
He started melting inside out
The little trickle from his eyes
Became a gushing spout

The man then saw the snowman
And came up close to him
He held a little cup up
And had a little drink

Then he took his scarf off and
Gently wrapped it around
The shrinking neck; it was a thank you said
For the kindness he had found.

KIDSBOOKS | THE SORROWFUL NUMBER SIX

There was once a lonely 6
Who lived with all the 9s
He was always bullied
For his minus three design

The 9s would throw mathematical
Enigmas out at him
“3 times 3 or 5 plus 4
Will never be your thing!”

6 would mope around all day
Adding and multiplying
Sometimes standing on his head
In hopes of becoming 9

But a solid 6 he stayed
Not budging to even 7
Despite using big numbers
Like 17 minus 11

Then one day a little girl
Came and sat at one of the desks
She was all of 6 years old
With 6 curls on her forehead

When the teacher asked her to
Choose her favourite number
She pointed to 6, and then counted it
Out on her little fingers

That special day the whole class drew
Pictures of the number 6
Amid bright flowers and super powers
On every page he skipped.

KIDSBOOKS | LITTLE COW

“Get away from me, Little Cow*
You’re blocking out the light!”
Shrieked a ladybug pushing
Little Cow’s ample behind

Little Cow sighed in sorrow
She hated her portliness
It got in the way every single day
It dampened her happiness

Little Cow was a ladybug
But she was quite gigantic
And so she was forever being
Screamed at and chided

One day there was a snowstorm
It became so very cold
The little bloom of ladybugs
Huddled under a log

But the wind soon blew off
A big piece of the bark
Leaving the ladybugs beneath
Freezing in the dark

That is when Little Cow
Spread out her mighty wings
She gathered up the whole troop
In the cuddly warmth within

The cold spell passed eventually
And out the beetles crawled
They sang praises of Little Cow
Her bigness had saved them all.
* Little Cow: Ladybugs are sometimes called Little Cows because of their fat, rotund bodies

KIDSBOOKS | THE ELEGANT DUO

Shelby was a graceful snail 
Folks said he had blue blood
His shell had a lovely turquoise tinge
He buffed it with wax and gloves

From leafy shrubs to the ground
He’d slither and he’d glide
He’d peer at all who came his way
With a monocle on his left eye

He never spoke to anyone
Not the earthworms nor the flies
The lady snails and the misses slugs
Looked on with great big sighs

But master Shelby stayed aloof
His heart was not a prize
To give to pretty girls who would
Gaze at him with roving eyes

One day while he was gliding along
With his monocle and cravat
He saw the most exquisite toad
With an umbrella and bowler hat

He slowly moved his eye stalks
In gracious acknowledgment
He was a toad with taste, so he made haste
To say hello to the gentleman

It has now been five years since
that elegant friendship was made
Shelby Snail and Toad O’Toole
Are still the very best of mates.

KIDSBOOKS | THE GREEDY MARMOSET

There once lived a marmoset 
On the edge of the Amazon rain forest
He was especially friendly,
He loved all of the tourists

Mangoes and bananas
Would always lure him out
He would greedily pop these
Into his little mouth

His parents always told him
“Be thoughtful little son,
Don’t be such a greedy glut
With your sisters do share some”.

But Marny and his tummy
They had other plans
And so he ate and ate until
He was a pudgy ten ounces

One day while sitting in a tree
Waiting for folks with treats
A harpy eagle spotted him
And plunged down, ready to feast!

As Marny scrambled to escape
His tummy got in the way
The raptor would have snatched him up
But his mummy saved the day

They say Marny is a changed primate
A sweet, generous furball
He meets and greets his visitors
And then shares his food with all.

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