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 | 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.
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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
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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.

POETRY READING | JUST ANOTHER FAIRYTALE

My book SHIMMERING SCRAPS OF POETRY AND MADNESS is a collection of poems and essays, rumblings of the heart about the joys, the truths, the pain, the controversies, the funniness and the wonder that criss cross all our lives in one way or another.

The book is divided into five sections: Joy, Foot-in-the-mouth, Truth, Hope and Serenity. The Truth and Foot-in-the-Mouth categories are especially brazen and raw. As with most such uninhibited writing, the objective is to assail the sensibilities and even if just for a while, to look the truth right in its jaundiced eye. The other three sections are largely whimsical and uplifting very much like walking through a zen corridor, which I’m hoping, will also soften the sensory assault of the former two segments.

POETRY READING | MAYA

My book of poetry and essays SHIMMERING SCRAPS OF POETRY AND MADNESS will be available in bookstores across Pakistan and Sri Lanka at the end of December 2022.

FRIENDS IN SL can get their copies TODAY from the Jam Fruit Tree bookstore on Galle road in Colombo via call/ WhatsApp to 072-7268078.

Shimmering Scraps is a collection of poems and essays, rumblings of the heart about the joys, the truths, the pain, the controversies, the funniness and the wonder that criss cross all our lives in one way or another.

The book is divided into five sections: Joy, Foot-in-the-mouth, Truth, Hope and Serenity. The Truth and Foot-in-the-Mouth categories are especially brazen and raw. As with most such uninhibited writing, the objective is to assail the sensibilities and even if just for a while, to look the truth right in its jaundiced eye. The other three sections are largely whimsical and uplifting very much like walking through a zen corridor, which I’m hoping, will also soften the sensory assault of the former two segments.

NEW BOOK RELEASE | SHIMMERING SCRAPS OF POETRY AND MADNESS

Dear friends and family,

It is with great excitement and pleasure that I introduce my second book for the grownups – my book of poetry and essays titled SHIMMERING SCRAPS OF POETRY AND MADNESS. The book will be available across bookstores in Pakistan and Sri Lanka at the end of December 2022. Friends in SL can currently order it from the Jam Fruit Tree bookstore on Galle Road via call/WhatsApp to 072-7268078.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

This is a collection of poems and essays, humble opinions, rumblings of the heart about the joys, the truths, the pain, the controversies, the funniness and the wonder that criss cross all our lives in one way or another. I have compiled them here because too many times, we are witnesses to profound beauty, love, dreams, desolation, prejudice and injustice and yet, we forget.

The contents of these 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.

Scraps of Poetry and Madness is a phrase borrowed from that literary Wonder Woman, Virginia Woolfe. For in this collection too, there is a stream of raw and strident, passive and ruminative, joyous and grief-bound, mad and glad thoughts that run like a melody through the entirety of its spine; and like a sore-throated bulbul (who also has some good-voice days) I have sung them all for my readers.

VERSE | STARS

She carried a little bouquet 
Of golden-hearted nargis*
Her face flushed, her eyes bright
She was going to make a gift of them
To someone special.
The bus stop was empty
Save the woman with the flowers
And me. I had my phone in my hand
She sat on the bench waiting
Clutching her bouquet
I stood nearby, holding my phone
Watching her secretly
Trying not to spook her
But she was mesmerizing
In the tender enchantment
That surrounded her

The bus was late
She sat there almost motionlessly, quietly
But the thrum of her joyful energy
Was taken up by the gay bouquet
As it danced gently in the breeze
She wore yellow shalwar kameez*
With little white flowers
Or were they stars?
They were tiny, almost imperceptible
So small I was sure even she wouldn’t know
But they shimmered in her gaiety
She smiled as she adjusted the stems
The flowers bobbed back happily
She sat there like a painting
Full of joy and anticipation

The bus rolled in
Carrying its load of passengers
I lingered a while to see
The recipient of this picture of love
That waited brightly on the seat
Together we watched people alight
People go left and right
Until the last passenger stepped down
I climbed on, slowly, hesitantly
I sat down near a window and looked out
The bouquet now lay inertly on the bench
Its sunny heart wrenched
Where it had been clenched
In the ardent embrace of a pair of hands
Drenching it in the liquid warmth of love

They were stars, not flowers
On her kameez, five-pronged tridents
Piercing, lancing, shattering
The perfection of beautiful things
Hidden, Unbeknownst to her
The fault, I was sure, lay in the stars.
* Nargis: Daffodil

* Shalwar kameez: the long shirt and trousers worn by women in Pakistan and India

VERSE | DIFFERENT

I met her on the internet
We had a little chat
For fifteen or twenty minutes
It wasn’t more than that

The next day at 3pm
I saw my screen light up
There was a message waiting
She had not given up!

I smiled, nay beamed it was
Uplifting and sublime
That this lovely lass could one day
Be a real friend of mine

She had put up a photo
In the app display online
I tended to opt for staid old men
Quoting their pithy lines

The weeks they turned into months
She suggested finally
That we should meet up somewhere
For sandwiches and tea

I was torn, I was in two minds
To go or not to go
I had had some experience
Of dejection and of woe

But she seemed different
Grounded, honest and mature
So I bested my insecurities
Of one score years and four

I walked in early and sat down
I ordered a latte
I waited looking at the door
And then I saw her face

Gleaming, hopeful, expectant
She glanced around the room
Our eyes met for a bit and then
She looked away confused

She lingered for a while before
She glided out of there
With my disillusionment and coffee
I sat in my wheelchair.

VERSE | BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

It is beautiful, it is powerful 
Draping me like a queen
It is elegant, it is personal
It’s not for you to intervene

How I wear it, when I wear it
Or If I wear it at all
It is not yours to abuse
In your chauvinistic thrall

It is mine to choose and mine alone
If I drape it on one side
An embellishment, an adornment
Not a holy tent for me to hide

I choose if indeed I cover
My head or not at all
Mine to choose mine to use
To wrap around me like a shawl

In the end my garb, my hijab
My dupatta and my scarf
Are not for you to politicise
To legislate on my behalf

It’s mine to choose and mine alone
Not for you to rant and rail
To demonise and brutalise
Scrambling into realms of faith

It’s just free flowing fabric
There’s no honour in my veil
My virtue lies inside of me
And its not your holy grail

Angels never hide their light
They shine in its bright glow
I too choose a life for me where
Im free to thrive and grow

It has always been my choice to make
Not for you nor your most devout
Where I’m radiant and dignified
With my dupatta or indeed without.

VERSE | GRIT

For all the women and the men supporting them; for all those who get up every morning and despite all odds make it through the day surviving, shining, rising. For the friends and families of Sara, Mahsa, Noor, Qurat Ul Ain and of the countless nameless others like them: your grit is everything.

When it’s been tormenting
Day after day. With no respite
And I just don’t have it in me to fight
To battle on
When I’m war-weary
When there is no end in sight
And all I want to do
Is sit in a dark room
And let its coolness shroud me
Until I can feel the hair
Stand on my skin. There
Is suddenly more to the day
Than the heaviness in my heart
And the endlessness of the grey
That has been flowing, gripping choking me
Keeping me doubled down on my knees
There’s more beyond that malevolent mien
Images, memories driving me insane

Now -

Now there is also something
On the outside of me
A little chill
A little photo on the window sill
Both pull at me in different ways
One makes icicles
To sear through
The magma that has congealed
Inside of me
The other makes my blood flow warm
Streaming, coursing through my veins
Reminding me that I am home
My spirit and my fortitude
Still cloak my shoulders
Strong and true
I sit up straight
As they reverberate
Through every atom of my being
And they chant
An age old song
Of others like me
Who’ve fought on
Their hearts fused forever
With the loved ones they’ve lost
And I know
That I’m not wielding my sword alone

VERSE | SENTINEL TIME

Oh look at that beautiful dragonfly 
It’s turning somersaults
It’s peacock coloured gossamer wings
Perfect; without fault!
But you didn’t catch the fleeting glimpse
It bestowed upon this scene
You were on your phone lost in
Digital worlds upon your screen

Did you see that butterfly
Just sit upon my arm
Brown and orange-yellow wings
It was full of golden charm!
You missed its quickening beauty
As it said hello and went
You were caught in your own loop
Eyes down, heart still, head bent

I had to hold my breath there
That scene was so sublime
The grand eagle swooping down
And then soaring back up high!
Where, where? you ask me now
As you look at an empty sky
You were fretting, agitating
As nature sprang her wondrous surprise

Glittering dragonflies, murmurations
Eagles in majestic flight
A shower of blossoms, a ladybird loveliness
Nature exulting in life
Magical, mystical, shimmering marvels
Surround us at all times
Some of us get to revel in their beauty
Some stay trapped by Sentinel Time