Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Quiet Storm City Cries

The first night back in Bombay after what feels like an eon.  Emerged from the shower scrubbed clean of the days filth and made myself the ritual coffee and sat on my favorite chair, with it's back to the open window and the evening breeze.  Plugged in the computer to my beloved speakers and played all of the songs that make me so happy.  And felt the rain begin behind me, and the rising of the noise from the street rise to meet it like an outraged lover caught in another petty infidelity.  Over the song I heard them argue, the rain and the city, and let a sigh escape from where I horde them like a miser.

The rain only came to try and cleanse the city of its self-loathing.  As it came every year.  And as it wept over her unrepentant and fallen lover, I felt my soul reach up to embrace her like a beloved aunt.  I whispered meaningless words that she said she appreciated nonetheless, wiping her soft, wet hands across my face and my lips.  And we stood there a while, the rain and I, barefoot in the damp, holding one another and looking down across the still shrieking city.

Last night I couldn't sleep.  I didn't know why.  Sleep and I being on such friendly and easy-going terms.  I lay my head down in my bed on my parent's farm, my favorite place in the world, at around eleven thirty at night, just done with a couple of chapters of an old favorite book I re-read from time to time.  I tossed and I turned, and I swatted mosquitoes and I went to the bathroom and I drank lots of water and I stared up at the ceiling.  It was around two am when I heard it.  My heartbeat.  Like an old war drum sounding the sighting of the enemy across the city walls of my spirit.  Barbarians at the gate again.  Tuh-duuhm tuh-duuhm.  Tuh-duuhm tuh-duuhm. On and on it pulsed, getting louder with every barely sucked in breath.  Battering at the walls of the storeroom in my chest, where I kept the joy I had so carefully collected over the ten days that I was ambition-free in the lap of my parent's secret paradise.

I knew why the drums were sounding.  I knew why I couldn't sleep.  I thought it was only me, but this morning when my sisters and I sat huddled in our airplane seats, they told me that they too couldn't sleep last night.  It was because we knew we were headed back here.  To Bombay City.  Where no matter the weather or time of the year, a storm crackled across the sky, its thunder shattering pavements and hearts, it's hurricanes blowing the roofs off the beleaguered multitudes pathetic hovels, and our resolve and our joys and our hopes out to the filthy Sea, and it's lightning, that we each carried in our eyes, like never-healing scars from a malevolent fire that we took so much delight in singeing each other with.

I felt the echoes of that Storm last night on the farm.  I felt the adrenaline flood my system at the thought of my impending arrival back into the heart of that tempest.  How could I not loose sleep?  This thing was designed to be a breaker of hearts and men.  It was a sentient presence, vast and hungry and vampiric, that took the best of us away, filling the holes with only empty yearnings and fatigue.

But here I sit.  Upon my favorite chair.  With the ritual coffee dancing its way into my belly.  And the sound of the rain...

This isn't meant to be a negative piece.  This is not me being full of doubt or fear.  This is me acknowledging my enemy.  Standing atop the walls of my spirit, shaking my spear in the face of that storm.  Batter me down, let your tyrant winds blow, let your petty thunders shiver my sky, let your lightning cause the very stars to flee from their night time perches.  I will not be bowed.  I will answer your storm with song, and laughter, and giggling fits that can cause temporary facial paralysis.

There are people here, full of magic and light.  Moments full of the most complete wonder.  Because they come to you in the midst of that quiet storm, like sudden visitations from angels you had gone weak believing in only to see at last.  There are conversations that flow like wine, music shared that strikes up every unplayed, dusty instrument in the long abandoned concert halls in you.  There are nights like these, where the rain comes down just as you're ready to feel alone, and washes the worries away.

There are nights like these, when the words fall with the rain, like secret missives from the stars.  Telling me that the quiet storm of this city's cries, will never break down these walls.  We will shake our spears at the enemy.  And though we may know fear, and we may feel weak, and we may be scarred, we shall never go down easy.  We shall defend our happiness and our dreams, until the dying of the Light.

Here I sit.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Overgrown Puppies

If I make the slightest sound in my room,
They come scratching at the veranda door.
Tails wagging, fur matted with rain and mud.
Noses pressed like children's hands against the glass.
How can I not rise from my desk,
Tired of struggling with the pen,
And this hateful, empty page?
How can I not  go to them?
Greet them, and try to hold them down,
As they bark and bounce and jump?
Shoving each other to make sure they're the first
To be petted and smiled at and cooed to.
After the initial gamboling ruckus is over,
Thakur flops down quietly at my feet,
Nostrils flaring like the flaps of a happy bird,
His eyes demanding, his paw pawing at my feet.
I could scratch him behind the ears for an hour,
And he'd still whine if I pulled my hand away.
Nawab is just happy to see his brother happy,
And comes up for a scratch or two.
All the while nipping his brother insistingly,
To come back out into the rain to play.
He dashes off and returns with a stick,
Or a chewed up ball, or even one of the flowers,
My mother's chased him around the garden for destroying.
Then they're off, litter mates, over grown puppies,
Mouths side by side as they dash off holding the same stick.
There they wrestle in the lawn, pushing and tumbling.
On and on and on.  They never get bored with each other,
They never grow unhappy.  When they get tired,
They lie down next to each other for a moment,
Until Thakur decides he wants another scratch.
And as I open the door to go back inside,
They slip in before me,
Big as the furniture in the room,
Playful as the puppies they shall ever be.
They dirty up the floor, paw mud on my clothes,
Then lick my face and my hands to make amends,
While I laugh and fall to my knees, trying to scold them,
But what's a little mud between friends?

Mother's Fifty Second Birthday

I woke up this morning,
In the only bed I've ever fit on,
Because it's the bed you bought,
Especially for me.
I woke up this morning,
Wrapped like blissful mummy in the sheets,
You chose over all the other sheets,
That were not soft enough for me.
I woke up this morning,
Like the child I will ever be,
In the most beautiful room,
I've ever slept in,
Because it's the room that you built,
Especially for me.

I washed my face and I smiled,
And followed the sound of laughter,
Out into the kind of sunlight,
You only find after a night of rain.
There you were, rising with a squeal,
Wrapping those familiar, soft arms,
Around all the jagged edges of me.
And before I could say Happy Birthday,
You said how good it was to see me.
How good it was that I could be here, today.
And we opened the presents together,
While your daughters sang the song.
Papa Bear joined in when he could,
His love shining through all the gaps,
In the song he couldn't sing,
Because he's never been good with lyrics.
Even to Happy Birthday.

The dogs barked and danced,
Around you as you laughed at every gift.
There's more grey in your hair now,
But it only frames your smile like a dusty halo.
And the newer wrinkles on your face,
Do nothing to hide the miracle I see.
We spoke and laughed and drank coffee.
Your two daughters made of laughter and fire,
Your son made of ancient hope and song,
And your husband, made of fertile earth and stone,
The kind they can rest cities on,
The kind that can sustain a forest.
One dog lay at your feet,
Running after something furry,
In his favorite dream.
The other lay in the corner alone,
But I saw him shyly wagging his tail,
Every time he heard us laugh.

There were dosas for lunch,
Fresh mangoes for desert.
Three cups of coffee each,
And the ice cream you keep,
Stuffed in that old freezer,
Waiting for the still joyous hands,
Of your incorrigible brood.
The day meandered through gardens of joy.
We spoke deep into the night,
I told you my stories, you told me yours.
We laughed and we shared our light.
You hugged me long and tenderly,
As I whispered Happy Birthday Mother,
And good night.

Then you smiled and said,
Today was the best birthday ever.
Especially because we could all be there.
What can a son say to that?
To someone of such depthless love?
Of perfect understanding and compassion?
Of light kisses and patience,
Even after the umpteenth fight?
For apple pies to make the Gods feel left out.
And the greatest shortbread cookies ever,
That you bake a batch of,
And leave in the center of the pantry,
Waiting for me, when I alight.  Every time.
I'm a poet because of you.I'm worth the breath I take,
Because of you.
I'm alive.  I exist.  I am happy.
Because you are in this world.
And you're thanking me on your birthday?
Silly girl.