Poem of the week: Week Twenty Four.

And the last poem for the month of June (finally): my second favourite from Manohar Shetty’s collection of poems Personal Effects.

Sleepless
-Manohar Shetty

I’ve forgotten the function
Of alarm clocks and how
Sunrise kindles the eyes.

By five, I’ve chainsmoked
To the dawn of early
Walkers, immortal tennis

Players; the pulp and starch
Of unread newspapers.
Exotica blooms in my good

Neighbour’s garden. In my
Unwatered patch, begonias
Go to seed, passion-flowers

Wilt and marigolds
Smell of funerals. I watch
The hands of the wall-clock

Tick backwards, time a
Flatline in my heart as morning
Blinks in the kitchen.

Leftovers rankle in the bin.
Flies lie dead
On the gas ring.

***

Aside

Poem of the week: Week Twenty Three.

The third poem for the month of June from Manohar Shetty’s poetry collection Personal Effects.

Transitions
– 
Manohar Shetty

He scans all four directions
Before crossing a one-way street.

The black blurs into grey,
The smooth into the 
Edgy as he drags himself
From one week to the next
Like a stray with three
Legs.

He recalls clearly the nick
Names, the leathery crunch
Of boxing gloves, the hum
Of the swinging ball and cane,
House colours sharp as the rising
Bell,

As the B&W TV screen, the ticking
Telegram in crooked capitals,
The trunk call at midnight
On a black telephone
Caparisoned on all fours like a
Sphinx,

The toady Ambassador and her
Padmini the only two mean
Machines, carrom and rummy, the static
Of Big Ben, the matinee at New
Talkies, the net of those hurlyburly
Days.

And stoned freaks who stole
The show without trying, the generation
Gap smoking joint between
Cool and square as he made
A hash of his time in bell
Bottoms.

But blown away by Camus
Plus Neruda and on the road with
Ginsberg and Kerouac, he caught a
Glimpse of something burgeoning
In Madame Bovary, Anais Nin and their
Ilk.

Now his heartbeats are the falsetto
Of a goods train on a creaking
Bridge over a river rank with
Debris. The last ten years
Are a blur but not the first
Twenty.

He can’t place a name
To a recent face or a cover page.
The crossword crowd tramples
On, red and amber. But he’s
Frozen on the green on an empty
Street.

***

Aside

Poem of the week: Week Twenty Two.

Second poem for the week of June is the one after which the poetry collection is named: Personal Effects.

Personal Effects
– 
Manohar Shetty

A few things he’ll leave behind
To no one in particular:
A gold necklace from his mother
Melted into a wedding ring;

Two first editions with broken 
Spines that may fetch
A small fortune, but too late
To pay the bills; a box

Of expired pills; a gold-nibbed
Fountain pen he refused
To write with; an Olivetti,
Its keys the seats
Of an empty stadium;

And clothes worn thin – he
Loved the comfort of old
Things: old letters, stopped clocks,
The patina in sideboards,
Fading photographs and paintings;

And, last, musty notebooks
And diaries empty of
Mythical poems and important
Jottings. 

***

Aside

Poem of the week: Week Twenty One.

The poet for June is one of my favourites: Manohar Shetty. And the first poem for the month of June is my favourite from his poetry collection Personal Effects. 

Forgetting
– 
Manohar Shetty

I don’t remember the broken glass,
The slice of lemon lucid as a new moon,
Your frozen eye, and blood
In the iced tea as your 
Translucent knuckles tightened on a
Fragment of glass.

I don’t remember that at all.

***

Aside

Poem of the week: Week Twenty.

Catching up feels good! Here’s the last poem for the month of May – the one after which the collection is named.

Mappings
-
 Vikram Seth

Now that the windsurfers have gone, equipped
With wine, some loquats and my manuscript,
I breathe the chilled gold of late afternoon
Along the lake-pier. The breeze ebbs. A tern
Pauses and plummets. Mallards manoeuvre through
The weedclogged creek. The hills slate into blue.
I stretch my towel out upon the pier
And read the bitter lines I once wrote here.

That was a younger self. I want to touch
His shoulder, make him smile, show him how each
Sorrow and failure that lacerates his heart
Can heal or numb itself: the limb trapped hurt
Of love; the search for what remains when we
No longer animate the geography
Of cell and sense; the unassuageable urge
For ecstasy and knowledge; parting; age.

A mockingbird begins a sunset song
Patched from the passions of five birds. I’m wrong;
That was no younger counterpart but one
Of a live clutch of egos. As I scan
My mappings of these selves – despondent, witty,
Calm and uncalm, lost in self-doubt or pity…
The courtier, soldier, scholar – I check the pieces;
All are still here, the old familiar faces

In one-to-one correspondence: words and moods.
The light has lapsed. I strip and swim towards
A wooden raft. The cool enveloping lake 
Merges with all I was and am. My wake,
The wine, my breathing, the recovering stars,
Venus, bright as a plane, Jupiter. Mars,
My pulse, my vagrant selves, my poetry,
Seem here to inhere in a seamless me.

***

Aside

Poem of the week: Week Nineteen.

Too many poems from Vikram Seth’s poetry collection, Mappings, are worth sharing. But there’s space for only four. This is the first ever poetry collection I have read from start to end without a break, and what a feeling it is! Should do this more often.

Here’s the third poem for the month of May.

Guest
- Vikram Seth

I woke. He mumbled things in the next bed,
I lay there for an hour or so. At four
The alarm rang. He got out of bed. He wore
Nothing. I felt his sleepy classic head
And long-limbed body stir my quiescent heart.
I’d thought that I was free. Wrong from the start.
I found I loved him entirely instead.

There was no real hope. Guy loving guy?
“Man – that’s a weird trip – and not for me.”
I accepted that. But next day, warily,
We coiled to snap or spring. Rash truth. To lie
Still could have spared the trust; the warmth as well.
I left his room that day. I try to tell
Myself this sorrow like this ink will dry.

***

 

Aside

Poem of the week: Week Eighteen.

Second poem (of the month of May) from Vikram Seth’s poetry book Mappings.

Home Thoughts from the Bay
-
 Vikram Seth

Down Highway 101 the van
Hurtles with all the speed it can
And all the passengers but one
Have jolted off to sleep. The sun
Strikes long apocalyptic lines
Of corrugated sheds, the tines
of Sutro Tower, billboards, wires,
The airport, scrap, discarded tires:
And I who must commute each day
Along the grimy-margined Bay
Dizzied by each high-octane breath
And tired of work and bored to death
And sick of home decide I ought
To check that surrogate for thought,
The Highway I-Ching – which today
States “Yield”. “Keep right”. “Go Back. Wrong Way”.
Should I fly home? Why am I here?
And yield to what? To whim? Fate? Fear?
Keep right… my eyes obey and there
Pursue a jumbo-jet to where
This afternoon high in the sky
A half moon loiters absently by,
Incognizant of why or what
Or where it ought to be or not.

***

Aside

Poem of the week: Week Seventeen.

May is long gone and the pile of poetry books on my desk keeps increasing day after day. Sadly, very few of them got read in the past two months.  But no matter, there are many more days to come when poems will be read and grasped; today is such a day.

Instead of a theme a month, I thought I’ll read and post poetry of a particular poet every month (yes, it is easier this way). This month’s poet is Vikram Seth; poems are from his poetry collection titled Mappings. 

Quaking Bridge
Vikram Seth

So here I am again by Quaking Bridge.
Standing a moment by the water’s edge,
Hearing the water’s roar as it churns past
The ancient brewery; and I am cast
Back to December when by Quaking Bridge
I stood a moment by the water’s edge
And heard the water’s turbulence and knew
That since no more remained that I could do
And since to think of pain itself is pain,
I should forget and not walk here again
And hear the water under Quaking Bridge
And stand in thought beside the water’s edge,
And I am here again; but why delay?
Think, and walk on, and think: but walk away.

***

 

Aside

Book quote: Alice in Wonderland.

“I wish you wouldn’t keep appearing and vanishing so suddenly: you make one quite giddy.”

“All right,” said the Cat; and this time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained sometime after the rest of it had gone.

“Well! I’ve often seen a cat without a grin,” thought Alice ; “but a grin without a cat! It’s the most curious thing I ever saw in all my life!”

Quote

Book quote: Alice in Wonderland.

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where – ” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

” – so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation. 

“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

Alice felt that this could not be denied, so she tried another question. “What sort of people live about here?”

“In that direction,” the Cat said, waving its right paw around, “lives a Hatter: and in that direction,” waving the other paw, “lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they’re both mad.”

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.

“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”

Quote

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