Some Gods

Some gods are really weird
They need you to grow a beard

Some of them are damn hard to please
They want you down on your knees

How am I going to worship the guy
If he’s invisible, up in the sky ?

What do you reckon I’d say
When I don’t think about him all day ?

Some gods don’t like women in service
Others really make men nervous

I think we all need a time-out
From the hysteria and shouts

Give me a quiet, pensive deity
Not of the church but the laity

Give me a god of the stark winters
Give me a god of mud and splinters

Give me a god, cold like stone heaths
A god that reminds us of our soft feet,
Our soft skins, our soft tissues, our soft ideas

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Past Life Repression

Betrayal
Father chases me with a stick
I run to grandmother in the garden
I sob into her warm clothes
She hands me over to father

 

Pain
Father dies in a car crash
Father dies in pain
I hear this in the garden
Now I know Pain

 

Anger
Why did you take him away
When I did your Sunday School work !?
Why did you fail me
When I prayed to you each day ?!

 

Loss
Something went missing
Around my 16th year
Something flew away
I don’t know where it’s fled

After Lit Fest

​Everyone’s horny.
After a few,
Some want to get into bed,
Some into each other;
There’s always a busy drunk,
Someone always loses a bag
I do a dangerousrunacrossthestreetforcigarettesat12o’clock;
I promise myself I’ll stop. Always.
After a few,
Men and women call you beautiful;
Old poets need attention,
Young poets want to beat up old poets
It’s always the same.

Our Shiva

Let me claim you as the Veda did aeons ago,
Let me remind you of your previous life:
You are pasan, my old uncle.
Our Enkidu whose shack was behind mother’s house,
Where you ate dried fish heads with local toddy at night;
With your jokes came a hint of malice;
We were always nervous laughing, wary of your curses,
Like your namesake, you danced one moment
Then spewed venom the next.
During the day, you Shiva, would prod about in the garden,
Harvesting taro and sweet potatoes.
You were always accompanied by our un-ceremonial dogs.
You bathed once a year around Christmas time
Upon mother’s insistence;
No one called you deity but I know
You were something like the old gods;
Winter plants were nurtured by the silt of your meandering locks,
The mushroom in its underground prison festered joyfully again,
The wild rat smirked in its winter sleep within its earth womb,
Blossoms grew patient, waiting for the shot of spring:
It was all your doing, I know.

Green Wail

How can you think about the future on a day like this?

How can you study inside the house for a promotion?

When the warm air wants to lull away your memories and your sense of time;

I am listening to the Present present its case

In the blue jacaranda, the slow skin-breeze, drops of water.

I can’t remember the taste of bitterness, the cries of people in the bazaar, pain.

I know my father will teach me to swim in the black shining waters one day

I’ll forget the faces of Shillong, the words of poets I adore, I’ll forget my English;

When I resurface, father will row me across to the waiting grounds

There to quietly recite this prayer :

I want to give up human speech for the language of trees speaking love to the wind

I want to never be seen again as a man but a protruding rock on a hill

I invented a soul and may it always swirl in the skies over me

I pray the lichens and fungi accept me as their kin

May I never be grander than the moss on pine bark or the wiry orchids in the canopy

May I learn to be as capable as khasiana nepenthes

When I tire of the world of men,

May the green maiden embrace me

Scratch, bite, prick, and sting me

So that I may know myself;

Let the bamboo slivers have a drop of me

Let the thorn vines have a drop of me

Let my blood be familiar to all in the menagerie

Let it thaw into something warmer, kinder

Sister, when you hurt me,

Also fill me with the spirit to pull on,

Fill me with the air of your lungs,

The resolve of your stone

These I ask in your name.

Amen.

“Backsliders”

What makes these buggers tick?

You’d think they’d be a little more grateful;

Us, giving it to them.

Why go there, when they’d lose all this?

The electricity, quinine and Handel.

 

The jungles aren’t any safer than our jails,

Plus the cholera, humidity and snakes.

But they’re ultimately savages, the rational doesn’t hold.

I suppose they like it out there… makes them feel something;  

 

Anyway send the garrisons more guns;

Bibles and cheap booze to the civil stations.

Laban in Winter

I

I remembered you for your whitewashed walls and the old trees which grew in the old gardens;

This was the old world, before colour, and as a child I hated the monochrome ekra;

I shuddered behind feeble old people in their twilight chairs –

Which they had us push out into the winter-sun’s verandah;

I remembered your old people smell and the old people love for young kisses –

That world is gone now,

My grandfather is gone

And most of his nephews.

All that’s left is men stumbling in bars, secretly whispering desires to other men.

 

II

At kha-ieid‘s – under an old conifer with spiky cones – once I found a baby sparrow

I tried to protect it from the hounds –

Uncle Eric’s best mates.

Into the temple of my palms, I took it.

Suddenly from deep within me

A sudden impulse – to crush it into a feather ball – arose.

What stopped me, I wonder,

Was it the thought of blood that calmed my systole,

Was it the eventuality of squirming that blunted my lust?

Whatever it was, it quietened my mind;

I don’t know if the chick survived the season

But we both made it through that hour.