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Flipping off Goliath

4 rolls of quarters
hanging tight
in a tube sock
rolling around my wrist
veining through my fist


come on all you takers
i’ll swing till my truth wins
your switch blades don’t scare me
your handguns get the odds
but my honor gets even


when common wisdom says
pull back
we swing out
bare chested


youth maybe wasted
on the young
but time is wasted
on the old


it’s a pipe dream to you
what if i surf through?


our blood is up
our path is clear

rage is its own reason
sometimes
apathy is treason


shattered bones in swollen casts
arms in slings like warrior pendants
crutches hold up broken pride
hope the casket’s got none inside


but the insult
will be defended
any day for sure
beyond any measure
fool’s gold won’t shine
still this is what I treasure








































Recent posts

War Hero

suited up with medals and pins
the trouser crease can cut some skin
rallied by the hometown pride
they say he cleans up nice

"Welcome home war hero"
say the parade and banner
in his honor
squeeze a smile for the front page

there's a dance behind his eyes
where truth hits the floor
Where lies spin in circles
like the wind on his armless sleeve

Stop-gap measures have broke the gauge
he's lost count of the unliving
Will someone repair his rage?

"Welcome home war hero"
say the parade and banner
in his honor
squeeze a smile for the front page

it's many moons now
since the parade
Benefits are still
not here yet
Jobs he got don't pay the debt

he only wished for
a few modest things
none of them fulfilled except
that one about a body bag

now the weapon's been seized
flag's been folded
embalming fluid restores the look
wounds unseen are still undressing
Farewell tour of duty
the gun salute was rich irony

night out

from the town square
wet cobblestones
shine down streets
spreading out
in every direction
like fingers of a furtive god

chimney smoke lends
elegance to moonlit silhouettes

somewhere not too far
where it's closer
to closing time
accordions and violins fan
the private whispers of cafes
into public cheer

random drafts tease
pigeons off their
habitual lamp posts

bicycles
footsteps
whistles and laughs
amend the night's quiet

rain gutters bleed
angel tears
down alley ways
that narrow beneath
distant arches
like keyholes to heaven

40 grand

My first poem to you said
"stolen glances are enough"
what a lie?
after all these years

I still yearn for the look
thirst for the smile
and long for the embrace

hope to be there for another
million moons

my profile--a reassessment

I savor the fleeting
capture the overlooked
champion the unsung

I wade through the minefield
of spin doctors
just to decipher the state
of the world as is

I'm tired of making this trek
the view gets uglier every time
until a laughter
a tune
a bird
or a child
breaks my concentration and changes
the scenery altogether

A person
like life
can't be summed up
or got in increments

Just go for a wide angle shot
and focus on the grace lines

a dozen years--an anniversary poem

A dozen is special even for the roses
But it means much more for enduring spouses
The best things in life can’t be summed up
The most heartfelt emotions always clam up
Tender things often go unsaid
But the thrill for me is still undead

Like a well-worn book with dog ears
We’ve filled our love with triumphs and tears
You make my heart swell like a melon
Even if you sometimes treat me like a felon
You can probably write pages with reasons for leaving
But it speaks volumes the fact you’ve been staying

My love for you is a grand epic
It will be the same when I’m a relic

The past will be forgotten
Without you being in it
The present is cherished
Because you’re a part of it
The future is welcoming
For we’re still in it

Sensory Savant

My ears are nets
catching whispers,
prayers and conversations
in public.

My heart’s a handrail
gathering imprints of emotions
from what the eye gleams.

My nose adds flavor
to highlight the take.

My mind’s the boss
divvying up the loot;
meanings form and deform
in its jingling pocket
until an entry finally
informs the knowledge bank.


got peace?

Commies are evil
even if they practice democracy
or democracy elects them.

So heed this patriot’s cookbook,
feed the opposition, oh, Patriots.
We are the saviors,
we are the good,
the soldiers of God.

Money’s no object for us
(it’s the subject, but that’s a different subject so don’t go there, I warn you, you dissident!)
arms around America, why not?
Give us your wretched,
give us your troubled
we’ll bury their troubles
or their future
(whichever
our missiles hit first)
and we’ll provide them with food
packets and band aids
raining from helicopters
and help them grow rebellion
to ease them out of oppressive peace
or if nothing grows in your wretched
third world nations then opium poppies
says your daddy of good.

Oh, we know this recipe, boy-o-boy,
we been cooking it since the cold war
when poor little you was caught between
us and them whatchammacallit?
Commies, that’s right.
That’s when your cows came home
with contraband in their hides,
‘cos you poor sons-of-bitches
were too clo…

running on empty

My emptiness is too big
for the outside world
so I keep it within.
I’ve shed light on it
several times;
the truth is not pretty.

Occasionally there’s the urge
to connect with someone else
perhaps someone with their own
emptiness gathered over time.
But will we fulfill each other’s void
or will our emptiness combine
to something more
overwhelming?

If I can spend all my emptiness
I’ll be free of the burden.
But what will I do to contain myself?
What matter can fill the void
of emptiness?

Yes, there’s always the slated purpose
attached to a routine,
activities that grant memories,
create bonds that crave other
activities and grant other memories
to carry around like necessary baggage,
but I would have spent a lot
filling up on nothing
that rivals the emptiness.

The cure isn’t to crowd
emptiness but to leave it alone
in untainted clarity.

unspent

The older I get
rising early is a harder sell.
As a fresh pencil
sticking its head in
to sharpen the crown,
why give life a longer day
to uncrown you
when you have no eraser
waiting on the other end
to correct your mistakes?
And you have to keep losing
your head
before you sharpen it.
I don’t need this diabolical choice.
I’m fine the way I am
unspent with all the promise
of what could have been
intact.

Apostate

Let me not be sundered
by the bleakness of the moment.
Harrowing tragedies are nothing new
to us humans
pardon me for not saying humankind
I hate oxymorons.

We are the higher species:
we don’t eat our own,
we don’t chase out our young ones
when they sprout wings.
But we got our own ingrown nails
in the coffin:
Drugs, religion and genocide.

What’s that you want to add to the list?
Arts, you say?
Point taken but
no, this is not the poem for it.

conniver

I’m the conniver
who stole into your intimacy:
brash talk, youth, idealism
I had you on many claws.

Now in the slow-twitch of twilight,
with my mystery
a long gone farce,
what magic can i summon
for that smile,
for that sense of wonder that took me in
the first time,
that locked me in for good.

At least you have the past
to hang good memories on,
to trace your life to this chiasma,
to meddle with and isolate
the ghosts of repair.

At least you didn’t know
what you lost.

Sibling Puberty

puberty arrived for me as a tent pole
in my shorts
when a bosom slipped out of my seventh grade
math teacher’s blouse

for my sister it arrived as a wet spot
in the sand beneath her
while spinning a top
that took forever her
playtime with us boys
making paper planes
jumping rope
and knee-high skirts

as mom’s understudy
grooming to take over the kitchen
she gave up a lot

we gave up more
we never see her smile

Diver

a corkscrew spin
triggers it all...
then the backward spiral
her body piercing the air...
then folding arms clasping ankles
coiled like a shrimp then...
straighter than a
k n i f e
she carves up the blue
calm surface
in a billion jubilant
shards of ecstasy

flipside of reason

happiness is a state
of mind
with an elusive
zip code
so i lost the address
destined for me

now, maybe this way
i'll find it
and never know
i'm there

i lost faith in literacy
perhaps i'll find it
reading between the lines

how do i measure trust
when i can't trust the measure?

rationale
hmm, is that when
i lie to myself
and believe it
and the whole world
plays along with it?

truth is,
answers are not my quest
i'm all about
redefining the questions

so, don't look to me
for the guiding light
i can only show you
the silhouette of darkness

Mortal Memory

Earth swallows another mortal memory.

Will the world ever unfold again
the way it did for that pair of eyes?
From that vantage point?
Backed by that specific cultural heritage?
Shaped by that personal lineage?

What impressions went with that soul?
What lessons died untaught?
Will those forehead creases reappear in another?
Will that catch phrase capture someone else's fancy?
Will another pair of shoes wear the same way again?
Will that jaunt ever be reborn in another walk?
Will the millions of skins that he shed
carry a hint of him to their end?
Will the memories he forged ever succumb to another?
Will his touch be remembered amidst the rest that succeed?
Did he unspool a myth mighty of remaking him in his absence?

News

No news is complete
without tales of murder, rape, kidnapping,
incest, or theft.

More morbid than these happenings
is our appetite for their coverage.

Is it that the more colorful, decadent,
sickly the act
the more normal, decent and absolved
we are by our outrage?

Murder, rape, kidnapping, incest or theft must be
the only taboos left for a society
where almost everything else
can be rationalized
helped by psychology
excused by evolutionary need.

Sports sate our craving for domination
success, vengeance, validation.

Arts display our untapped consciousness.

With the absence of the cold war
or a damnable enemy,
what are we to struggle against?

Murder, rape, kidnapping, incest or theft
says the news.

Toast

A toast in my name
welcomes the occasion.

A step up for me
from freelancer to full-timer.

Family’s thrilled:
· steady hours
· better pay
· the nest gets more twigs

Ice cubes melt on each other,
reshuffle within my glass;
whiskey doubles in quantity
loses body by a shade.

Makes no difference
to the toasting crowd.

Cant

We lie to each other everyday
expressing feelings
through words;

from feeling to thought
the transfer loses something,

thought to word
loses something more.

Science believes in research
until cure,
but somehow language closed the shop
on words
as if, meaning were dough
measured perfectly by the cookie cutter
language.

In conversations we play
an unresolved charade
articulating the elusive notion beyond
the boundaries of a specific term,
we flounder with metaphors,
adjoin parallels,
prefix and suffix,
leaving the other person to fill in
with grab bags of clich├ęs
jargons to nail
down the indescribable.

Poetry and legalese
offer the only viable review of language
as we know it.

Music and paintings can
map the gulf of abstract notions
with more success than language; for instance,

Blue in Green1
can be played
or Christina’s World2
can be displayed to convey
clearly that we are somewhere
between despair and peace
longing and redemption
loneliness and co…

release

Dulled by food coma,
buzzing from paan juices
percolating spiked tobacco
on my cheek cells,
a faint wind reminds my body
about a layer of caked sweat.

A cloak of numbness
descends on the senses
reducing the world’s volume and reach,
all the while, searing my inertia
in a slow-motion
dance of badass bravado
reviling the grounded routine.

A sense of sin accompanies me.
Am I wrong to seek more
from each moment?
Should the adequacy of food,
shelter and benign love content me?
Is my vagary the same mortal
quest for all men
seeking release, however temporary,
from their slated existence?

Complacency seems the Mecca
of grandparents and mothers.
But men, for the most part,
do their best
to upend their station
with their personal poison.

Main Road, India

blinking neon atop
begrimed buildings
stand testament to ruin

billboards push
the latest car
shopping multiplex or movie

capitalism targets all
willing or not
we are audience
buy it or not
we are sold

faces armored against dismay
negotiate the sultry
traffic for room

engines rev up to varying speeds
amidst the cackle of horns
and bells and sealed screams
behind car windows

stray dogs know their place in all this
as do vagrants, beggars
and sidewalk defecators

flyovers are underway
the homeless have already
pitched tents below them

in a nation dragging its heels
toward economic progress
the scars of poverty
peel in public

letting

She places the ring over
the wedding invitation,
tears a page
from a match book,
and spreads the light around.

The skin on the defrocked finger
remains a pale reminder.

She kneads it above the smoke
rising from the ashes
until the paleness is smothered black,
until the hounds of memories
gallop through
the fiery ring.

before

before the smile fades
into pretense
before your gestures breathe articulation
before the gentry crowns you
with unearned class and prestige
before you learn that beauty is
your biggest virtue
before your passions are tempered
by a blase stance
before you portion yourself
preciously to people of unimportance
before you ride the tails
of this world's vanity
i want to
find and dirty you alive

the guest

don't wait for the world
to offer you a catalyst
art isn't milk
to be squeezed from udders of inspiration

isolation won't make you
a prophet
nor is industry the answer
to unlock the mystery

you think you heard the calling
follow it with aspiration
get upset when it taunts you
greedy when it finds you

you never understand
your role as the carrier
the host
the whim for art
to pour itself through

yet it's usually from
feeble hearted souls
who burn themselves inside
out to birth it
that it flows best

the pearl that itches the shell
into oblivion

Chess--the gender bender

Curious isn't it
that the king
moves only one square at a time
besides being the most defenseless
while the queen's path remains
multi-dimensional and her checks
far reaching

Then you have your single-minded
soldiers
the straight rook
the diagonal bishop
and the three-stepping horsemen
who are all really
one-trick ponies

But it's the pawn
who has got it going on
for if he ever makes
it alive
to the other end
he becomes a queen

Now how does the king
handle the sex-changed queen?

Never mind the metamorphosis
in height
what about the private
appendages?
Did the caterpillar become
a butterfly?
Or is it a Crying Game for him?

the unsheathed

both work
when unsheathed
the pen bleeds itself
to bring its work to life
the sword makes work of
bleeding life

judging their power
relies on the value
of blood spilt

hai-there-kus

wind plays catch, sparrows
shuttle back and forth in an
arrow formation

all my firecrackers
went bust but your cathartic
laugh unearths my lust

forbidden fruits viewed
while teacher bends down to slap
punishment or gift?

if I can't have you
I will hold you in my soul
lake captures the moon

love needs no consent
stolen glances are enough
to blossom within

school bell discharges
children a wave of colors
rushing ashore fast

watch fall bargain time
between dark rain and cold bloom
birds whisper surprise

City Cafe Signs Off

the blades of the exhaust
fan break to a halt

the neon OPEN is pulled
into sleep

upside down
stools on tables
form an assembly of antlers

the sweeper brooms
rhythmically like bringing
a raft ashore

light narrows into two
bright cones
transparent sand
hills at high noon

the windows suit up
with frilled white
drapes like a cowering matron

the sand hills submerge
into the black night

steel shutters surround the street
corner cafe like a fish net

the sweeper leaves
spilling smoke and whistles
in the street air

Winslow Homer--a retrospective

he was a man intent
on otherness,
while deft hues and parallels
keep your eyes busy darting
lower right to east
and northwest,
his subjects reach beyond
the squareness of their existence

early, he did succumb to drawing
his elite circles--
baronesses playing croquet
captured in indulgent poise

then his magazine job took him
to the Civil War,
that phenomenon
replete with extreme
symbols of life which newsmongers
die for

his dues were paid
there too, though
between snipers taking aim and soldiers
showing defiance
he savored
quiet scenes:
retreats by the campfire,
recliners at the tent, etc.

But, he found a true home
at the remote recesses
of land and sea
as far as the West Indies
as near as the native south

With a historian's eye
sans the bias of the victor
he spoke common lives
in sinuous accents
without failing
their solemn dignity

where Degas saw the little ballerinas
at practice bars,
Homer put his kids
on farm stiles and barrels

from the colored girls
in Cotton Picking
to…

culture of monogamy

How did it come about
that loyalty in courtship
should be measured by the amount
of time spent with the other?

Right away it renders
the notion of quality-time
meaningless

Nothing divides
a couple more than
common interests

We are like the wild
bush that gets trimmed to standard
perfection;
we'll never know now what
that bush could have become

Whenever one partner deviates from the shared
sphere of rituals
the other unwittingly points out
the change as a breach

then tremors are felt
horns are locked
friends manage to glue
the hive back together

Like boxers getting pointers
from their coaches
at the end of each round
we hop back into the middle
wounded but with a sense
of survival
taking pointers on how to attack
the other's weakness
and we're back to practicing
the same
uncanny rituals

either you cave-in to the other
give up
playing the game altogether
or live
in passive aggression

If you leave your other
for another
you still don't escape
for y…

dimly lit bars

subverting brightness
into conical portions
against the wall

offering homage to privacy
around the room like the random
glory of waterfalls
addressing every crack
and wedge along the way
to shape its flow

dimly lit bars carry
a sense of mystique
a charmed distance from the hipness
displayed all around
as hearts lose themselves
searching love or loneliness

a socialistic god must prevail here
collating the eager
to be had with the looking to fade

drowning all in
a haze of muted vagueness

dear breeze

whetting your wings
on the tabla's creek
playing hide and seek around
the flute's holes
checking your pulse with the bass
sedating yourself with sitar strings
bowing to the prayer bells of the dancers'
anklets and joining
in the show of hands
by the audience…
how beautifully you give
and receive yourself
in so many ways

let me not use you
to praise you
in a song

I'll just write it down
quietly for you
to read

hear what silence thinks of you

every climbed step leads down
every survived epiphany crumbles
to its base in time
every emotion turns on its heel
for those who've heard what silence
thinks of them
for those who've dared
its knowledge
no pain is insurmountable

I'm through with the hit or miss logic
where you give yourself
in packaged portions
aiming to fit the slotted
holes in the receiver

you get away from your essence
doing this and dilute the other's
understanding of you

consent is a persuaded lie
compromise has a weak spine
it can't carry the truth

I want to go far
back to the first unlearned impulse
honest emotion
original thought and turn every
emotion since on its head so that
an aesthetic distance is achieved
between thoughts and feelings

the mind governed by the sociological
paradigm is outmoded

in time
every survived epiphany crumbles
to its base

I want to corkscrew reason's lid

this constant recycling of notions
enacted by the shaky bridge between accumulated
expe…

premonition

Like the valiant fight
of match stick flames,
truth reveals itself
on occasions and loses
to the consuming dark.

If we could gather these temporary
flames to build
a private sun and hoist
it up on a new
moon sky

the sacred chain of time
day
occasion
circumstance and ritual
all lose
their place in life

and the way things are
will never be
the way
they were

nocturnal mind

the quiet of home
punctuated by the self-starting
fridge and the self-adjusting central air
descends on the mind
juggling all the untied decisions:
a slide show of possible
outcomes not all that palatable
to sleep-deprived slumber

outside,
the night's black breath had snuffed
out the few lonely wicks that were just
an hour ago dragging day into night
behind grimy apartment windows...

at the hour when silence sleeps
the domestic smells that get inside
hung up t-shirts
car upholstery
kitchen counters and
bathroom mats
roam the air like they own it

to know that smell is to have been
in it long
no bachelor pad smells like this

choking in the stranglehold of filial
obligation while nestling in the cocoon
of hatched vows
a few different options are borne
to nocturnal minds

it's easier to make open ends meet
strike out on your own
rediscover the self in all its naked glory
abating all the crutches you've gathered
over the years. . .

push that months-old tease game you…

love's net worth

the need seed
sprouts inside
sending the message
in currents of passion

rationale takes a hit
as blood heads
south

desire manifests itself
in gasps and touch
while the gravy train
is ready to launch

as breathing
pulse and heart rate subside
the body roof is leaking wet

after blood realigns inside
and the head is back to thinking
words overtake
actions

and that feeling you have
for the other then

yes, that exact feeling!

that's the net worth
of your love removed
of all its accessories

delusional?

if we bought into
the clinical definition
of love and romance
as delusional mental states
fashioned from need
and insecurity

or viewed being in love
as the progeny
of our species' survival instinct

would we hate each other
as much as we do now?

would we love each other
as much as we do now?

rain on the sea

my wife's busy in the godown
dispatching coolies
with their share of the harvest
we're down 22 sacks of rice
from last year

summer went on
a rampage
picked winter's pockets dry

lying under the banyan tree
for a brief reprieve
I catch the moon
sneer through the branches
guilty like a culprit behind bars
maybe it's god's pale eye

a sudden draft
makes my six year-old son
roll over to my side
and cuddle up

I run my fingers along
the diamonds
carved on his back
by the tightly woven rope cot

how secure he sleeps
his face a pleasant
glow of comfort
not knowing his dad
had to dip into his
future to light
the coolies' stoves today

the wind summons its fist
and slams
the verandah windows

from the floor the radio
warns of ceaseless rains
and floods up north

soon. . .
a state of emergency
will be declared
up there
blankets will be issued
schools will be closed
ministers will fly
overhead in helicopters
to inspect the damage

. . .down south
everything goes
as u…

dirty word

bellybuttons look like wristwatch
dials on their ever-shrinking
waistlines. . .

decomposed cement shrapnel
decorates their hair
as these stick figures
witness with hope-starved eyes
their future
shoveled under their feet
where manholes fill up
gaining a new
dangerous meaning. . .

buildings upended in
demonic grandeur
their rusted iron roots
curled like viscous flesh
sprouting out of the freshly
decapitated. . .

tanks crawl over
bombarded streets
like satiated caterpillars. . .

these scenes
were the side dish
to my TV dinners
all these months
along with expert opinions
from the suits and ties
in capitol hill
sugarcoating
surmising
neither confirming nor denying
the NATO's tentative
opinion poll-foreign policy that's
basically bitch-slapping
bad guys

conflicts haven't been resolved
only the disgust is taking its toll

maybe when the ethnic purging
is all done, the Serbs will strike
a deal with NATO and both sides can
yell "peace"
shake dirty hands
over th…

new sensation

I took a walk
unbeknownst
on the naughty
side of town
to air out my cranial nerves
from the all day
out of town conference

first I gather
the pierced tongue
eyelids
chin
bellybutton
and guessed a few
other unseen
tagged appendages and holes
for sure

as the tall
bleached blonde
with a Liza Minneli
haircut and
bloodshot eyes
clad in shiny black leather
and lace lined by zippers
eyes me,
elbows resting on the entryway
of "Dominatricks"
and proposes
"care to be dominated, hon?"
whiplash sounds
emanated from the inside

"life gives me enough of a
whipping, thanks"

"hey, don't knock it till you
try it. It'll set you ablaze."

"Tell you what sets me ablaze. Have you
ever tried slurping a double
shot of espresso over
a vanilla almond milkshake
next to the fireplace
with Zakir Hussain
on your stereo
while you recited out loud
forbidden erotic Latin
poetry?"

"Damn, man, I think I will.
Remind me
when I'm on my
next a…

metaphorce

if the sky and sea
reconcile
their hues they might
approximate her eyes

if you spot a fairy angel
spreading wings there
taking shape are her ears

when the horizon
blushes at the peaking
hills it comes close to being
her cheeks

when you plot
the curve of a baby
swan's neck you
have an angle on
her nose

when you pluck rose
petals and pile them
in two decks
each as thick as a cigarette
there's a touch of her lips

when the sun hides behind
and casts a yellow glow
around a thin
patch of clouds
you get her profile

live bebop from bourbon street

fingers sway sweep
the surface of the keys
as if the magic is being
drawn from the air

every step down
every dip
a tug of the oar
reeling the ears further in
as the piano spreads ripples
from the treading

like a clowning elephant
bathing in a pond
the trumpet shoots up
a fountain of notes
and midway through its fall
sax phones in like a catharsis--
a sieve for
despair and peace

the cymbals hiss
like something's amiss
while the drums racket
as a steam train gathering
speed and switch
to a tap
dancer's heel toe
before settling in like the steady
hooves of a cavalry march

time stretches itself
to accommodate
more notes
per second

my heart beats
behind my ears
just eager
to greet the sounds
as they come in

my mind's been plucked
like a bird from a tree

and lassoed
into a universe
where the blaring
stars confide why
they're beaming

my tongue
takes the fifth
unable to read
mind's spell

memo: precautionary measures around layoff victims

A layoff is a disease
feared to be contagious!

_It is rumored to be spread
by direct eye contact
or by greeting
the victim

_Please refrain from
any association
verbal or physical
with said victims

_Dare not speak
to them in passing
or by the candy machine

_Don't commit to lunch
and please control yourselves
from exchanging personal
phone numbers

_If really pressed, feel free
to offer yourself as a reference
this makes you look good

_In any future reference to the
ones laid off, act like you saw
it coming and wonder aloud
"What took'em so long to
can these a**holes?"

Remember!
In the corporate aisles
success is the only virtue
worth a nod

imbalance

the car took on fate
and got its nose smashed
behind its forehead

the concrete slab parting
the freeway appears
disheveled
like a sliced
birthday cake to the car's
carving knife

drive-by voyeurs
stop to get their fill

one of them proclaims
aloud through his
open window
"Probably drunk"
and speeds away to his
destination

there must be others
like him who pronounce
eulogies
with their sense of justice
in perfect balance
actions = consequences

daring no summations
to this random cruelty
I reach my destination too

but a little
disheveled like that concrete
slab whose sense of order,
division of right
and left,
up and down got
slapped out of place
by a wayward
vehicle

my possessor

i wonder about the being
that resides in me

why is it so intent on guarding
its carrier?
what motivates its decisions?
what makes it toss up
paradoxic instincts
if it stood to gain something
from a favourable consequence
to its host?

shouldn't the decisions be
clear?
it can't be the perversity of
watching the host suffer,
if the being is capable of that kind of fun
it would have chosen a better
candidate as a host