I thought I had run into you when I saw Zoya on the brickroads of Karachi. She was carrying the weight of her uncovered head with Rumi on her lips and rumours in her smile; I couldn’t help but wonder if she too hummed Tagore on lonely nights.
As I approached my past, the unmanned dinghys of the Arabian Sea seemed to have followed me from a different harbour, where the skyscrapers stood like unopened letters stacked to impress your firstborn child. The salty sea breeze might have been your childhood friend, but then these waves were always mine.
Maybe It was time to let go.
We kissed for 12 months while the bullets made love to the crumbling walls of Karachi, a city with the infinite passion of penniless poets and warrior saints. Draped in the lightest of cashmere, Zoya couldnt help but be worried – the curtains of my thoughtful musicals never cared much for bulletproof jackets.
Zoya’s grandfather was a veteran of two wars, the smoke from his imported cigars still fills our balcony like the laughter of your firstborn fills the halls of your new sea-facing mansion – I wonder if Naina even knows my name. My books have begun to sell now – you should make her read ‘Summer Wounds’ one day.
The newspapers tell me I am widely read by the underground leadership because of Asif – my brother in law who has taken up arms against men who want to burn Zoya for walking with her head uncovered – Karachi is no longer the same.
They have banned my books now – apparently God hates the words I use to describe our summer love; do you also feel the same way ?
I dont know, maybe they are right – after all Zoya still flinches every time I mention your name.
Zoya’s grandfather is sick – the years of tobacco have now given way to the gunpowder smoke – I am lucky you stopped me when you could. Do you still make people change their ways ? Maybe. But something tells me even you can’t help Karachi.
Its your birthday today, I know you haven’t gotten a piece from me in the last 10 years but this time it will be different. There is a fading sound of Zoya’s screams as I leave for the post office; i cant let her love wipe my past.
A bullet hits me from nowhere ; I hear a distant cry of an animal celebrating the first kill of the day. The pain is blinding but they shoot 10 more bullets into me, there is no modesty in murder it seems.
As I lie dying with eleven bullets buried in a heart that has known more wounds than love, I have begun to wonder if I should have chosen a different harbour for my love – the words of Tagore suddenly seem far more familiar than those of Rumi.
Maybe its time to let go.
The Japanese Current
Flows through my veins-
Father of undertow
Feeder of the clam beds
The smooth edges
Of Summer and Autumn
Stranger to Southern beaches
The current creates
Weather of it’s own
And plays rough at it’s mildest.
I watch as the tow
Sweeps away my sandy footing.
How fast I can move
Is how fast I survive.
Don’t turn your back
On the Japanese Current
Mercy isn’t floating in that tide
And it will knock you down.
You can wade into the freezing waves
But only a fool would try to swim.
Nothing for Michael Phelps here
Unless he excels with a shovel.
From little motor court cabins
With linoleum floors
And sand in the corners
We’d pile out in the dark
At four A.M. low tides
Slender shovels in our hands
We braved the gales
That would be banned in Maui
Gifting us with glorious misery.
Wind whipping scarves and hair
And sneaking through the jackets
That didn’t really shield us
From the sideways blowing rain
That couldn’t wash away our smiles.
We’d stomp the sand and look for bubbles
Dig for all we’re worth - plunge a hand
Into the hole collapsing
To grope for the illusive razor clam -
Treasure of the Northwest beaches.
Special treat for seafood lovers
Fried, or ground or cooked in stew
They seemed like sliced up innertubes to me
My fun was in the finding and the digging
The cleaning was my dad, the frying was my mom
And not eating them was me.
LONG BEACH WASHINGTON
World’s longest unbroken sandy beach
Twenty-eight miles of solid sand
Bring your car, ride your horse or bike
Cut christies in the hard packed sand.
Splash along the edges of the waves
Race with no red lights behind you.
Just watch the turning of the tide
Or boys with jeeps will have to pull you out
(Impossibly heroic idols of
My childhood beach adventures.)
And yet sometimes the sun came out-
Oh rarest gift from Mother Nature
We wandered below the kite filled skies
And sandy castle festivals.
We hid both sorrows and often and joys
And sometime hanky panky
Among the sea grass covered hillocks
That roll like the boil of a bubbling kettle
Between the sand and civilization.
It’s still there, almost unmarred
By glitzy boardwalks and sunglass shacks
Just as I remember it, what seems an eon later
Familiar things at every turn
Small thing tell me that my world abides
And I’m not really home until I’m there.
I was raised in a family
with a background rather humble
never having lots of money
happy though so mustn't grumble
Early years spent practicing reticence
manifesting in a rumbling mumble
speaking to adults particularly problematic
over my words I would regularly stumble
High school was my teenage nadir
year on year confidence would tumble
on darkest days solace was sought
in my mother's comforting apple crumble
Whether underground or overground
mixing with every type of ensemble
consolation was found every night
by remembering I wasn't a Womble
The smell of burning leaves in the fall moonlight
The sound of the traffic, as it passes by my place
Watching the kids running around, having fun
As I’m watching the news and drinking a beer
Fall weather, there’s nothing like it my friend
Beautiful sunsets, bonfires, and warm hoodies
Back in high school, I remember it quite well
Football games, hanging with friends, such fun
Weekends in town, seeing my girl, just being kids
Never knowing what was ahead, didn’t care to know
Thinking about the moment, enjoying it while it lasts
Girlfriends come and go, as do the friends, some stay
You hang on to the good times, they were so fun
You try to forget the bad times, as they hurt too much
You try to remember things that you forgot about
You remember things, that you completely forgot about
You want to go back, and ask that one girl out
The one you were too scared to ask out
Great weather brings back a mixed bag of memories
You never know what to expect, it can get interesting
Some may be good, some bad, some to make you laugh
Just remember one thing, you’ll always have them to share
Hang on to them good, hang on to them tight, they’re yours
Write them down if you must, journal them along the way
The fields roll gold
against the emerald
and violet edges
of dusk creeping in
and I found you
an oak tree and
I took you in
while ravens watched
and there's nothing
of in between
I saw the fog
like a dream,
cold and cozy
against my parents
blue beach house,
a shabby thing
a shabby little sea town
and I watched
against the glass
and heard boats calling
know I'm safe
but the dinner dad made
The night owl
comes to take me home
and I'm longing
for some sense of
wraps those broom-bloom
wings around me
am so afraid to fly
because when I open eyes
into bright lights
what it means to die.
Depression. Oh depression.
Always there, never fading away, or going away in this case.
Coming at me like she's my first priority.
Staying in my life because I guess I like the company, the feeling like there's always a weight on my shoulders, always a reassurance that I'm definitely not going to be in the mood for anything besides sleep and sometimes not even that.
Depression is my side chick, not only because I need some difference in my brain, some pizazz to keep things spiced up, or spiced down, but because my brain needs some company while the main chick happiness is away.
My side chick goes away sometimes when the main is in town.
While happiness is with me I'm always scared because what if depression finds out and comes to win me with pure determination.
So I ditch happiness...
Depression gets total control over me and I can't seem to find hope of ditching her and finding someone like happiness again.
Depression finds the time to insert unwanted thoughts into my brain, talk to me like I'm some slave to it, I guess I am in a way.
She's inconsistent in her time with me,
I talk to happiness still to fill in the times when depression isn't there, it's not the same with her.
Sure we're close and spend time together, but happiness is never really there with me like she was prior to depression.
Depression is jealous that I spend time with happiness, but I can't help it.
Happiness will always have a place in my brain.
Unlike depression happiness has been there since the beginning.
Depression came along for the attention a couple years ago and now we're in a relationship that only goes one way.
Depression loves me, I definitely do not love depression.
I hang on to depression since she's all I have left...
Happiness is at the back of my mind constantly wanting to be set free from my thoughts.
I just can't let go,
Can't let go of the feeling happiness gave me, can't let go of the love she gave and still gives to me as a far off friend.
You see happiness found relationships in the people around me, she is constantly prominent in their lives, they never fail to give her attention, treat her like the priority in their lives.
I miss happiness, she was great...
Now I have the bitch called depression and she's not leaving anytime soon, so I sit with her, attempt to love her and fail miserably at doing so.
I try and tell her that I don't want her anymore but she keeps coming at me with kindness and affection.
So now I just sit with her and happiness is held in the back of my mind slowly fading away and depression is now my partial past my entire present and most likely to be future.
a part of me still loves you
and cherishes the memories
that we made in youth
and then turned to cinder
I don't know how
two people so well connected
can grow so far apart
I still hear your laugh
I still feel your hugs
the fist bumps and play fights
years of friendship fading
like the smoke filled rooms
we spent so much time in
my memory is getting hazy
I hope your little boy is well
perhaps you'll tell him stories
when he's grown
of an old friend called Finley
I want you to know
I will surely cry when you die
though I doubt
that I'll be at your funeral
Many of us can swim
through cold river currents
maybe even stormy seas
some of us jump, gleefully, willingly into summer lakes
some of us are thrown overboard when we were hoping to sail
clinging to our squeaking plastic coats and boots
expecting to travel everywhere by ship and never be wet again
I remember her hands holding me down
as bubbles rushed out of my nostrils
my arms flailing as they batted at waterlilies
No one had thrown me into the pond
Does it still count as drowning? I feel crazy for thinking so.
She was angry, she didn't mean to. Surely it didn't count.
But my chest was on fire and my eyes stung
and I knew that it counted to me
She shoved my head under the floating lily roots
and then rivers, and lakes, and finally the sea
dragging me back by the hair as I hissed and screamed
I always had thought it was a part of growing up
The water became a natural place for me, I began to crave
being perpetually drenched in the bizarre world of beauty and pain
without her brutality, I hoped a mermaid would save me
I didn't find one
One day she left me floating in the water
said her hands were too weak, that she tired of teaching me
I don't understand what I was meant to learn
I stayed in the water, paralyzed and ponderous
Perhaps I could become a mermaid myself.
Many of us can swim, I recalled
as I treaded salty water and fought against a rip tide
moonlight licked the ripples in the black sea,
everyone had left the beach
Part of me grew up this way
flailing, kicking frantic legs through angry currents
My feet were webbed before I could learn how to walk again
She came to visit me, but she was never a good swimmer
I would listen to her calling out to me from the shore
tears in my eyes and fist clenched around a sharp stone
I didn't understand how to be without the sea anymore
Light pushes of shoulders as people passed would
knock me back into the waves, and I was too ashamed
so I stayed there until scales crawled up my waist
I thought I had become a mermaid,
bathed in the tears of years gone by
by the time I wanted it to be over, the currents had cradled me
so deeply that they became my home and my head became smooth
and slick and water-built, a selkie that preferred to watch
everything from the deep black waves
who cannot decide between land or sea
Should I swim with the sharks or try to pretend
that I'm human again, when no human
could stand to live in my ocean without drowning?
Both hurt so much.
I would howl up at the stars, never quite belonging
always chasing after a fin or an ankle like a lost pup
One day I met a witch, and she said
that my seal skin would fall off if I stayed
in the sun and sand for three days without going back,
I could have real flesh and bones,
but the wind was so cold whenever I crawled out
and I couldn't bear the shame of everyone seeing my
strange naked body half covered in chunks of
old fur, sloughing off like a scab
But the witch said that it would only loosen
and eventually slide off in one piece
A skin I would carry with me, always
I would be forever drawn to the sea
and would find myself wandering into the water aimlessly
following the push of an invisible hand
She told me I would have to learn to pull myself back
That my legs would become strong, almost as strong
as the fins I used to swim
I asked the witch
How did this happen to me?
Why am I a seal and not a mermaid?
She smiled and said
Selkies are born from the drowning of a soul,
their sealskin growing as the body is starved of dry land
There are no such things as mermaids