Vantablack

Is it ironic?

That they birthed the blackest black

In a room full of white light

Made me wonder

What does black look like in a womb?

Waiting to be born, waiting to absorb all the light

They gave it a name

Vantablack rose up through the metallic flames

Anduril in one hand the Antichrist in another

The sculptors and the painters fought for the science

One won his vain war, the other asked:

“How do we SEE the absence of light?”

The poet, she smiled.

For the world has now seen and baptized

The blackest black of her mind!

Outrage

There is no outrage here

They came knocking on my door

Looking for it

Before going back on the streets

There is only a numbed silence

Like the ringing in your ears after a bombing

Or the haze in the air the morning after Diwali

Diwali

The festival of lights

Celebrating the victory of light over darkness

The homecoming of Maryada Purushottam – the perfect man

Our Ram

Our God

“Where is the outrage?”, He asks

His shrine coming to life

“I burnt it, alongside your judgement of me”, says His wife

“I walked past the embers into your guiltless arms

And then let the earth consume me.

That dust you see, between your idol and mine

Those are the ashes of my outrage.”

Outrage:

N. An extremely strong reaction of anger, shock or indignation

They are raging in the newspapers

Coercing outrage out of numbed souls

“Where is the outrage?” They ask

I can’t find it,

It played hide and seek with Shame when I was 10

And Shame won

Shame

The ornament of choice of all women

Across centuries, throughout Bharat, across its Yugas

Protected by gods after husbands gambled their wives away

Saved and preserved until it rusts and turns into hate

I shed it today

My snake skin of shame

I don’t wait for new skin to grow

For the outrage is flowing

In my blood, in my bones

I open my door

The sun’s red makes me glow

I stare at my bloodied hands

Make my anger into fists

Raise them to the sky

And my outrage

Turns into hope!

P.S: Ram refers to the Hindu God, he is an incarnation of Vishnu(one of the holy Trinity in Hinduism) and considered the “perfect man” – Maryada Purushottam. After he rescues his wife from the clutches of Ravana (the evil king of Lanka), he asks her to prove that she is still “pure” and hasn’t been defiled by her captor so his wife survives Agni pareeksha – the fire test and proves her purity but also “punishes” Ram for questioning her by being buried alive into the Earth.

P.P.S: Bharat refers to India as described in Mahabharat where yudhisthira the king of Dharma (righteousness) gambles away his wife Draupadi to his cousin brother. As a result, Draupadi is disrobed in presence of the full court until God in the form of Krishna comes to her rescue.

Untitled

You linger

Like the aftermath of the wine I finished last night

You said I drank too much

So after you left I drained all the alcohol

And roamed the halls of this house

I wanted to be sober for you

We poets are connoisseurs of tragedy

Yet tonight even my blank pages are no use

Because the only words that flow from this pen

Are ones that rhyme with you

You

You who smelt like the sea every time

Washing over me

Walking away and coming back like a tide

Flowing on its own time

You who never held me without an agenda

Who only dreamt of the inside of my pants

Who never once wondered what lay in the deep folds of my mind

You don’t leave

Even the walls remind me of you

They whisper sweet nothings in the night

I touch them like I had touched you

A soft rub here a dig of the nails there

They moan just like you did

They don’t wander off though

You used to, at the very start of our many conversations

“I don’t do frivolous talk”, you’d say

And keep looking for intelligence on your phone

Not these walls

They absorb every last of my words

Tonight I write on them

Desperate to draw you out

Then I stop

If you didn’t love me then

Why would you love me now?

For now, the paint awaits

The walls could use a coat

It’s got scars where it was hit by things that missed me

Like prisoners of war, these walls have seen it all

The torn up insides of our caustic relationship

The silence and the violence

The chaos after a brawl and the calm before the storm

Everyday playing out like an operatic tragedy

Not tonight

Tonight these walls are a shrine

Entombing pieces of you

Tonight you will be immortalized

I stare at you and wait until the paint’s done

Consent

I can’t speak

You swallowed the last of my refusal

You tasted it in your mouth

Did it taste like the sweet cherries you said it would?

Did you feel my throat choke on the string of words you used to “woo” me?

All I could taste was your charred tongue

Burnt and scarred by your betrayal of my trust

I can’t speak

But my hands spoke

No they screamed and fought

The only way hands know how

They said “move away, leave me be!

You were just a hero to me

A deity, worshipped in the altar of my teenage heart

My love of you was too innocent to be carved out of me like this”

I can’t speak

By now you’ve swallowed all my NOs

They’ve echoed in your gut

And convinced you I just need more convincing!

Your hands move up and down my spine

Slowly carving out my skin

And I’m just wondering how would I wash away the scars no one can see.

Months from now I will muster up the courage

Corner you in rage and scream and stomp my feet

And you will convince me

That while I tried to scream with my body

You NEVER heard a peep

And there, in the tiny screens of an obscure messenger

You will be brought down from your pedestal

By your superpower that put you there.

Your words. Your words wrapped around my neck.

I can’t speak

For no one can hear me

They will point their finger at me

“Did you say no? Did he hear you say it?

If you were fine with his hug

Then why weren’t you fine with a kiss?

Why did you agree to meet him?

Did you drink anything stronger than tea?

What were you wearing? A skirt, that’s….interesting”

I can’t speak

These days I just write alone

Friends can’t be trusted anymore

For if heroes turn out like you

What would my friends turn into

You surgically removed the one strength I had

My ability to love without doubt!

But some things are even stronger than love

My words! My awesome motherfucking words!

I can’t speak

For I will scream this to you and the world

It doesn’t matter what I wore

Or whether I loved you or not

Or if I was smitten by your words

Or what it means when at 15, I loved the works of an older man

Or if my messages to you were heartfelt

Or that you “expected” a kiss

For you may have eaten my refusal

And I may not have said no

But

I

Definitely

Did

Not

Say

Yes.

A letter to my 11 year old self (when I wrote my first poem – Butterfly)

Dear girl,

You aren’t so little anymore

Those rhymes you’ve just written down have aged your soul

You are now wise beyond your years

Your tears that dissolve your words into large blue dots

Will one day become rivers flowing through your veins

Filling your heart with an innocence you thought you forgot

You write of fluttering butterflies right now

You will soon turn to werewolves and vampires

And then

You won’t rhyme at all

You will just paint pictures of your soul on pieces of paper supposed to contain class notes

The doodled angels on the corner of your pages will smile

At your childish notions of sorrow

Soon your poems will be cries for help

All that angst of teen age will turn into a knife inching into your veins

Each poem will enter your heart like a shooting star

Burn through its chambers and turn into star dust

Every night you will crumple your pages into hugs

Till the words drill a hole though your chest

In the mornings you will wake up with a smile

Those pages will turn magically into blankets

You will write of unrequited love

Of that boy who thinks you will never be pretty enough

Of that boy who loves you relentlessly till you break his heart

You will walk over a thousand such hearts

And place your words like flowers on the graves of your failed relationships

You will then wait till you are alone

And then embrace your solitude like You are all you need!

And just like that, one winter morning

The green of the forests, the growls of the wolves and the grim of the fairy tales

Will be back to claim their space on your empty pages

You will shoo them away brandishing your pen like a sword

Soon your scribbles will becomes quivers of arrows

With which you hunt down the voices in your head

Until all you will hear are the waves of words washing poems on the shores of your pages

Little girl, my friend,

That pen you hold like a laser beam

Will one day vaporise your insecurities

It will fill your heartbreaks with hot chocolate

It will teach you that remembrance is the only cure to death

It will keep your innocence neatly wrapped up and safe

In the pages of your notebooks

And plant tiny pieces of your soul in every poem

Until there is a garden blooming new words each spring

That pen you hold like a mountain top in your hands

It will find your love, bury your anger and save your soul

My dear girl,

Don’t ever let that pen go.

How to Write a Love Poem

Step 1: Find your rhymes

They’re usually hidden

In the curves of a woman on the dance floor

Only she’s not on a dance floor

She’s head banging at a show to your favourite rock band

But let’s face it

In your head she’s dancing in slow motion to Ed Sheeran

Her hair is making music in the air ripe with the sweat of a thousand metal heads

And all you can hear is the symphony

Echoing across the hall every time her head rises and falls

Step 2: Stare at her

Not in a creepy I’d-like-to-see-you-naked kind of way

But like your life depended on it

Like you are desperate to catch the words coming out of her mouth

Even if those words are shouts of “zombie! Zombie!”

Like you want to hold those words in your hands

And whisper back into your clenched fists

Like you’d whisper sweet nothings into her ear

Look carefully for contours on her face

They are lines that are slowly turning into a poem

And then look away

And find out how ugly the world looks without her in the frame

Step 3: Wait for the words to come to you

Don’t walk over just yet

She isn’t ready to hear the words that make her essence

She still thinks it’s the concert rocking the world

Instead write a poem in your head

About the light beaming out of her into space

The launch pad of your inter-galactic adventure!

And smile as you imagine her slowly turning into the very words you’ve written

Sailing away into the mosh pit

Step 4: Don’t be afraid

Don’t fear rejection

Because by now she is already your poem

She is an unrelenting muse

The Galatea to your Pygmalion

The Helen of your Troy

In your mind She has already won you the Trojan War

She is the Wonder Woman, your Amazonian Goddess

And you the damsel in distress

Step 5: Walk over

No, Drift.

Drift towards her like you are the wave

And the crowd – an ocean

A relentless force pulling you to her shores

Listen to the music raining on you like a cloud burst

And flow, just flow till the beats take you to her

And when the music stops for a second

And all you hear is the pounding of your heart

Turn to her as you turn the page in your mind

And start a new poem with

Hi!

Video performed at a recent poetry slam

The Ballad of the Labourer’s Daughter

Have you seen the nests they are building with everything we left behind?

Can they see our broken homes from their heights?

Do they not feel the resentment plastered on their walls?

Can they not smell your sweat flowing in their drains?

Or feel my mother’s tears wetting their streets?

Those happy faces I see through the glass windows

Seem like ghosts stuck in the peepal tree rooted in your stories

The crane came in the night

It always comes in the night

Raising its head like a snake ready to bite

This wall that lies ruined was the face of our fort

You built it yourself brick by brick

“That way our house will be just as strong as the tower next door”, you said.

It was a tiny palace behind the castle, but it was ours.

On days when you’d be too tired to tell bedtime stories

We made up stories out of the crevices in your hands

Those scars you won in a battle

Those scratches were from crawling through the trenches

Your bony fingers were hiding your superhuman strength

My father was a war hero everyday

In the mornings you’d be gone before our dreams ended

I never once wondered if you’d dreamt anything at all!

Our school was beyond the railway tracks

You would help us cross them every day

A shepherd flocking his herd

“They’re making another building, next to school” I’d say

You’d just smile and say

“That’s for you to stay in when you grow up”

I’d look up and wonder

All that hard work just to be locked up in a tower?

In the nights when our palace was silent

I’d hear your whispers through the walls

I’d touch them so your words would flow through me

Your stories of everyday valour

Some nights I even heard your laughter

It was rare but when it came

It beamed like lightening through the walls and touched my heart

The night the crane came in

You picked me up in your arms

You couldn’t see but I was staring at my books in the corner

My only friends at the time

I tried very hard to hide my tears on your chest

You thought it was the heat of the night making you sweat

I didn’t know then but my dreams that night were my best

The hum of the machine pierced through the night

As if singing a chorus to the lament of our crumbling walls

You held me tighter with each thud

You were turning yourself into my fort

Suddenly I heard nothing, not my mother’s sobs or the crumbling walls

I looked up and you were smiling down at me

“Time to build a new nest”, you said.

Sketch by Daniel David Talegaonkar