Well. I tried. Entered these into a competition. Didn’t win said competition like I had assumed I wouldn’t. Not being pessimistic/fatalistic/unboombastic, just realistic. Thought about submitting them elsewhere. But then, that wasn’t why I wrote them. I wrote them so they’d keep me writing. And after weeks of looking at publications to submit these to, I’ve decided not to.
Whenever I get carried away with minor accomplishments, disappointments and the like, I just remind myself of what Shunryu Suzuki said in that phenomenal, life changing (mine anyway) book of his, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind –
“If you take pride in your attainment or become discouraged because of your idealistic effort, your practice will confine you by a thick wall. “
Wise words to live by.
They come in their big hungry cars with
God in their wallets, easy money in their hands,
gluttony writhing across their faces,
they come here to eat their worries.
Wading through a styrofoam sea,
cresting plastic plates littering the horizon,
she picks a path through the familiar smells,
hoping for scraps, she inches closer to them.
The crowd swirls around her liked eddies
engulfing the inconsequential, the everyday,
cause and effect befriended by time and decay,
through it all she remains resolute, constant.
Yesterday’s dirt has since claimed her face,
a canvas of sullen black,
tears etching their tributaries,
coursing over sparkling silt and skin.
In a desperate race against the night’s dash
to meet the muezzin’s first call,
her gaping maw will meet no mercy,
she has offended too many, too quickly,
a wailing gash to them, she knows the
night already lies spent, her visitors satiated.
Begging will only whet her appetite now,
nourishment demands theatrics as she’s learned.
A frantic pace grips her as
she builds up momentum.
She starts to scream,
screams at them as they eat,
screams at them as they stare,
screams at them when they come
to remove her from their midst,
screams at them for food,
my mother, she screams at them.
Victims of Compulsion
At first, I thought you unattainable.
Then I caught you watching
my mouth move as I spoke.
And the charm of it all
went out the window.
A few nights later,
you threw a pair of socks at me.
Told me I forgot them
the last time I stayed over.
They aren’t mine, I said.
And charm walked right back in.
The Sun hit its apex, mildly amusing me.
This needs to end, you need to leave now.
We should stop this before it starts,
before it gets too far.
Yes, I agree with you, you said,
opening the door to get the newspaper.
Over the din of breaking glasses and
slamming doors, I pause and wonder.
Blood and wine stain the same way,
how many dinners before they can tell?
Coal lined eyes; your hand stops and you ask,
does it really hurt that bad?
Chewing gum on the windowsill,
hair in the drain and entangled jeans,
I look at you and wonder why you never stay.
I like you, sure I do, you tell me.
I just don’t like you enough for all of them.
You drive me crazy, and crazy went away,
crazy went away yesterday, you say.
Funny how these things work.
I hate everything you do.
But I forget, what came before you.
I move silently,
hugging the shadows, small steps,
I spot him, years of practice helping me
move around unnoticed.
He reaches out for the woolen cap
on his bedside table, I know it’s time.
This is harder than it usually is.
I take aim.
Under the cap I can’t read his face.
I take aim. I need to focus.
The heat and smell make it harder but
this needs to be done.
It’s okay, I tell myself.
All life is pointless anyway.
Sooner or later, we all pass into decay.
This is no different.
I take aim. I focus.
His body stiffens as he senses something
is about to happen.
Something he can’t change.
My finger is now steady. I shoot.
The noise is obscene in the stillness that
surrounds us. I walk towards him,
his face a grimace.
He’s in pain. It’s not too hard to see.
I lean in close. As close as I can.
The grimace turns into what I take to be a
smile. He mouths a thank you as he looks
at his photograph.
I can’t breathe. I manage a smile.
I walk out, the exit welcoming me.
They call it the Twilight ward.
The place smells of stale piss,
dried feces; decay has seeped
into the walls, masking life.
It’s where they come to die.
What business does a photographer
have in this place?
Immortalizing suffering to what end?
I don’t know.
I need fresh air and I’m almost outside when
I notice another sign – Twilight Ward [Women]
I can’t breathe.
//afterthoughts + gratitude//
Sunset Mission – Pasting here what I had written in 2011. Prose about something I had witnessed in 2006 and was quite hard to forget at the time. I thought it was still relevant enough for me to have a go at it. The poem is a result of that. It took me about 6 drafts to get it in the shape you read above.
“It was on the 28th of November 2006, after a visit to Pista House in the old city [Hyderabad, India], that I wrote this. There was this woman with two kids, screaming through the hungry crowds outside the restaurant. It was the only way she knew to get food.
Her children followed her everywhere.
They still manage to win accolades for their food though. Greasy food greasing palms? I think so.
And as far as I can tell, Muslims seem to grow fatter during the month of fasting.
Confused fucking lot.”
Victims of Compulsion – People. miright?!
Afterglow – Another piece of prose that lent itself to a poem. Or so I think. You can read the original piece here. Captures some of my angst with street photography as I understand it.
To whoever read the poems above and didn’t suffer too greatly for having done so, it is only fair that I tell you they were in much poorer shape when I started out. Without the incisive editing/critiquing of Emmanuel Theophilus, who is a friend, mentor and much more, they would have been unworthy of print anywhere. Even in that word document I keep buried somewhere in my machine. If I choose to continue down this path you will have only him to thank for whatever degree of readability they will, hopefully, possess.