the evolution of ghosts

Earth does not forbid, yet the smell of earth remains forgotten. Inner strictures have little bearing to the outer plenitude which seems more and more like a shell, to be shucked, only to be worn as adornment to protect an inner quietude, a sanctum of disconnect.

I have forgotten the smell of sand
as it sifts through

My intentions. I have received
little in the way of

Relevance when I quote the high
mountain’s resilience

To time. And they shriek a silent
shriek to silence the

Evolution of their ghosts, masks
tired of introspection.


inmost verbiage

When does the poem cease to be mere wordplay and start living out its words in the tenements of a tiny courage, wilful but soaked in fear?

“…the myth of the equality of all individuals, when the question: “Do you know who you’re talking to?” is still current among us.” – Paolo Freire, “The Pedagogy of the Oppressed”

the structure of domination housed
in a tiny neuron frame in the insides
of the insides of your innermost
recesses – is the DNA that animates

your prose, your work of ought,
naught, verbiage, verse, as it claims
to know, to want to deem to know
the heart of snow, the flake.


the ether’s dare

Erich Fromm contrasts two essential ways of existence, “To have” and “To be”. To have is to possess, the state of the oppressor, perennially seeking excess of ownership, obliterating the past onward to an infinite present. To be, on the other hand, is to engage with the world in a state of love. To be is to transform the world, the past being the oracle of possibility where the sky begins to broach the ether’s dare.

When sky begins to broach
the ether’s dare, the

panther of each thumb, each
slice of hair on a morning’s

rub of ear and mother, you
hear the sound of antecedents.


Decree of refusal

A necessarily clumsy translation of the last four lines of Faiz’s 1966 poem, sar-e-waadi-e-seena, written after the Arab Israeli war would go thus:

As the chosen few have ritualized oppression
And the preacher exhorts holy surrender to servitude
Reversing centuries of acquiescence to injustice
Mandates an urgent decree of refusal.

Here are the last four lines in transcribed Urdu:
ab rasm-e-sitam hikmat-e-Khaasaan-e-zameeN hai
taeed-e-sitam maslihat-e-mufti-e-deeN hai
ab sadyoN ke iqraar-e-ataa’at ko badalnay
laazim hai ke inkaar ka farmaaN koi utray

Here now is my own rendition of those four lines, taking the spirit of what Faiz says and transfiguring it, correcting it even, to fit the spirit of our times. The self-love imagery – and the line from Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” – comes from my visit to the gym earlier today where I saw a man continually admiring himself in the mirror. On my way back home, the line on sewage was decreed.

Narcissus is want is need is
Me and I, I, I -
The flex of an inflexible memory, the creed of
Muscle and
Harm - The stench of sewage will overpower
The lord of mercy as he pleads, "Man, what are you doing here?"



night is willing

Language tips the iceberg that is thought. If verse is to claim a similar relation to language, all sorts of decisions have to be made. Incisive decisions to cut all that ties words – and thus thought – to oppression. Otherwise, there is little point in words.

Agree the night is
      willing to knife
  the wind, to

Sleep in the tent of
      your erstwhile
  friend, this

Knife is wet with doubt
      and much thought
  passes by, -

mask of worry

Distraction is the non-substantive anchor of fear. Fear skirts the boundaries of each distraction to preserve the potential for more fear: the sentries of anguish, centuries of flitting about.

The river’s rhythm has the mask
of worry

About it, the mask of haste and

About it, feeding a riverbed of


the ruined temple

The fillet of rain catapults its
Necessary drain of exfoliated dew
In the arms of an unwanting sea,
A seafaring want open to rhythm and
Shoal; the cut of the sentence is

Harm, the grammar, its sheath; and
When the dew coalesces, each mint
Of meaning is ripe for flight, and
The rain sings, the unwanting sea
Wants a new now;  the ruined temple

Begs to be recast as the begging
Bowl, the fascist thug is thus the
Preacher, the lie and the absence
Of rain; the eye completes the holy
Rounds of excrement and smoke.

“Take your holiday, my boy; there are the blue sky and the bare field, the barn and the ruined temple under the ancient tamarind.

My holiday must be taken through yours, finding light in the dance of your eyes, music in your noisy shouts.

To you autumn brings the true holiday freedom: to me it brings the impossibility of work; for lo! you burst into my room.

Yes, my holiday is an endless freedom for love to disturb me.” – From the Fugitive; Rabindranath Tagore.


sword of mock

“It is not enough to try to get back to the people in that past out of which they have already emerged; rather we must join them in that fluctuating movement which they are just giving a shape to, and which, as soon as it has started, will be the signal for everything to be called in question. Let there be no mistake about it; it is to this zone of occult instability where the people dwell that we must come; and it is there that our souls are crystallized and that our perceptions and our lives are transfused with light.” – Frantz Fanon, “The Wretched of the Earth.”

I constitute the molecules of
an inner space as my answer; the

finality of plumb endings, filial
beginnings – ash, crumb, din – I

constitute the banal necessities
of atoms as my answer; the bits

of reason which have sworn allegiance
to a historic passion, an eager

resilience to foretelling, a sword
of mock, thrust of rock, sand, green.


Presentism and the poet’s rage

Presentism is a modern stain. It is vehement in denying all explanations of now that go back in time, wanting to start anew with such passion that the past becomes trivial. Forgetting becomes less an explicit act and more an implicit elision brought about by massive distraction.

(The social forces that compel presentism are the same that animate the modern assault on understanding, restricting the scope of vigorous debate to a limited spectrum (Chomsky1) creating the illusion of diversity.)

When we are robbed of the past, we have no choice but to project the image of the present onto the future (Galeano2). The assault on imagination is terrifying. When our language is robbed of historical consciousness, the sensibilities brought into play are dystopic.

If language is fossil poetry (Emerson), then the poet should be all the more outraged by such an appropriation of expression. Dylan Thomas rages against the dying of the light. If we accept Kundera when he says, “the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting,” then Dylan’s rage is sterile unless the dying light is cast in the light of the ever alive past.

rage is the new normal; night is
an interpretation; flip open the
valves and let the ink bleed the
catchments dry for a new version
of night, a variation on history

rage is the new normal; the long
machinery of myth, the stench of
an older order, more primal than
the scream of the new version of
night, permutating with mutation

rage is the new normal; delights
in the rediscovery of the ultra-
mundane, the hodgepodge factotum
and mishmashed equilibria - this
is no more primal, no more night

rage is the new normal; the fist
that dares to open, to ask, want
to dare to ask, to stamp its bit
on the new version of night, the
variation on theme, an older one

1. “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.” Noam Chomsky, “The Common Good”

2. “Incapable of recalling its origins, the present paints the future as a repetition of itself; tomorrow is just another name for today.” Eduardo Galeano, “Upside Down”