Sunday, July 20, 2014

Locusts



No one knows what the locusts
pray at night
before they storm
the church yards.

Whose number do they
dial, what last minute
lovers do they take?

No one knows
why they
block out the sun sometimes
rather than the moon.

She used to think
That to know these things,
One had to be a locust.

Now she is not sure
If the locusts know anything.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Eating Great-Grandfather

First published in Fulcrum, Number 3

Dull green paint over wood
Enveloping
Cold lead.
Obstinate — its use diminished —
Its writing faded even as it is driven on the page.
A broad pencil
Recycled from dead Bejanji Pappa’s
Stationary coffers, I hope,
And gnaw the bitter flaking end.
Some remnants of spit from him
Dance on my tongue
But he was very proper and wouldn’t chew like me — a
Monkey girl -
Perched on the refrigerator
So that thousands of miles away I can get an aerial view of Berlin as my
Great-grandfather did
In black and white like his photographs:
By then economics had given back the colour to
Hitler’s youth. I count, on my abnormally long seven-year-old fingers,
How much my pink and white
Phantom candy cigarettes would cost in the Berlin of 1924. More than my Lego blocks.

My Great-grandfather was blind before he died
And I close my eyes and walk around the house barefoot
Imagining what it felt like to have blood
Circulating, throbbing in my eyes and not seeing, like I
Miss the dead I never met.
As if by holding pencils they once used I could touch them
But don’t I know the lead is stoic, like my Grandfather, and the ashes, my skeleton too.
A kucha black granite slab was polished to sit on Bejanji Pappa’s remains
And my Grandfather’s ribs are under my fingers constantly from the forty minutes I tried to push
My life force back into his warm, helpless body
But he was dead, too late for CPR. His Pappa and he, they left me.
And now I go about taking large gulps of air to remind me
They once lived and breathed this air I breathe in now -
Oxygen that traced their bronchi
Now fleets past mine.
Maybe my cells’ ancestral molecules are dusted onto an old suit worn on the ship, maybe
My children shall eat red desi carrots grown on the Belgaum soil —
Decomposed Great-grandfather, Bejanji Pappa.


First published in Fulcrum, Number 3, 2004  
http://fulcrumpoetry.com/issues/3/index.html

Saturday, July 5, 2014

On God on day 550

Look at the calendar. It is day 550 of writing full time. Jan 1, 2013 until today. 

Reading Ted Hughes:

On God

You were like a religious fanatic
Without a god - unable to pray.
You wanted to be a writer.
Wanted to write? What was it within you
Had to tell its tale?
The story that has to be told
Is the writer's God, who calls
Out of sleep, inaudibly: 'Write.'
Write what?

Was at dinner at a writer friend's home yesterday and his 83 year old father said, in Tamil society, when a boy is interviewed as a prospective husband, the girl's family asks, "What do you do?"
If the boy says, "I am a writer," the girl's family says, "Yes, but what do you do for a living?"


The girl is discouraged from marrying the boy.


Monday, June 9, 2014

Colours


From Leeya Mehta's chapbook 'Towers of Silence' (AARK Arts, 2004). 'White' was first published in Fulcrum, 2004.

1
WHITE

I sit up in bed in the morning after you’ve smoothed me
Sandpapered me
And look at you
Standing staring at me
With your back to the window.
Stained glass I made lets in dawn.

My hair is long, unmessy
Most of my body is covered with a sheet
Yet I feel naked
As an ancient frozen corpse discovered alive -
Baffled in a new age by the sound of horns
Where once operas of droning land rose from the sea:
The shifting of continents

You did not keep me awake this night; we
Softened my desire
Before I fell asleep. And then you
Stood at the window all night
And you watched car lights, while I
Slept, dreaming of resurrection:
Returning to the sweetest past, a beginning
Before recollection.

I watch my feet on the floor, squeeze them to the tiles
You break your stare and turn away
I walk to you and touch you, you are cold and empty
Like a dead man with a vacuum soul.
What did the world do to you
I want to ask

But instead I hold you close, forgive your
Sins, so deep, so unforgivable
Let us pass into bearing
Stages.

Bearing pain, each other, bearing children,
Sad, posthumous adults

 


2
OXYGEN

blue unaerated nails need love
touch that restarts breath



 

3
YELLOW, 1957

 

He brought home a chick
A tennis ball of yellow mirth
That watched him - an artist studying its muse.
It decided, quite like she had once believed,
That he was its perfect father, 

Knowing no better.
She named it Miss Peckpeck even though
He refused to accept this Anglicised obviousness
And called it Sakubai just like he had named
Every one of her dolls. Blonde and brunette.
Miss Peckpeck knew that he was the head of the
House. Something she was beginning to resist at five and a half
Seeing no rationality in his whippings.
His Sakubai greeted him after work at the
Front door every evening at six.
Five inches tall it couldn’t hug him
So it made up by running with eager concentration at his heel
Like a pom pom on his sock.
He had to be careful, one wrong step and it was
Sakubai the chick with grievous damage to its
Chuffed out chest
It needed time to gauge distances
Nor did it like to be left out of after dinner
Kisses and demanded its own sleeping arrangements.
He rocked it into chicken dreams in his handkerchief,
Its golden fuzz quivering in the breeze.
Sakubai terminated its childhood four weeks after its arrival.
It wanted to know what lay inside a shallow bucket
Used to soak socks in, fell over and drowned.

Concussion followed by ingestion of water, she was told, years
Later, in her thirties. On the day of the drowning she had
Returned from Saturday school
And he said that Sakubai had been sent to a farm
Where she would be free with her own kind.
He wanted her childhood to be innocent -
Without the grief of Miss Peckpeck’s
‘Curiosity killed the cat’ story.
“Five and a half, too young for death,” her father said,
“I wanted to protect you.”
She said, “You knew about it and still you didn’t do anything?”
“There you go,” he said. She explained, shouting, “There was a
Watchman with black encrusted nails in school who took me
Into a classroom every break. I was five then, not
Five and a bloody half.”
“Can’t you talk softly?” he said. “Must you always make
Your point? You’ve turned this house into a fish market.”
Their fights started like that, freak bullets that always missed
His heart, and came from hers.


4

CHALCEDONY

At the river’s soft purring trembling heart
We shared our secrets, our cold soot secrets.
 

The river listened and when we rose to go
It wept white opaque tears, bruising its agate limbs.
 

I remember this river, fifty years have passed.
But you, you have twisted my secrets into a conspiracy —

I have inherited insanity and this blue-veined madness is
Our children’s heirloom.

 


5
BLANK

What colour is a scream?


 


From Leeya Mehta's chapbook 'Towers of Silence' (AARK Arts, 2004). 'White' was first published in Fulcrum, 2004.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Lure-Id - In memory of Francis Bacon

LURE-ID
In memory of Francis Bacon (1909-1992)

     A light-bulb hanging from the doom of heaven,
     Its wiring: human sinew twisted together

     The truth. As you came closer to your only other inevitable
     (not bottomless vacant-eyed sex), your cheeks came down

     Against your nose: fetal wings. Your eyes: goblin uncompassion.
     Your mouth in a black and white photograph: a moment’s abyss.

Come back to me as you were that first
Bright summer’s day, so beautiful with your

Daggers.
Don’t be human. Come back.


From Leeya Mehta's chapbook 'Towers of Silence' (AARK Arts, 2004)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Poem: The Abduction (Beloit Poetry Journal)



 It took almost a decade to finish this poem and now it is in the Beloit Poetry Journal, which I respect so much. Click on this link:

http://www.bpj.org/poems/mehta_abduction.pdf#zoom=100

Raven Elegy, photo by Lee SharkeyThanks to Lee Sharkey and John Rosenwald, editors at the Beloit Journal for all their editorial guidance and support!

Please think about supporting this wonderful publication: 

IN THE SPRING 2014 ISSUE
Poems by Alexander Booth, Temple Cone, John F. Deane, Gray Fincke, Alllison Funk, Elizabeth T. Gray, Jr., Kevin Heaton, Nate Marshall, Karen McPherson, Leeya Mehta, M. P. Ritger, Jamie Ross, and more. John Rosenwald reviews new books by Nicelle Davis, Brian Komei Dempster, and TJ Jarrett.


About 'The Abduction': In 1998, I was sitting in Queen Elizabeth Hall (close to the River Cherwell, at Oxford University), when I read the headlines in the Times of India about India's nuclear tests in the Pokhran desert. Some years later I visited this part of the Rajasthan desert and began to compose these lines.  

If you want to hear more about the poem, I will be uploading a short essay on the Beloit Poet's Forum in May and look forward to comments. Will keep you posted and share the link when it is out.