I think I’m a little stuck

One knock for deafening silence so loud fictitious voices pulse in my ears.

Two and a half for the uncertainty of madness.

Three for sinking safety of temporary life.

Four point four for certain betrayal, et tu, Judas Iscariot?

The air smells like unadulterated formaldehyde,

The kind they use to embalm the breathless.

My breathing is shallow, too shallow.

The brain in the jar whispers in muffled voices,

Tells me stories of the undreamt, a midsummer night’s dream.

The landlord’s mistress strangled herself with her stockings

But it was the butler who actually loved her.

I can taste sugar on my tongue, cherry coated resentment.

Tell me another one.

I once had a dream where a goat ate the moon.

He said it was made of cheese and gave me a piece to try

But all I could taste was funeral ashes.

My guardian angel (why did I need to be guarded?)

Tore his kidney out of his body and placed it in my hand

To pay for art school and a speculative future.

I wish someone had told me the rest of my life would revolve around money, he says.

It’s a weary chase.

Listen. Listen, good ol’ hope is the most dangerous drug.

And I understood why Icarus flew too close to the sun.

My mother said she’d pray for me but I forgot that she doesn’t know how to read.

I hear a knock on the door.

One, two, three, four, five. What does that mean?

I’m in a prison cell of my own making.

I try the handle but it comes out in my hand.

I think I’m a little stuck.

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Snowflakes

The flawed mirror stretches between the asymmetrical corners of ill-proportioned walls

That have beheld more torment than the keening of a dying woman at the height of childbirth.

Passed down from generation to generation,

Polished smooth by the fingers of the long dead,

Splayed reflection at obtuse angles,

That gives the examiner the momentary semblance to a lesser Brahma

With an exterior as cloudy as the cataracts in the old man’s eyes.

Age has taken its time to settle in the ravages of his face,

Settled fatly in sagging bags under eyes that have seen too much to know true peace.

He has installed himself in his cushioned wicker chair by the firmly shut window,

Wrapped in the pelt of a rabid wolf, shot on a two day persecution

After the boy cried wolf and his sister cried herself to sleep,

But now smells like stale tomato soup spilled clumsily from wooden bowls

And cheap rum, emptied glasses clustered accusingly on the sill,

Knocked back in moments when the antagonizing echoes of children’s screams

Grow shriller rather than fading into the tangles of senility

Because he prefers an unforgiving numbness,

Punishingly cruel that starts from a switched off brain to an inflammation of a liver that cannot feel

The bitter cold that consumes noses, toes, fingers indiscriminately

With the insatiable appetite of a long winter.

 

The gentle fall of snow outside reminds him of

The first time he saw a dead body,

When he was two months older than twelve,

Skidding recklessly between ice paved alleys

Over the bellies of hypothermic nags and under starched clothes frozen over taunt rope

Around the corner of the new and only town bank,

That was said to host the minister’s secret gold hoard,

To slip over the corpse of the man who pulled the ice cream cart in the summer,

Snow nestled among the individual hairs of his scraggly beard

Wrong place, wrong time, wrong victim.

Killed by a lone bullet that was meant for

An enemy of the state disguised as a peasant who had fled the previous night with his precious bundle

Fallen snow. White. Red. White. Red.

No one knew it yet but it marked the beginning of a war the country couldn’t afford

And would last for the amount of years it took infantile feet to turn aching, dragging.

And he watched stretched out in flayed time as

His mother ran screaming, sobbing on his chest,

Mouthing the name of her husband’s brother in inaudible desolation

While his father dragged her by her waist length hair,

Flaxen combed with 100 strokes every night,

Through the stricken throng of the whole town

To resume in the privacy of their own home albeit the neighbors

The rather loud discussion of the folly of loving two

And ended up in the same bed naked,

As he muted it all out, spread out snow angel in the yard

Snowflakes falling softly,

Melting on an open tongue.

Folkore of past

Who decides to forgive? Who decides to forget? 

 

Long ago, when I was eight and naïve, my mother would unfold 

Tangled lore, spun from the mouths of wizened midwives,  

Of the people that inhabited ghost ruins of ashen floors and heavy history and broken bridges 

That marked the beginning of no man’s land. 

There, the children were born with the eyes as dead as Satan’s graveyard  

Of the sinners who have died a second death in the Dante’s circles of hell,  

And with the silence of Buddhist monks on the fifth day of their vow. 

 

There, no one could hear you scream over the sound 

Of the twin temple bells tolling in unison, every dawn and every dusk, 

Pulled by the emaciated hands of the lone priest  

Who slept in front of his beloved altar flecked with dried blood 

Where devotees carved themselves in the heat of the moment, bit by bit, limb by limb, almost lovingly 

In hope of finding everlasting salvation once and for all. 

There, adolescents intoxicated by the feel of home-made opium and their own youth 

Spent days staring directly into the sun until their pupils were bleached colorless 

And they stumbled around, blind leading the godforsaken blind. 

There, men loved only once but loved good 

And speared themselves through the heart to bleed slowly on their ashen floors when  

Heartbreak was too hard and life wasn’t worth living. 

 

Long ago, when I was ten and still learning, the neighbor’s daughter ran out of her  

Socially acceptable, respectably modest house. 

She ran and ran and ran and ran. 

It’s gnawing on my bones, she cried. 

icanfeelitchewingonmylivericanfeeltheflamessinginginmybellyicanfeelitsiteethmarksonmyskin. 

Who, we cried. 

The Devil, she cried. 

pleasehelpmeithurtspleasestopitwon’tstopburning. 

She ran across the stagnant town of weary wraiths and wearier living. 

She ran across the barely-there bridge where Pretty Lies had her heart cupped in fickle fingers. 

She ran across crushed stone tiles, where Pretty Lies was skinned to the bone 

By the same children with dead eyes as she watched  

And she retched and retched and retched,  

And threw herself into the consecrated flames, a sacrificial lamb tilting the scales towards absolute Disorder. 

They say her screams were the last thing the priest heard before he dropped dead from a weak heart and a weaker mind. 

 

Long ago, when I was sixteen and no smarter than before, curiosity got the better of me. 

And I found myself walking down the same steps to madness. 

I crossed the broken bridge to stand on slick floors of the blood of the undoubting faithful, 

Fervently dancing in the light of a thousand candles that could never be put out, 

And I could hear the sound of trumpets in my ears, ringing in the eternal battle Of Good and Evil 

Where Good must always prevail because it is the way of the world lest we are lost to the darkness. 

But Good and Evil are relative and nobody knows anything and nothing means anything 

So I crossed the broken bridge back home. 

 

A Liar’s Paradox

The guy before You told me that I acted like an Out of Order sign hung crooked on a bathroom door.

I ask him, what does that mean i don’t understand.

He tells me he doesn’t know but that the words tasted good in his mouth

Right before he shoved his tongue in my mouth.

Does that taste good?           

 

You lie better than you love, you say,

As we lay next to each other in your apartment that stinks of abandonment and cheap cologne

Because that’s the only kind you can afford

Because you spent all your money on mirrors that cover every inch of the walls

To help you cope with your paranoiac fears

Because you refuse to forgive yourself.

You, the Man with the Picasso Face,

Who doesn’t hold my hand if there’s more than one person in the room.

Who listens to Radiohead in an airless car for hours.

(And by Picasso face, I mean the faces painted up by Picasso during

Alcohol fueled furies on sultry Spanish nights

When he thought too long and too hard about the only woman that dared walk out of his life.)

And I, A Liar, body scarred in past transgressions,

The fiction that I’ve told snuggled deep under my tongue

And into the unintelligible poetry I write about

Love, Loss and Life in the middle of the night

When Time feels like slow jelly and I can’t feel my face anymore.

 

I take you to an art museum because

You like paintings, you say quietly under your breath.

We’re surrounded by

Monet,

Rembrandt,

Magritte,

Warhol counterfeits

And the abstractest of pieces, the product of a three year art degree

By disillusioned artists still living in their parents’ house,

But I think you’re prettiest of them all.

 

Tell me, I say, Do you think we’ll be in love forever?

Tell me two truths and a lie, you say

You have something in your teeth.

I’ve never loved you, it was all an act.

I’m sleeping with your mother, I say

You look at the reflective mural of the

Hundred-year-old man with wrinkles of solitude on his face

Polished with his own two hands until the day he died,

Body slumped over his masterpiece (that’s how they found him).

You slowly pull out the baby piece of baby lettuce from between your molars.

You look at me.

You lie better than you love.

Generation X-Y-Z

This generation is not for the sentimental
Living fast lives
To make fast money
Driving cars a little too fast
And coming for the wrong person even faster
Till one day they stop to find the meaning of life
Among the broken reflection of the person they used to be and
The aborted fragments of the person they wish they were,
In the middle of nowhere, next to empty valium prescriptions,
Rimmed with the salty tears of insomniacs,
Desperately trying to cup empty happiness
Between sinking palms,
Listening to music from a time
When people wanted to no longer lie to themselves,
Wringing art from the
Pure, unadulterated, consummate fear of the oppressed
Mesmerized by barren flowers on polished guns
Because nobody wants to die when they’re staring death in face.

Drifting aimlessly in stagnant times,
This generation refuses to cave into the
Prejudices of their forefathers,
Men who burned their brothers at the stake
And stoned their sons under banyan trees
In the name of greed, power and the nation.
They are called Spoiled, Entitled
Ungrateful, Selfish,
Addicted to Digital Actuality,
The Downfall of Quality Humanity,
But their ancestors spent their humanity
Putting bullets into the heads of the unarmed
Because they looked and acted a little different from them
Bombing, gassing, mutilating their neighbors over a slice of land
Till neither side could stand straight anymore
Or look each other in the eye.

This generation piles one existential crisis after another on
Groaning banquet tables of intangible anxiety,
Leaving behind Instagram shitposts on crumpled napkins
As part of their already fading legacy.
Alone in the biggest crowd this dying planet has ever seen
Desperate to be heard above the static of
Their intricately put-together sham-self
A product of inconsistent parenting and questionable confidence
Waiting to feel anything that’s mildly real
Even if it is pain.
Losing sobriety with every foreign breath
On an extended hiatus from reality
In a land that is not their own but they call home.

This generation pushes back when pushed because they’re tired
Of being spit and looked down on
Of being told what they should do
Who they should be and who they should and shouldn’t love.
They’re so caught up in their own minds
Until it becomes too dark to see anymore
And then it’s the blind leading the blind.
Please leave them alone.
They’re just trying to get by.

This generation craves that four-five second of B-rated fame
Where nothing matters as long as all eyes are on them
And stupidity is awarded with international limelight
Dying, sometimes literally, from the everyday routine
Looking for the next hit of stimulant
Till life becomes nothing but
Panem et circenses.

This generation can’t create anything that truly belongs to them,
Their beloved heart-over-head masterpiece but
Only a copy of a copy of a copy
Because conformity has been driven so deep into their skulls that
It’s the common tongue of the house
And the house always wins.

Miscellany of Humanity

The city holds its breath, suffocating in the dry summer air
Where temperatures soar to levels during the day that make
Old women huddle under the merest hint of shade
And fan themselves with the end of their flowered cotton saris, armpits stained with sweat
As they plead to their many colored gods for a whiff of rain.

In the dead of the night where
Fear walks hand in hand with its favorite concubine, Violence,
Through ill-lit corners
Stopping to peer at ugly bodies next to mounds of plastic waste and human feces
And the silence is broken only by the low hum of an occasional bike
Driven by a drunken drunk who is drunker than he should be,
A figure shrouded in brown walks, leaving no imprints in the gritty dust
To indicate that it ever existed, sucking in time through its wide nostrils
In the hazy yellow light of the fickle sodium lamp.

Through an open window,
Too high from the ground for cats to jump into,
It gazes hungrily at
Children in their beds, breaths haggard from the pneumonia in their lungs
Listening to dusty memories, faded by the fragility of old age, roll off a worn out tongue
Whose owner thinks it’s folly for youth to spend the day watching talking animals and cars
Than work from dawn till dusk.

In another house, one meant for the rich, on the other side of the street
An heiress, spoiled from birth, lies on a bare mattress
And feels a heavy weight on her chest that makes it hard to breathe
And wonders if it’s the weight of the sins of her ancestors
Kneeling by her side, one foot pressed on her rib cage,
Hungry for retribution.

Passing through a shoddily built concrete wall, the figure watches a young man
Stare hungrily at the thick pages of a glossy magazine,
Thumb moving longingly over six foot two inch fifty kilogram models
Clad in rich shimmery fabric that took eighty-four hours to sew by hand,
Secretly wishing that he could be one of them.
Next door, a couple stares blankly at the grainy television
Not divorced yet although they wish they were
And in the floor above, a insouciant girl, body bathed in moonlight
Wakes up in a strange city in a strange room next to a strange man who is her soulmate
For this phase in her life till she move on and find a new one.

Black glossy feathers spread, the hooded visitor takes flight to land below
A man in his fifth story apartment, staring dully down from his balcony,
Haunted by the ghosts of his dead wife’s lover
Who whispers through the twists of his mind
Whatever is covered up will be uncovered, and every secret will be made known.
Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in broad daylight
And is wondering whether to jump or not.
At a firm shake of the head from the hood, the man sighs and goes back inside to his empty bed,
Cold without the warmth of a woman.
The man sees the stranger every night,
Wading through and inspecting the miscellany of humanity
To collect the souls owed.

Hood thrown back cautiously, the figure lowers himself next to the door of the nearby chapel
Wings furled, revealing a sharp ebony face with high cheekbones and empty eye sockets
As a preoccupied feline watches disinterestedly from the gutter
To tenderly pick up a swaddled blue-faced infant
The smallest of the miscellany, crushed by the weight of a thousand other lives.
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Medusa Falls in Love

This century does not welcome her
With its strange offspring who camouflage unspeakable secrets
In the convolutions of their dry tongues and crevices of their hollow smiles.
Days limp by slower than they did before, dragging shackled feet to an inexorable demise
Like forsaken Russian POWs.

The twenty four hours of this new world are too drawn out for her.
She spends three of them, chained with ropes of repugnance to a silvered looking glass
As bright as the tinkle of delicate wind chimes on sharp winter mornings,
Polished methodically thrice a day with her favorite brand of glass cleaner,
As if she could wipe away her undeserved punishment through persistence, wipe away her existence.

A heavy masculine face tinted by the trials of time.
Feverish kohl black eyes as pellucid as the marbles of neighborhood urchins during afternoon siestas.
One mortal look at them to become immortalized in a tombstone of a grave.
Chapped lips, bruised from biting away dissecting introspection,
Bared back to reveal decaying canines
With the remnants of previous night’s microwavable dinner stuck in between.
Writhing hair, seductively hissing overlapping reptile dreams into an intrigued ear.
Loneliness melded into the marrow of her spent bones.
Pallid scaly skin of saggy breasts covered by an even saggier sundress of an inappropriately bright yellow
That could be easily found on the discount racks in the corner of almost-bankrupt retailers.
Hands lingering over unsightly rolls of fat, stinking of conquered vanity.
Mind crawling on four legs to private alcoves of the past,
Habitual memories of when even Gods above would peer down from their lofty thrones
At her owned hallowed beauty.

Occasionally, the lone customer would potter into her peculiar statue store,
Tucked in between a bakery that sells out of bread crumbs in fifty two minutes
And a money lender whose son spends the entire day
Cheating the tourists who frequent the cobblestone streets,
By the alarming pull of curiosity rather than genuine interest,
Occasionally joining her merchandise when whimsical flights of fancy would strike her with savage satisfaction.

An unusually warm February, singing to her only devoted company
(Not that they had a choice, stone feet can’t run)
Lilting foreign lullabies from slivers of the time perfumed with known love.
The pressure of a placid hand on her forearm.
And her heart lost its grip
Because the last time she had allowed hands on her skin, she had been defiled inside and out,
Cloth chiton weeping grief into stone cracks.
A red haired godsend, lost from her Wiccan grandmother’s apothecary
In clothes as tight as a clingy child and features that would have roused Aphrodite’s jealousy
Eyes, opaque as divine anger, shielded behind thick glasses
Unable to see the crinkle of the skin around her father’s mouth when he smiled
Or the way sunlight turned the dark green of her birth mother’s eyes into twin translucent lagoons.
And her heart lost its grip
Because the last time she’d felt like this was in the holiday of her dead lover’s sentimental kisses.