Madhu Singh's Poems

 


Madhu Singh, New Delhi


1.      Under the moon lantern


Tonight I write with ink of the night

under the moon-lantern my quill traces a doomed star's path


its feathered plume casts indigo on barren clouds

I undrape velvet off mute mountains


pouring quicksilver on tired sketches and stretched lines

to smoothen a verse


I flow in a river of words unsaid


each wave leaps to be the first to drench the tip of my silent tongue.


 2.      Surgical


Look, how coolly he lances suppuration—

with an aseptic stare meets yellow stench. 

Pouring a scald of peroxide, for good measure,

and a badinage of lightly flung words

to wrap a decade of untogetherness.


 The russet past will rise, will surface,

will heal, leaving a scar.


And she, rising in a tender, crimson swell, 

awaits an understanding of suppressants,

a prick of forgetfulness,

scratching the itch of a severed limb.


 3.     Avianization


I've birded with binoculars for so long

that now, every pore on my body will sprout a feather

fine, ecru fuzz that soon spreads all over


all winter I’ll voraciously eat meagre meals brought to me

and stayed nestled on my fifth floor perch

until dull down deepens, flowers into resplendent feathers


I'll become less and less woman

as clothes chafe my tender plumage

and soil hurts my claws


come summer, as nightly ink dissolves into fuchsia

I'll spread my ample wings and take off

into the unhindered cerulean to never return


4.     Where’s all the philosophy gone?


 Our world was mostly water

as were we

we unfurled into it

almost sailing through


But there were moments

when the earth stood stock-still

its dead oceans mirrored black holes above

swallowing our stars


In that unmoving air

our eyes became deep pools

and we dived into ourselves to see

atmaiva hi atmano bandhur atmaiva ripur atmanah


 (*the self indeed is a friend of itself, the self verily is its own enemy)


 5.     The sea where lost dreams go to die.


when all the salt of sabi

trickles from almond pools

into all that's hollow and empty

to form a brackish ocean

with red-rimmed corals


sea-anemones arms flail 

like swaying uchiwa fans

as seagulls fly by silently

over a Basho autumn dusk


the hundredth league of the briny deep

mirrors a rough stretch of the milky-way  

and countless gemstones on the sea bed

light up the dark womb of the sky as stars


in such a fleeting moment of perfect harmony

when wordless grief is beauty

all drowned dreams surface and float

like messages in blue bottles

in the view of a passing ship


as waves lap its hull

its windless sails

carry them forth to a forgotten shore

where in an abandoned lighthouse

a lamp still burns on cold rainy nights


then on a sun-lit golden beach

a white sea-shell is picked

and its open gape sealed by the hollow of an ear

which hears all those whispered wishes.


 6.     Colaba’s vignette


 Running on water and seashells: 


The abandoned lighthouse is a short run

from the neap-tide shingled beach


she goes on olive-mossed-bare-girl-feet

comes back heavy with water of the perigee moon.


The tycoon walks his German Shepherd


Every evening his silent stride

measures the ferry-wharf timbers

straining on a tight-held leash


wind and tail thump the boards

in groans of ayes and nays.


 Remo plays at the bandstand


It was three decades ago,

yet, in misty dreams

the sand still scrunches

his gravelly Goan blues.


Juhi’s Ice-cream treat


She bubbled like pink champagne

on new found Bollywood stardom


we ‘Baskined and Robbined’

our Bombay summer itch.


As the crow flies

 

It is seven miles to the horizon

where ship-eyes wink bonne-nuits


the night-sky devours seagulls

covering dusk with raven wings.


A column of memories

 

Like seven vows around a fire

we circumambulate the lighthouse one last time


its curved walls are chalked in fading coal

with graffiti of names, hearts and cupid arrows 


the sea and air are salted

with the promises of young love


the inner chamber echoes 

with whispers of an older vintage

long fallen to ashes and dust


nowhere else seems apt

to empty the urn of yesterday's reminiscing

back to the sea and wind.


 7.     Lockdown Triptych


 Insomnia:


Last night, late May rain drummed down on the tarpaulin. With each thunder-roll and restless toss it drenched my dreams, leaving its mossy imprint on my morning tongue, waking a tired grey sky.


 Tedium:


Dawn's brief idyll done, afternoon looms. The air sears with ennui to the noise of a slow ceiling fan.

Dead leaves awhirl in dust, broken reeds yellowing in cracked marshlands, the flight of feathered things one by one.


Void:


There’s a hum of absent spring. A faint echo of daisies on empty flowerbeds. Though a smog swallowed orb seems to have forgotten its hue, remains of last night’s bonfire will paint a sesame moon.

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