The cicada lay motionless on my writing desk,
Wings iridescent with death in the morning sun.
I poked it with an uncertain finger and it rolled
Over my Chinese calligraphy script
(The ideogram for ‘Love’ black on white
Assured strokes and slashes).
My girl squirmed at the sight,
And I reassured her dead things would always
She said to meet her behind the stairs
(Fingers and white lips trembling innocence)
During recess, and I knew she wanted to
Explore the new language we’d found.
In her eyes I saw how languages had died
Where the red hibiscuses were,
At the inevitable end of each era.
‘Mrithyur Maa Amritham Gamaya
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.’
Desire rose its Hydra heads and then
Dispersed like ashes in the wind of fate,
Nullified, deadened before it could set
In motion the wheel of grieving flames.
26.11.16 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The serpent came to me and said you would
I wept uncontrollably under the gaze of
The surprised homeroom teacher,
Who insisted a dream was just a dream
Just a dream.
But before the serpent I had dreamt of
The lavishly garbed, bearded gods
Of sharp incense marching side by side
At our ancestors’ necropolis
By the misty hillside of my genesis.
Strangers who had lost loved ones were
Burning papier mache servants and maids
Sending feather ashes and wishes up to the heavens
Where the first tear-rain of remorse would form –
And then come crashing down on the joyous island.
Your husband my grandpapa had appeared
In the raging fire
(Hell banknotes now a twirling tornado)
And in his unfamiliar eyes I had read
An invitation to the Great
24.8.16 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Painting: ‘Lush Woods of Taoist Immortal Land’ by Zha ShiBiao 查士标 (ca. 1687)
The voices came through the haze
Of yesterday’s memories and told the boy
His daddy would leave now,
Not come home no more.
The cicadas buzzed loud in the heat:
Oh no oh no daddy mommy no longer;
Bad dreams would come and linger.
Darkness fell and he hid himself
In the cave of absolute nothing more,
Languishing in stinging salty tears.
Now the bad dreams brought steroidal beasts
Of armoured chests and pylon arms.
The lashing of young skin began and blinding
Pain shot through his person’s person and
The prospect of future pain opened
His eyes to an unclouded vista of
The perfect constellations beyond mankind
Revealing their naked divine power
Against a backdrop of age-old illusions.
‘Vipassana!’ exclaimed the boy against the dark
Which duly echoed with agreeable silence.
30.6.16 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The macaques at the Waterfall Gardens recognised
Me – a child of the flames.
Mother crept up to me, hairy arm reaching out,
(Feed us or else!)
Baby clinging desperate to her underside.
I was terrified of claws, fangs, sharp things,
Ran back – in half joy-fear – to my young father.
By his side I should stay always,
For protection and other vague needful things.
The jungle all around wheezed and whispered.
(Sometimes there’s a wild shriek that tore
Through the soul.)
Savagery in the undergrowth, in the blood
Couldn’t be appeased by
The Gods of the under- and overworld.
Trembling I held on to my father’s thigh,
Seeing nothing but green menace in the killing heat.
(Thousands of miles away a war had been fought
He lifted me up and smoothed my hair over.
The tears that were about to come flowed back,
And I knew without knowing father was
A deathless god.
31.5.16. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The pain of birth has translated into
The loneliness of a single tear child roaming
The wilderness where his ancestral bones
Were interred, half-hidden by
Slender after-the-monsoon grass.
A serpent hissed and the child recoiled –
Became a wayward boy who would cross to
The other side.
Rain came again and drowned the ants.
The boy stooped down to watch the vortex of
And comprehended (dimly) what lay beyond
The hillside tombstones
(All those dead and forgotten in a foreign land).
After the storm left there was the usual
The reassurance that all should be as always.
Quiet joy lay at the core of this phase.
And a phase it certainly was.
Somewhere over the sea there were deep rumblings again.
Soon the towering rainclouds would blow inland
And the boy would scurry for cover.
30.5.16 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Mad women beget mad sons who fly
Around like zika carriers shrinking brains
Into the size of unreason, spawning
Creative neural tube defects and
Heart, nerve, heart commotion.
(Heart x2 because the world lacks one.)
Repeat after me: ‘Spinal bifida! Snipal fibadi!’
There’s your miracle of birth,
The light of being that also gave a face to
Emperor Is-that-so?, the Chairman, and Brother #1,
Shining beacons of your proud history on earth.
Those punctured grinning skulls in the walls would
(If only they could)
Ask questions you have no answers to.
Like why mothers lock themselves up in their homes
Sweeping invisible dust balls ad infinitum,
And mad sons buzz empty desires,
Clones of faulty DNA firing madness,
Gunfire rending the newborn soul.
There comes another mangled thing
Straight from the belly of infinity,
The ultimate horror of the human fate.
19.5.16 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
‘The whole secret of existence is to have no fear.’ – Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902)
I woke up from my late noon slumber to find the world
Beyond my control.
Smoke rose from the sites of mass destruction.
Lives and spirits incinerated.
Kalashnikovs rattled and missiles tore through elephant clouds.
The earth sprang up to receive
Faith turned hatred to set back civilisation
Several tearful centuries,
Crippling freedom, undoing the gift of enlightenment.
Elsewhere the sea rose to devour 5 islands in the sun,
And my kind continues to consume
Farting through filthy orifices to
Turn the blue skies death camp grey.
The Ganges, my comrades, is dying a slow death,
Having to swallow a continent of human shit.
No hope for her holy source
In the snowy crevices where Time has stood still since
12.5.16 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia