of sleep

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i stalked Shabana Azmi’s Instagram at 4:17 a.m. after coming across one of her posts. i got stuck to it and explored her life, as exhibited on the heavy screen of my cell phone. in a desperate plea for sleep, i look for such intervening factors on the social media that can lull me to close my eyes where i can lose the ra(n)ge of my incessant inner-voice. sometimes, it works and i hand over the reins of the internet and breathe deeply into a light snooze. at other times, i realise after long how bizarre it is and begin to make amends, in the form of shallow breathing to trick myself to sleep. when that does not work, i start worrying about the books that i am not reading, the ones i left in between, the ones i do not know of, the ones i could never write (or something along these lines) till i cross the borders (and uncross them) between levity and foolhardiness one too many times.

in order to feel better, i finished the chapter of one of the books that i was reading and watched the first half an hour of a film. then to bed and breaths and buildups. and back to prompt wakefulness.

at 6:37 a.m., i stand up and go for a floating walk. with the sun burning my industrious eyelids, i miss out on the hornet just ahead of me. after a moment’s delay, we both gawk at each other and turn in opposite directions. my sense of direction does not work well in such circumstances and i end up encountering this mischievous creature again. before the sting, the cry of a crow takes my full attention and i manage to escape.

the scrawny black thing has a worm in its mouth, hanging loose like a scarf around the neck (that can well be a noose). it is a morning angel, cawing and cackling and enjoying its breakfast. it ignores the row of six pigeons on the opposite wall, who are the sentinels of this open court.

there is no judgement in the coming. i think of the law and its acrimonious relationship with hope. i think of the absentee litigator before an absent god, i think of a big advocate with a stamp of contempt on his head. what is the law for but to disembowel the mind and tie the tongues into neat knots?

the law is sans justice. the sleep is sleeplessness. with that in mind, i start writing of this vacuum that can contain all of our lifetimes and those that have not even begun yet.

 .
© Anmol Arora

Image source (Sleeping Effort, 1953, Jackson Pollock, © Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York)

of heat and pain

kahlo

the pain comes in waves, rising with every twist and movement, closing like a sunflower in that one particular posture and head tilt that makes it recede to an invisible centre (all else silent). in that particular pose, a burst of senseless laughter escapes me, of relief, of sweet, sweet relief. it has only been a couple of days and i am sick of its tentacles piercing and needling my muscles into tight knots. the right quadrant of my upper back is a plain, a parallel dimension for unintended consequences of seemingly inconsequential actions.

a hot water bottle rests against the hurt. the nightlight makes the red rubber look like blood. its scaled surface feels like old skin. letting the heat transfer and latch onto my pain, i feel light. the waves pass me by, hungry for new flesh and brittle warmth. lying in this manner, i drift off to visions. it may be the result of a muscle relaxant i took in one go that i feel the vibrations of a half-dream on my left shoulder and forearm, and numbness spreads throughout like apricot jam on a burnt toast.

with this unkindly sleep, i stay in a drug-addled awareness. all is as should be. all is on its way to becoming a memory.

embracing the pain, i read of an empress and bulimia, bridges made of watermelon sugar, and the kill list of a forgotten virus. the night becomes predawn becomes the first glimmer of light becomes a hot day. the water turned cold hours ago, the anti-inflammatory chemicals have absolved themselves. i move around and struggle with the weight of my small being in the vastness of this bed, all in the hope to find a way through the pain.

not to avoid it. to be it.

the pain as a reminder as a prophecy as a hypnotic dream as a sunburnt image as a rain besieged sea as a burnt-up pyre as an acceptance.

.
© Anmol Arora

Image source (Frida Kahlo, Arbol de la Esperanza (Tree of Hope), 1946 (Photo: Nathan Keay, ©2014 Banco de Mexico Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, D.F. Artists Rights Society (ARS), Private Collection Chicago))

time capsule

the-past-is-present-ellen-brook

all these years erased, memories faded
to blots of ink&dust (rewritten and smudged

in/by a whirlwind of a mind)

nothing is real (nor unreal) in an unchanged sun’s
beckoning light, that falls cold
on the fullness (red pulp &orange rind) of my ripe skin.

this air is not the air that carries
voices &smells across the plateau of another time.

years that were gone/erased —

i never left, never became
a person (more than a hollow bone &pain)
never knew of my left side from right —

as i enter the body
i left behind,
it opens —

dreams drained of any colour, swallowed portions
of rotting needs, all figure in my deadpan speech,

all slow motions to a dead end, as in a little disk of a film,

b&w, sepia, deepening into monochrome lines,

breathing, talking, ageing
but not alive.

.
© Anmol Arora

Image source (The Past is Present by Ellen Brook)

Linking it up with my prompt for dVerse Poetics on Portals

an apple song

croy-nielsen_2016_sebastian-black-completed-paintings_04_concerning-taste.900x0.1491057615

they say dying by suicide should not seem like an option
(in a world where we would rather admire silent suffering)

“you shouldn’t have” “i wish you knew that i cared” —

a person is like an apple with layers of lives lived and unlived
in the course of a simplified reality
(not for you to decide or decipher),

when they die by suicide (no one commits suicide),
the core is still not empty,
in their absence, your words are not solacing,
they are empty vessels (cyanide seeds of pilgrimage)
that mean nothing to a non-existent god.

i read that there comes a time when you realize
that you do not want to die anymore
but you’re just living the memory of wanting to be unalive,
to be buried in endless despair, so as to placate
the familiar need to stop it all.

i wonder if my skin is as supple as an apple’s —

if i cut it and square it for your consumption
(social media consolations and memorials),
would it bleed or would it not anymore?

would it hurt or would my lips quiver and pause…
to the sweet perfume of a fresh wound?

my blood clots at the thought of an apple
that may not be as sweet as it may look —
so shall i choose a pomegranate seed
to bind my life and plant it near my empty heart
(no space within)?

when i wish to return to what i knew best,
i feel the pull towards knowledge that this fruit
is yet to accumulate me, still to ripen before the fall comes.

.
© Anmol Arora

Image Source (Sebastian BlackConcerning taste let’s ask the apple: Hey apple sliced in half (muzzle). Hey you of black seeds and rotten core (whiskers,nose) of yellow skin, and stem split twain (mouth), of etc and also of etc. Who left you here on the round glass end table (head)? Are you sullying up the Eileen Gray ​piece”, the Heath ceramic mugs (eyes)? Or are you, like the film of dry coffee, (pupils) adding just the right touch? Think about it. I’m gonna take a nap and if I’m sunlight when I wake up I’ll alight on you. But if I’m still just meat with arms I’m gonna move you (ears) over by the couch., 2016, Oil on linen, 60 × 45 inches / 152.5 × 114.3 cm, Unique)

Linking it up with my prompt about and on apples at dVerse later this evening

mirror-image

zabicki_5

i treat white words and black smiles as one
when the moon looks like a lamp,
a river of despondent virtues
&potential sins,

i look like a mirror, an image of an image,
drinking from the same chalice
as a millennium of systemic subversion, my stigma
is attached to my body, and
i carry it around like a baby
in a cradle, like a queer impulse
of my hope, like open eyes that
do not shut in the dark, like my skin’s
craving and engravings on my skin.

i do not mix
love
(as reductive as it is)
with pity,
i do not change my face
as i once did, i pickle my smiles
and feed them to your glances,

i am an expression, not either, nor both,
but all at once, the first one twice, the second
in intervals of time (joined to my hip),

i am a hole to take you in, to engulf
and succumb to this impulse
to see death, in its non-binary
view — this itch to know,

and to know well,
that i am the one, who
i am, who i see,

without a mirror, without the sky,
not transparent, nor opaque,

but still visible in the shadow
of my own light.

.
© Anmol Arora

Image Source (Hand Mirror by Gwendolyn Zabicki)

For my prompt at dVerse Poetics this evening, where we are celebrating some amazing Black poets, as part of the Black History Month. I’ve tried to emulate Audre Lorde’s style in A Woman Speaks and used one of her lines (in italics) — “I do not mix/love with pity.”