of ants, words, and passages

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my room is infested with ants. their dark, mellow bodies struggle against surfaces, solid or not, to find a passage to somewhere. some of them climb on me, walk up to my calves, to my thighs, before i realise they are there with stinging pain and shed them away. some die in the process, the rest wriggle free of this temporary shortcoming and find their way again.

they are like my words, that are often incompetent and even inchoate because i see life as a long series of misguided and misunderstood syllables. they are like wor(l)ds that speak from the downfall and seek approval to be present.

last year that i spent in a far off city, i would often jump a wall, go out in search of a cup of chai and smoke, with words bursting like tiny crackers in my mind that got transferred to all those who sought (something) on the streets. and sometimes, i would want to be that tall woman in a magenta saree to have that purposeful gait, that man who seemed like a fleeting answer to all my shattered believes, or that dead butterfly.

(i encountered some ten of them this time last year, followed by dead dogs and dead birds till the end of the year, which i took as a marker of my own death but it hasn’t worked out too well)

i have a lot to say but words seem futile and rudimentary for something wordless, even soundless. like the moon seemingly in the wrong direction on that beach evening (i cannot begin to forget it) or those crabs carrying my weight in the dark as i ventured alone with only moonlight as my guide to a bridge i knew was there, but not reaching anywhere. when i had opened the maps application on my phone, it showed that i was in the middle of the sea, the unstable ground left far away. but i was not drowning. so, i retraced my steps, lonely as wind, frazzled like an ant.

now i am in my home, spent more than three months here already, which is at least twice the total time i spent here (before this) in the last seven years. words are simple here. they come and go, climb up and down, rise high and low, sometimes without consequence, sometimes requiring me to kill them because of the pain that they cause — a moment’s pain but measured in the depths of a lifetime.

and i carry that alone through the day to the next, through the month to the next. waiting. believing that the words would set it right, that i will learn to walk out and get somewhere again.

.
© Anmol Arora

This blog completed nine years a couple of weeks back. Marking the anniversary pretty late but here’s something.

Image source (The Ants by Salvador Dali)

an apple song

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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

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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.”

what is the colour of black?

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black is the sound of a phone call
through hazy lines, that keeps on
ringing — delayed response,
stopping short of despair — its greys
subdued, in the harsh daylight.

black is the smell of fresh blood, lip-
shaded hurt that keeps on aching,
rising — tendrils of lust reaching out
for a dark, dark touch — i’ve wondered
if i can rise to the height of burning.

black is the nail-paint — matte, you
said — it makes my fingers look long-
err — these short sardonic evenings
to gather at the shore, monochrome
boats returning to a long night’s door.

black is the imprint of a stranger —
shadows and sighs, desire held aloft,
succumbing to these charms — my
hurt getting wider, my lies deeper, as
hopes trickle down in half-streams.

black is the taste of your smile — sly,
shy, standards apart — white masks
falling from our eyes, to see the shape
of nothingness, its skin we wear unto
our hearts, like a hole stretched apart.

i see black remorse — no spectrum
to measure its length and width —
a world missing, where i could be singing
to the clouds, and they would pour down
all the colours, remembered and lost.

.
© Anmol Arora

Image source (Abstract Painting by Ad Reinhardt; © 2018 Estate of Ad Reinhardt/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York)

Written for my prompt at dVerse on Shades of Black. Don’t forget to check it out.

when a flame dies

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& the way a drunk mosquito burns—roasted
when it strikes a humming electric
racket, sweet pleasure is found

in the touch of a fire, getting
closer, warming undulating nerves,
burning many skins and hearts —

i sit beneath a cornucopia of thoughts,
shaded by empty words and loss, un-
true to the universe, unforgiving of
black nights and their igniting stars.

i want to learn how to perform in symbols
and when there are shortages of voiced whispers,
i need to let go of my vernacular, my colloquial
lips in favour of a rusted language, that
i have borrowed and bracketed for my cause.

i don’t remember the words, not their units
of deflated lungs, alight clay lamps, final
sparks of a flying cracker in the air, so
i absolve myself of all that has gone,
not knowing, not even writing, because
i don’t know how to do that anymore.

.
© Anmol Arora

Linking it up with “Kerry Says ~ What is Metamodernism?” at With Real Toads
Image source (Untitled [glossy black painting] by Robert Rauschenberg)