Surprising new world

POETRY COLUMN
Our poetry editor ANANYA S GUHA picks poet SHRUTI SAREEN this month
Editor’s Note:
Shruti Sareen’s poems focus on tangible objects as well as relationships. There is introspection in her poems, and although some poems use direct statements, they take you into a surprising new world.
Passport-sized-photographs

A dummy, a mannequin,
a wax work doll. An object
to be stared, commented, laughed at.
A robotic machine. Controlled
by a set of commands.

“Shift your face to the left
your neck is not straight, your face
not level with the ground,madam.”

The holy mantra for photo-production
needs me to wear a plastic smile on demand
of correct length and breadth measurements

The canvas of my life
is replaced by a cheap blue one
Dirty too. I persuade him
to make it grey.

And I wonder how many sittings
and how many, many rehearsals
would capture my flyaway spirit
and inject a whiff of my soul
into this two-inches-of-gloss
this millimetred smile?

***

Things Fall Apart

Things fall apart
and bury
a piece of my heart
under rubble.
My shrieking, protesting heart
alive and awake
is buried under rubble.
reams of paper fall apart
an earthquake hits me
tremors shake the ground beneath me
treasured memories, lost loves
covered by debris
scarred forever
struggle to survive

***

A Fruitless Search for Faith

You believe in jesus
in krishna, in ram
fasting, chanting, praying
you offer flowers to lakshmi’s painted smile
taking it as benign and kind.

Faith fills voids, gaps in our selves
making us whole
fills gaps too in what we worship
Only completeness can give of itself
and make us complete.

I have always been an atheist
agnostic, free thinker, whatever
a disbeliever.
I never believed in god.

I have faith in a woman
in pain, in fear
in times of trouble
I believe in her.

gathering shards of my broken self
filling empty spaces in me
making myself whole, through her
my image of completeness.

But a woman has no painted smile
I can imagine as benign and kind
she breaks me into a million shards
and I struggle to make myself whole
through her.

Ironical. Paradoxical.
Life has made me cynical.
a wry smile on my face,
I wonderwho was the bigger fool
You or I.

***

On a visit to Baircha Lake

Arms entwined around branches
I become part of the tree
Swinging, swaying with the breeze
hair floating, branches waving
up-down-up-down-up-down
The rhythmic movement reminds me
of the rowing oars on a boat
Down below, the waves lap and dash against the rocks.

***

Mango Blossoms

Laden boughs
Hang heavy, thick with blossom
creamy-white profusions
sweeeter than perfume
yet wilder…
Here and there, green mangoes
peep through your arms
green parrots nestle within you
for close comfort
oh beautiful lady!
pregnant with the hope of things to be
your loveliness
is too much
for this summer evening.

***

A Traveller

Frozen Russian snows
Bitter cold
a weary traveller
bundled in a shawl
selling gay carpets.
He has been travelling…
travelling all night
Lines on his face,
the look in his eyes
speak more than my words
resting but briefly against a wall
scribbled over with
meaningless nothings
What is life for him?
The nonsense? the gay carpets?
Or the look in his eyes?

***

Betrayal
(this poem is dedicated to IP College)

The branches of your trees are the veins
Of my blood. Your arches deep rooted
In my bone marrow. I was bound to you
from before my birth, ever since the days
My grandmother walked these paths.
I resisted you at first, I know, but I grew
To love you.  Facilitated and supported
By kind hands warm smiling faces.
I had grand dreams of repaying you
With something good, something big
A token of my debt and gratitude.
And I betrayed you. Heady with passion
Drunk on folly, I seem to myself
A creature foreign to me. A person
Who could not be me. Who is not me.
Sometimes we are in the mode
Of desperate denial. Then when reality strikes
We cower, we shield ourselves, we plead
That our intentions were pure, devoid of evil design
We beg to believe that all was not bad or wasted
We abjectly try to clutch on to the past that formed us
Sometimes when we live in a dream of belief, we forget
Reality. Then we must learn the hard way,
When sour, harsh lessons wake us up.
Suffice it to say: I betrayed you. Period.
Betrayed the kind hands, the warm smiling faces
And everything they brought me.
But you are home. The crooked branches of your trees
Are the tangled veins of my blood. The arches
Of your low roofed buildings are etched
Into my bone marrow. I will be back, sometime,
I will return. I will make amends.
Will you accept me then?

***

Stub Tales

Spiralling smoke rings
Rise with an introspective air
And a husky philosophical smell
Akin to nostalgia
Telling stories.
Glowing embers
That feed on nicotine
That feeds on human despair.
This stub
Stamped mercilessly by feet
Ash oozing out of its mouth
Lies near a green can
‘Use Me’