UK-based Roshan Doug is a sensitive poet

A Snapshot

We were sitting in a summer’s afternoon, you and I.

A taboo.

Click.

We were a picture like a painting, a poem. A snapshot in time.

Click.

We measured our distance in smiles.

Subtlety, discreetly.

It’s not what we said but what we didn’t say.

 

Click.

Your eyes, the glimpse.

Not what we did but what we didn’t do.

Your words, my nods – dancing in unison.

 

Click, click.

All the time I was infusing reality with my imagination

The flick of your hair, the taste of your kiss.

The freshness of the breeze, your scent.

The unsayable, those lips…

Click, click, click.

 

I am a Poet Today

I am a poet today.
I think, ‘Am I an old man?’

 

You are my poem,
Of somewhere.

Your words still echo,
Of sometime.

 

In the dark night

You walk lightly – 

Under the moon. 
I just follow you.

 

A Taste of Cherry

I have picked the cherries from our garden.
They’re in a bowl on our kitchen table.

You are still in your nightgown – half asleep.
I hold you and caress the softness of your skin.

The light flickers and dances on your hair.
The morning breeze.

Your eyes are closed; you bite a cherry
slowly
The vision, intoxicating like your perfume.

And then you smile not quite teasing,
Licking the juice with your tongue.

Sweet moisture of your breath in your kiss.
Our love dripping from your mouth, those lips.

 

Giving Birth to a Poem

the water’s broken
something’s 
pushing out
from the dark
deep breathing now
in out in out…
tonight I can feel a poem
coming on
or a lyric
drenched in melody
butter and milk
or music that outlasts
the artist
honestly
I can feel it 
in my body
the way a woman can feel
an unknown 
heartbeat
taking shape inside her
I can sense its air
its vitality 
its calling
its delicate cry 
its subtlety rising
as it gains the sky
like a bird 
taking its first flight
and then flying
close to the Sun
to the stars
something
in the cosmic world
is moving, whispering
honestly
in the nether regions
of our soul
its developing
the way a foetus grows
slightly, silently
cocooned in connection
alive 
but flickering
in blood
in bones
in ancient rays 
in colours
in shades dazzling
all white, 
all gleaming
the way a candlelight dances
on a ceiling
on gods in a temple
those deities
who listen or not
its sensing my eyes
the state of my heart
my loneliness 
honestly
I can taste it on my tongue
like a piece of jaggery
fresh
from an Indian village
sweet
as a kiss
or a lover’s breath
all-consuming
its smell like garlic
that scent 
that clings on to you
like old age
death or disease
honestly
I can hear it 
I can feel its underbelly
swelling and swirling 
life in its sinews 
rushing and gushing
its whole outline taking hold 
of these letters, 
these words
forming a dot
the creative process 
a thought in the cold night 
taking hold of life
this empty page
filling rapidly
honestly
last night
I could hear it in my sleep
its breathing
gently, regularly
guiding me
nudging me
pushing me 
to these lines
these patterns
they’re taking a design
a shape
illuminating a thought
emerging
from the soil
like a sunflower
smiling, breathing
honestly
sometimes
I can touch its inner walls
that point
the core of its being
the Om
a mantra for shanti
or the Word
in the beginning of the Bible
when God says
let there be light
it’s a phrase
a text
speaking
and means so much
like a promise 
of young love
or temporality
or broken pieces
of relic
destroyed by bombs
that mean everything
and nothing at all.

Top of Form

 

Bottom of Form

Mother India

for 15th August 2013

When they entered you, you only had a taveez as any young woman wears.
You wore it like a chalice around your neck from ancient times;
That taveez warning off the darkness and demons, your nightmares;
That taveez that got between you and the tug of independence, that call from the bowls of the earth;
That taveez that protected you (or you thought it protected you) like a fortress impregnable –
Well, it’s not the taveez you thought it was, my sweet, it’s just a potion of empty words
Like a magician who shows you a pack of cards or the light of the stars at night
it’s an illusion of safety and comfort.
Over 60 years later, that taveez is still standing in every temple, in every house, in every home.
It’s like a mantra a reminder of your subjugation towards those who cajoled you into submission for a couple of centuries or more.
And I recall the Mutiny, the massacre of 1919, people and wells printed in the consciousness of every Punjabi born.
Then your tormentors released you, scalping a simple line across your forehead just above your bindi, the temple of your soul.
They thought you’d be in ruins forever with a threat of illness in your head. But no.
Today in the dry desert of Punjab you have that walking stick.
Your forehead maybe covered in dust but not your dignity.

 

My Son – the Guru

 On the phone my son’s voice is weak, frail and distant.

But he sounds older somehow. Wiser…

 

He’s in India putting his life in the hands of ancient gods.

His mantra will seep into the skin like medicine

the way light travels, the way water finds the sea.

 

We exchange pleasantries in familiar tones of father/son.

I enquire about his flight, his health, if he’s eaten, what he’s seen.

 

He in turn reminds me to see the doctor about my abdominal pain.

You can’t be too careful at your age, dad.

 

The phone’s muffled sound distracts us as we speak.

And I turn to his photo. How he has grown,

a bearded man who once was a baby in my hands.

 

In a far-away world, we are playing a reversal of roles.

Father and son; son as the father.

Somewhere above, a satellite is turning, forming a shadow across the globe.

 

For a second my son and I are in the dark, not as relations

but as distant souls who belong to the stars. 

 

Staring at the Sky for the Stars

(for my brother)

It wasn’t that you got into Law, but somehow, Law got into you.
It crept into your dark underbelly, stealthily
like some out-dated food that’s no good for you.
And it wouldn’t leave you with your football.
You remained oblivious to the cold indifference of the gods.
You trusted the Design like Christmas –
despite your reading of poetry and Stoker, Hardy et al.

So it started at school, this gathering of dust, this Law.
And the choice followed you in-between the nose bleeds,
the vomiting, the visits to the wards.
In the end, the degree was just a hooded claw
smiling at your door with a dagger.
It clung to you, draining you (and draining us).
And yet, still you believed in the universe; still you trusted all.

You put your life and all your coins in the hands of the stars.
You tossed them high above the rainbow, and waited.
But nothing fell; nothing came (for nothing falls).
Tonight across the evening sky, I see you gazing for answers.
But there are no answers; no explanations.
Like our father we will fade and dissolve like snowflakes.
But what will remain of us is love. And that is all.

The Heartbeat

Listen to your heart.
Listen to the beat,
listen to the drum,
the core of your being.
Listen to it.

And again.
Listen carefully.

Listen to the sound
that ticking and clicking
the way it flips
and trips
at the sight of love
from the dark depths of a secret,
that rhythmical pumping
of life and blood,
of water and sinews.

There, that heart.
Listen to it.

And listen again.
That magical sound.
Listen and sing.
Listen to its flow,
its pauses,
its breaks,
its continuations –
break, break
it’s quietly breaking.
And it’s wavering for a meaning
a purpose
floating somewhere
between the night
and the stars,
between Light
and the eclipse
between Time
and Space
that gap between half-light
and near-light.

Listen to the temples of your mind,
the soul of your being.
And listen to the soft
delicate awakenings,
to a god
the callings of the muse
and poetry.
Listen to your conscience – speaking
the mechanical movement
of an ultimate verse
that mantra,
the pulse of the universe.
Listen to the music of your heart,
that organ of life
surrounded by a complexity,
an array of arteries
and veins
in which the rasa of life flows,
flowing softly to the spirit
somewhere from the line

to the word
from the poem

to the book

Listen again to your heartbeat,
your delicate,
beautiful
heartbeat.
Listen and sing
with the sound,
with the beat, the flow, the beat,
the rhythm, the flow, the beat
from here to tomorrow
from me to you
from your eyes
to the world
and then say take this my flower,

this my dove

from where we are

from all we are

in this instance

and far away
to the cold ending of love.

 

The Spaceman

‘I looked and looked but I didn’t see God.’
– Yuri Gagarin

 

From the beginning I’ve had questions, lurking –

Questions and queries.

 

What’s a name in the middle of a crowd?

I wanted to know.
‘An utterance of the mind,’ my teacher said.

 

What’s a word in the darkness of chaos?

I asked half-asleep.
‘A footprint of a sound,’ the linguist said.

 

What’s a man in the midst of a tragedy?

I wondered, watching the news.
‘A reluctant demigod,’ the grave digger said.

 

What’s life, this pulse beating?

I asked my doctor.
‘An imaginary line, a stopwatch,’ she said.

 

What’s love when silence falls?

I asked a teenage girl.
‘A sodden ground, trodden,’ she said.

 

What’s this circular shape, this design?

I echoed in a church.
‘A curvature of life or possibility,’ the clergyman said.

 

What’s the truth, this place called ‘heaven’?

I asked a philosopher.
‘A place in your book,’ the writer said.

 

What’s an astronaut when he’s at home?

‘A ghost of Gagarin combing the sky.

A ghost of Gagarin,’ he replied.

The Earth

If you observe our planet, somewhere from outer space, the earth just looks like a dry rust-filled-ball, a lonely boulder. It swirls slowly in darkness, occasionally in masses of white and blue. There’s no God to be seen. No angels nor demi-gods to map its motion. Its breathing the measurements of all we are, all we do. Our treatment of one another. There are no extremists dying or killing. No heaven nor hell. Only a void. Somewhere from the incessant space it turns in silence, a rhythm of serenity. It appears almost speaking and hypnotic. Like a union. Its pain is our pain. All its clouds are our clouds. All its waters, all its seas are ours from which we’ve evolved, to which we return. When someone dies, a part of this earth dies with them because we live both in and out of it. It carries our tragedies, forgives us for our crimes against its soil, its air and humanity. It forgives for our sins against life and being. Millions of years from now, we will vanish and fade into its beauty. Will someone look for us in its seas, in its soil? Will they find us submerged in its coating? Will there be traces of mankind in the ground, in its rocks and its fossils? Will someone point to us, hold our remains in their hands and say there was life in these rocks. There was hope in those beings. And will they stand and pause in the earth’s reverence, the solemnity of its silence? Despite how cold or dark it gets, this planet will breathe and remain, forever turning.

 Millennium Christmas

A gentle rain falls through the universe now
Not snowflakes on this Christmas Eve –

A trickle that shimmers like diamonds
Against our Nordic galaxy.

All around the stars glimmer, these words
Like Omniscience that sees all –

Eluding the hands of fate like beings
Of a different world.

Amidst the darkness of this Space
Wet-silence seeps into our thoughts

Like the flickering flames of a diva
Or the hush of hymns in a church.

And this could be an insoluble instance
Or an enigma for the essence of earth,

Projecting a collision of sparkling rain
With an image of that Child’s birth.

 

Fingerprints

Can fingerprints change?
I think mine are.
The lines on my hands are changing.

Look, the way they converge and contract,
the way they emerge and diverge,

these patterns across the years,
these echoes like a lover’s pain moving –

death-like –

stamping its presence permanently
amongst these falling leaves,
somewhere in your sighs.

Can fingerprints change?
I think mine are.
They’re changing

the way stars move
silently across the sky –

a whisper of love (not fate);
the way a shadow falls

or my fingers draw upon your skin
like a distant caress.

Can fingerprints change?
I think mine are.

They’re changing with me
with all my ghosts
all the names and faces

seated, sitting, sleeping –
somewhere –
alive in the mind’s eye.

My fingerprints –
how they swirl and twirl about me,
they’re fading away,
how they move and rove around me.

Can fingerprints change?
I think mine are.
They’re changing with time, with pain.

They’re changing amidst
the reflection of your eyes
that speak volumes

giving something that’s not quite absent,
giving something that’s not quite there.

Can fingerprints change?
I think mine are.
I think mine are changing with the time.

Born in Jalandhar, India, Roshan Doug and his parents moved to UK when he was two months old. He has a BA in English from Lancaster, an MA from Nottingham and a PhD from Birmingham where he also teach education. He is an examiner in English with AQA (one of the main examining in boards in the UK), arts/cultural critic, freelance journalist, BBC Radio 4 presenter and former Birmingham Poet Laureate. His first collection, ‘Delusions’, was published in 1995 followed by ‘The English-knowing Men’ (1999) – an autobiographical set of poems looking at a number of thematically images of language, belonging and cultural identity. This collection was also shortlisted for the Forward Prize for the best collection for that year. In 2002, ‘No, I am Not Prince Hamlet’ was published by Orange followed by A Delicate Falling of a God, a series of elegies to mark the second anniversary of 9/11. His latest collection of love poems, ‘What Light is Light…’ (2012) was published by Birmingham University. His work has been published in a number of major newspapers and journals including The Times, The Sunday Times, The Independent, the Guardian, Washington Post, Journal of Curriculum Studies, London Review of Books and others.