In a Poetry Reading & other poems
In a Poetry Reading
Inside a wanly lit room
Of a Newari café in a Newari suburb,
People who call themselves ‘poets’ appear.
I, too, walk in—
As if I have all the leisure in the world.
We—the ‘poets’—have walked a long way.
Now the weary legs take a rest.
The metallic tables reflect the fluorescent,
Almost blinding us for a second,
& with the wafting scent of coffee in the air
Wherever we’re from sucks,
& wherever we grew up sucks,
& each one of us looks like
An ugly lamp or a broken souvenir coffee cup.
Most of us have merely reached puberty,
But we write poems about
The independence & freedom
Of our penises & vaginas.
So, we who call ourselves ‘poets’
All the time—
Ask for beers & cigarettes
& drink like our favorite poets
Because we believe that all great writing
Comes from drinking & smoking;
& when drunk we turn our chubby poems
Over & over in our muddled heads.
Advancing to the stage like some
Of our favorite movie stars,
We read, one by one, our poems about
Our ex-boyfriends & ex-girlfriends
& how we miss their touch or smell.
But we might as well begin by saying
How much we like the titles:
“Hi, I’m a slut!” A blonde begins her poem.
“To My Virgin Girlfriend,” a pockmarked boy starts.
Immediately the poem has our attention,
In fact, it has grabbed us by the scruff of our neck,
& hurled us into its very center.
The first stanza, the words of which
Throw some dumplings on the ground,
Which we pick up & shovel it into our mouths,
& this act of word-eating establishes the mood.
Then comes the middle stanzas—
We can almost taste sauce of dumpling
With every passing word.
What we really find engaging
Are the series of images—hot like the sun—
Cool like ice—quiet like a cemetery—
Which give us a very clear picture.
Most of all, we really like the way
We, as ‘poets’, ‘bumped into stars’
& ‘tasted the lozenges of fire’, while
‘Roaming around the decaffeinated streets.’
We nod our heads & smirk at each other.
We, our bodies trapped in Amish pants,
Our minds full of crushed beer cans
& half-eaten bowls of dumplings,
Cheer & applaud,
& when the reading is over
We drink more beer,
& smoke more cigarettes,
& I love all of this because I have
All the leisure of the world.
We stand up when the last stanza ends,
Because we know, that’s the best part,
Where the scene keeps shifting from
Aerodrome to the garden to the cemetery.
But, we wonder, what kind of cemetery it is!
Is it an indoor cemetery, perhaps?
Because the poet was in the aerodrome
In the first line, & in the second line he was
With his lover in the garden
While in the third line they both lay inside coffin boxes.
Maybe there was ‘death’ looming
From the very first stanza,
Which we might have sadly missed,
& thought that it was a love poem.
After that series of powerful readings,
We go back to our usual,
Tin shacks of rented rooms,
& watch some French movies—
& think that we are Camus.
From one shit-hole to another,
We travel, & like all the great losers
Of this city, we too, in the evenings,
Watch porn & jerk off
With modern-age cyber dildos & butt plugs,
& sometimes even the Vaseline looks more desirable
Than our genitals,
& we dream of getting laid—
Maybe with someone from the poetry reading—
& we dream of getting published one day,
& keep on dreaming until
We, with our tired bodies, slink away into
The yawning abyss of great oblivion,
The black clouds near,
Rapidly rolling their convolutions.
A gust of wind bends the poplars,
& at once comes the rain,
Pattering down on winter leaves.
Puddles of water running over the gravel
Carry off a scattering of yellow leaves.
Everything seems wrapped
In a drifting darkness.
The weather sinks deep in my soul—
Somberly melancholic, numbly despairing—
I sit by the window,
& stare with brooding eyes.
Afterward, the sun comes out,
Lightens my little room
Like a golden bed lamp, with soft touch,
& the sky turns white as porcelain again.
The ducks quack,
Sparrows shake their wings,
& once more it is warm.
The bedlam that broke awhile
Starts to cease, & now
Lulled by the brightness of the sun,
Smothered by it, I sink again
In a state of gloom,
Ruminating over my stark & bereft
Break of Dawn
In the break of the dawn—
The first blue light anointing,
The loose clouds floating,
The ghost-quiet city still sleeping—
I see with both my eyes burning
A swallow like a lantern,
Now alight on the porch rail,
Fluttering her wings & dancing
A fluid waltz, like a leaf on a stream
Rushing past my window,
Leaving behind a curious white swirl
On the windowpane, a sketch
Of its throbbing life, as if in fright.
A sudden death, an invisible part of it,
Oozes out, never to be recovered—
Just like the falling of parched, brown
Needles of white pines outside my outhouse
This winter, one by one,
Never to be charged with life again.