Keki Daruwalla

(1937 - / Lahore / British India (Pakistan))

Underwater Notes


(On revisiting a dream)

I am alone in the house.
It is warm
but I feel cold.
The doors swing open across the years.
For someone who has no ancestral home,
who doesn't have
the long shadow of the past
to ruffle his hair,
homecoming gets distorted.
Time squints, space wobbles
and the visit, encoded as it is,
remains undeciphered.


2

It is cold,
the windows are frost-smudged.
Counsel yourself, there's no one
else to do it.
Let hieroglyphs
remain dented where they are.
Let wind erode them, or time -
they are warp and weft of all erosion.
Come out of the house and write
(not hieroglyphs this time!)
It is cold.
Frost has smudged the windows.
Your hair is grey as hoarfrost.


3

A rundown house,
is a desolation.
A rundown house
perched on a live memory,
with me alone conversing with both
is a double desolation.
Twenty years ago when I took a look around
It wasn't there.
Someone now tells me at a reunion
the house is standing,
only new streets
interlock around it.
It's still there! That's nice,
one desolation gets sloughed off
.


4

It's only when reality slips by
like a sliding panel
that you realize
that the marvellous in the everyday real
has passed you by.


5

Seated on the hull of your boat
you lurch and tilt.
The horizon is the forest,
darkening leaf on darkening sky.

Slot your time properly
in the right caves.
The sea is the present
The forest is the future.

Speech is present tense
Echo is the future.

If you are talking of echoes
you are talking of walls.
If you talk of water echo
you are discussing womb walls -
odd territory,
come out of it.
Unsure on land
you take to the sea.
The skyline is a forest
Fern-dark, shadow-dark
graveled with white coral grit.


6

Whatever evil he suffered, he forgot
said Milosz in one of his poems.
Now that's a scrap of myth, isn't it?
And it is one thing to forgive
and another to forget.
I tried to put things behind me,
in the backyards of memory-clutter,
and went back to my flirtations with altitudes,
touched the Karakorams at Siachen,
touched - Hindi has such a lovely word for it, ‘sparsh' -
Nubra, the garden of the North
and slept in a tent at Tsomoriri -
the rocks brown, the lake blue;
I got hold of a scrap of a myth here
(at 15000 feet it's a good scrap to grab).
It was very hot, and a woman called Tsomo
riding a yak couldn't rein him in,
as the yak made straight for the lake.
She kept shouting ‘riri, riri', ‘stop, stop' in Tibetan,
but the yak went in and they both drowned.


7

The stars have flung
their net into the sea
Among the thrashing fish shoal
and the lassoed crab
look for me.

Submitted: Wednesday, March 28, 2012

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