Monday, November 28, 2005

About taxis and need

There's a thing about certain songs. They sing loss and need with such potent life that no cliche can ever hurt them. For me, Father Figure will always be one of them.

Its a thing about taxis. And dark streets.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Love Letter


I wanted to write to and tell you of how I long for the moment when we will be together again. The cold winds pace, howling, in the balcony every night, and the moon is unsympathetic to a lover’s sighs- Even the Countess Rossini said so last night while at cards, while Lucia was at the harp.

Ah, the pangs of love. The pain we must endure, the pain we seek even— do you not think that it is most unchristian of us, feeling and thinking and mouthing all these words, and then seeking redemption every sabbath? But I lose myself in the writing of this epistle, and now must focus on conveying my thoughts to you.

Precious light, how goes it with you? Are you well? Is business all that it must be? I pestered Claudio for news of you when he returned last sennight: he tells me you are somber at business, gay in company and morose when alone. He tells me that you are in solitude most often, writing verse dedicated to me. Dear dear heart! It will not be long, I assure thee. Not long at all.

In fact, our moment will have arrived with you opening this little parchment with your hands. How well I know your habits, dearest: how often have I traced your attitudes and postures, your sweet brow and your full lips in my mind, closing my eyes in the middle of the day in spite of mama’s remonstrances. I can in fact see you this very moment, as you read this very line.

You will throw your coat at Francois, and place your cap atop the bust of Pericles. Still reading, you will cast your eyes over the cards you have received for tonight’s revelry. Picking up the wine Francois has brought you, you will make your way into your chambers, first bidding Francois to not disturb you for an hour, during which time you will caress the folds of this letter, imagining it to be my arms under your fingertips—Tell me if I lie! But you cannot. You laugh now, I can feel you, in merriment over this precocious little chit you have chosen to favor with your love and regard. And now you will chew at your thumb or forefinger, peeling away tiny bits of your skin, smiling as you read my girlish avowals of love.

There. The door is shut, and Francois has gone off with your boots to scrape off the mud of the day. You are in your bed, and the windows are shut tight, as you like the warmth. For you always did enjoy warmth, did you not my love? From laying your face against my breast, to drinking cider with Claudio, how often have I remarked upon your attraction for the heat, and for light.

At this moment, if I see true, your eyes are beginning to prick you, and your throat burns you till you wonder at the wine you are drinking, and put away the cup. Perhaps now you detect the faintest odor of garlic coming from the parchment, and your fingertips? You must needs cough, splutter, perhaps choke now—I wonder if you will read the rest of my love-letter to you, my heart… but I, your beloved, will continue writing till its conclusion, for I do have so much to tell you. Like for instance, how Venice is beautiful beyond comparison, and filled with the most beautiful and intelligent people in the world. Claudio’s lover, Beatrice, is one such delight: what a lovely creature! In spite of her great heritage and her honored name she carries none of the head weight one notices in the other Medici’s at Court. But she is young—my age, in fact—and we are both fast friends. It was she who told me that Claudio had whispered in her ear of how you played fast and loose with my name and our love in the taverns of Ravenna, in the company of sailors and militia. My dear you are feeling quite well? Beatrice told me that arsenic has a horrible way of catching in your throat till you cannot breathe—Perhaps Francois will not hear you calling?

I should add that Claudio, following Beatrice’s instructions, has bolted the windows from outside: we would not like you to catch a chill in that horrid weather, my lord. I’m told that arsenic works quickly, and is delicate—So delicate that I could paint my lips with it, and kiss you as is our wont, and you would die in my arms, as I would live, your face pressed against my breast in agitation and want. Are you quite alright, my hearts ease?

Perhaps this parchment would have fallen to the ground by now. Claudio is to climb in after, a wet lace kerchief across his mouth and nose, and retrieve it, after which it will be burnt. Flames will eat it, the heat and light licking at my writing, as they now lick at your throat and mind and heart.

Farewell, my lord. Isn’t it unchristian of us, feeling and thinking and mouthing all these words, and then seeking redemption every Sabbath? Such is what passion does to the soul. I will unburden my heart to the Virgin. It is sad that it had to end this way. But surely, where you will go now will give you far more heat and light than my arms ever could?

I loved you truly, and was yours for the taking. But now comes death, and thus we part.

Cara Giuseppe.

13th November, 1519,

Friday, November 11, 2005

Weak and Powerless

Tilling my own grave to keep me level
Jam another dragon down the hole
Digging to the rhythm and the echo of a solitary siren
One that pushes me along and leaves me so

Desperate and Ravenous
I'm so weak and powerless over you

Someone feed the monkey while I dig in search of China
White as Dracula as I approach the bottom

Desperate and Ravenous
I'm so weak and powerless over you

Little angel go away
Come again some other day
The devil has my ear today
I'll never hear a word you say
Promised I would find a little solace
And some piece of mind
Whatever just as long as I don't feel so

Desperate and Ravenous
I'm so weak and powerless over you
Desperate and Ravenous
I'm so weak and powerless
over you

~A Perfect Circle, 'Weak and Powerless'.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Diary of a Lovesong

31st December, 2004.

11:05pm, and lights out throughout the house. In one room, a couple who missed their son flicked channels, waiting for sleep but always returning to National Geographic. In the second room, an old wrinkled woman dreamt of her brother and of a son who had beaten her but only afer eating the fish curry that had sat up with her, waiting for him to come home. She dreamt, her mouth moving noiselessly. The maid, all dark sullen heated sex, snored on the floor, bed pan forgotten.

11:23pm. From where she sat-- the warm corner of the couch, curled into the cloth-- she saw the pale light of the television go out. Like other nights, her parents would consign her brother to the grace of god, and mark the time on the clock, knowing they would wake in an hour and a half to check if she was in bed, or still sitting awake-- in the warm corner of the couch, curled into the cloth.

The things they didn't know:

1) the old wrinkled woman had pissed her sheets, again.

2) the girl, their daughter, was waiting for a miracle.

He called. During their conversation, midnight came and went. The darkness of the house swallowed the new year, and ate her smile forever. For the rest of the year, the girl preferred the night to the day.

It is better for a man and woman to shout and weep their anger and loss when they part ways. It is better that all the love that has been is burnt up in one huge pyre, the flames licking at their eyelashes, warming their cheeks the way they will not touch each other ever again.

It is far worse when they stay polite, and invite the cold inside them, turning their love to ice so that nothing is heard melting, slowly. Running down to form a salty well where your arms close your breasts against the couch, into the wall, into the night which falls around this building like soft warm cloth.

"If only you had asked me to stay back, jo. I was waiting to hear that, but you never did"

Her mouth froze with all the cold she had allowed inside. She clutched at the phone, burying her ear into it, painfully eager to hear him breathing in the silence.

"It's better this way"

For the first time in her life, she said nothing. Knowing that he was in control of this conversation, knowing that her mouth was frozen, she squeezed tighter into the corner of the couch. He said he had to go, and she closed her eyes, falling back into the cave that was behind the corner of the couch. She fell far, and it was all fast and dark and cold like an underground train. The ground was hard. She closed her eyes.

12th May, 2005.

She sat next to the wrinkled old woman and smelt the talcum powder, the faintest aroma of decay. She touched the wrinkled old skin, like she would touch the shell of a sea turtle, the bark of an ancient pine tree. Like a trapped whale, the old woman lay there calm, knowing she was being watched, being committed to memory. She went on the plane with the phone, knowing it wouldn't work outside india. 3 months later, she would bury it in foreign soil, without a marker.

13th May, 2005.

They sat at a lazy right angle. She was sitting forward, holding onto a single neat linen crease at his knee. The world was in that crease. Between her fingers, in those fibers was where they hugged and kissed and forgave and apologized and laughed and cried and held and slept. He spoke. Her mouth was frozen. The beer was flat. the hotel bar was loud, filled with people that did not read poetry. She watched the car pull out of the driveway.

6th November, 2005.

The train passed by the city you live in. Twice. The first was in the daytime. The second was when towers of blinking lights rose against the night that fell around manhattan like a soft cloth. You did not know. And if I ever bring myself to stand in timesquare and increase the volume on my 'pod, you will not know then either.

7th November, 2005.

A perfect circle's cover of the Cure's Lovesong is playing. The wrinkled old woman, contrary to all expectations, has not died.

"sanity now and beyond me
i will always love you
however long i stay
i will always love you
whatever words i say
i will always love you
there's no choice"

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Deep [inspired by the movie of the same name]

Down by the salt-stained boats and men, there is a story told of black haired girls who would disappear into the sea, in the days when my father was a boy.

“What did they go looking for?” I asked. The old man snorted and churned his ass into the polished wood of the chair that had been bleached sad by the sun. He squinted, in spite of the grey dull clouds and light rain, and spat 5 feet to his side. “Sea cock. They believed old witches’ words of mer-men and love at high tide”.

Before I could ask anymore, he humped out of his chair and stood for a minute in the blinding light of the rectangle sky, his hands clinging to the doorposts. Then he swayed down to the docks, where the others stood sniffing at the wind, wondering when the tide would come in.

“Old bastard. It was more than that, but this is what happens when you spend your life slitting soft fish skin, with all them young boys watching out on the lonely water”.

Her forearms were like street-light poles; she swung the wet rag over the counter, lifting my mug to leave a wet gash where the wood was dry before. The water smelt like rotten cabbage. Dolores was known as a barmaid who loved Yeats. I looked a question at her, over the rim of suds.

“Wicca. Part of the stones we walk on, in this town. Can’t shut away history, lad. We all didn’t just get up, pull on our clothes and go to work. This land’s older than all the old bastards put together”. Her voice and the smell of rotten cabbage receded with her into the back room.

We walked down later that day to her cottage. It smelt of old woman and dog. Her mother sat crumpled in a chair, gazing through the television to her bed that lay a wall away. The dog scratched the door as Dolores fumbled with the key. Whining, he dashed out in a streak of musty fur to the scraggled grass outside.

Her voice tore my eyes away from the arcing back, and the brown memories of lunch which now lay steaming with the marigolds. “Here’s a book of my mother’s. It’ll tell you more than I could. Lemonade, lovey?”

I sat next to the old woman as she farted in a deflated, woebegone way. Dolores was in the kitchen, her black nylon behind straining in front of the fridge.

The book had no covers, and was filled with the yellow faded pages that come with being left by the window. It told of the sorrow that came with a black haired daughter, of her will to return to the sea. Stories of families who had left this island for fear of losing their daughter to Manannan Mac Lir, the sea god who followed his own wishes. Tales of girls gone missing, their bodies never found. That when they did, the fish would be plenty that year. And finally, the myth of the blood-vow.

Come high tide, if a young girl was to prick her vein and drop her warm blood into the waves, a mer-man would come and claim her for his love that night.

“But Dolores, she wouldn’t be able to breathe. There were no bodies found”.

She flicked grains of butter, shining their sweat onto the knife before grinding them into the bread.

“Wicca. Magic to you, laddie. Don’t ask me how it works. All I know is there are no more black haired lasses on this island. The ones who went missing were never seen again by human eyes”.



The old woman blinked. I had not expected her to speak. Dolores walked into the room, butter on her fingers, and crumbs over her breasts.

“Touch. She wasn’t supposed to touch him”. Her watery eyes looked at the space between Dolores and me. “They all had to swim out; they knew when he was there. They had to swim and swim, out to deep water, past the point when you’re tired and want to sink, just let her take you in her cold arms and hug you. He would swim alongside all the time, smiling and urging you to swim further. If they could keep swimming till the water turned sweet, then he would hold them to his heart, and take them home”.

We sat silent. Dolores in patient silence, me fingering the page that held a Gaelic chant, her mother’s crumbled figure nodding in the chair that had become a part of her.

“But not all of them could do it, could they Dolores? I—

“Mother, it’s time for your bed. Lad, you can let yourself out? I’ll have to give her her bedpan as well, and there’s time enough before you have to be around such work, yes? Tomorrow”. So saying, she of the strong arms lifted the frail body and gently dragged it to the room beyond the television.

The dog walked me out. A picture on the shelf caught my eye: an old print, a tiny face in a mass of dark hair… black hair…

Black hair.

The dog shook his fur and looked pointedly at the door.

I couldn’t sleep. The cold shingle under my boots crunched and shone with the moon’s light.

The sea called me that night. Moon called to tide, tide called to man. Madness or loneliness overtook me, and the moon had not traveled far before I pulled out my Swiss army knife and, legs blue-veined under rolled trousers, I stood in icy waves that sucked my feet lower into their wet underlip, dripping blood into the sea. Salt stung the fresh slit.

Clothes were lost. I dove in, striking arm-length after arm-length.

I don’t know how long I swam. Black water shining where my arm left a trail, covering me up, bearing me on, but I could feel the time underneath my tiny body, the ships and dead men, the coral in skulls, the sea weed forests, the fish guards who would come for me when I could breathe no more.

His arms tired, he struggled, and then paused lying on his back, closing his eyes. A porpoise rose out of the waves and nudged his feet. In fear he swallowed a lot of water, then came up to stare at the fish. He reached for its back in fear, and when he realized the slippery cool skin would not desert him, he clung to her, his face out of the water.

She took him to where the whales sing, to where they feed endlessly. They swam past green ice, and fishing polar bears. They swam past Orion and the water was sweet, her heart warm and beating where his ear pressed against her skin.

Before dawn, she left him close to shallow water, nudging him towards the soft-sucking sand. She turned and swam—the ocean ripples she left behind streamed like soft black hair.

He was found sitting where the tide left white foam lines over his thighs and face. He refused to move. Dolores brought him food for three days and three nights, which the sea took without a fuss. On the fourth night, he uttered a great cry, and plunged into the waves, again beating forward towards the moon.

A year later, Dolores found a squealing little boy with black hair lying on the shingle. She put him in her fish basket, his gills flared red and gasping against the silvered-mackerel death under him. She put him in a clean fish tank when she got home, gasping from the run. He coughed, eyes shining, kicked his legs and darted about the tank.

Her mother went missing 3 evenings later. She was found sleeping on shingle, smiling. Her hair had come undone, thin silvered black strands mixed with dancing crabs and red seaweed. An empty fish tank lay next to her.

There was good fish that year, the old man said, speaking to the bored tourist. He then squinted, in spite of the grey dull clouds and light rain, and spat 5 feet to his side.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


She sat outside, staring at her boots.

She always wore boots with this skirt, this vermillion patterned generous-like-curtains flared skirt. It had been her mothers, who had been a little lady wrapped in red breezing around her like a cape, peeping over the rails to watch the ship plough through the water below.

The name vermillion derives from the Latin word vermes, which originally referred to the kermes insect that was used in the preparation of red dye in ancient Rome. Since prehistoric times, vermillion has been highly valued by the Chinese and has been used not only in works of art, such as scroll paintings, but in burials and in alchemy experiments as well.

She always wore boots with this skirt. Only because no one expected it. All that flaringdaring beating red life, singing women carrying children on aching shoulders while leaving tea gardens in Sri Lanka at dusk [for the skirt was from Sri Lanka], and then-- boots. Shined. Black. Prufrock going to work on the tube, eating a cheese sandwich, brushing crumbs away from his black umbrella.

Since vermillion was a rare pigment, it was as costly as gilding in the early years of its use, but by the 1400s, it was so commonplace that Cellini Cennino chose not to include a recipe for it in his famous treatise. Renaissance artists considered vermillion one of the most stable and pure-colored pigments. It was the perfect complement to ultramarine and gold leaf.

She used to make her skirts swish in company on purpose, so they would see her neat, rounded legs end in boots. But now, the sun and dust and traffic made them seem forlorn. The skirt was like a limp flag seeking a breeze on august 15th. Like an Englishman in a lonely station, her boots waiting for movement.

They should've been worn by the sweat drenched acidic little man in the counter, 40 feet away, selling tickets to a mob. He was safe behind a glass wall, his whiskers trembling with the movement of the universe in ever nerve, as he gave back 15 rupees and a pink slip that said balcony and then snapped at the next girl to hurry up.

The movie had begun 15 minutes ago. A ticket, with her name scrawled in black ink over it, waited with the guy at the door.

Two children playing a game, they had decided on this months ago.

He would go in and wait. She would collect her ticket, and then slip into the seat next to him. Unless one of them wanted to risk the light of an ipod or nokia, they would stay like this, watching each other out of the corners of their eyes, lit by 70mm of light. Refusing to truly meet till the movie was over. Content to sit next to each other, learning of body warmth and scent. They would keep to this agreement . Like gentlemen walking 10 paces, guns and ears cocked: Good form. Three months ago, they had laughed over this plan, delighted the way five year olds are when the wave misses the sandcastle. Laughing, and then covering their phone receivers with fervent kisses, the sounds like suction cups leaving a cold tiled wall, resonating over 10,000miles of churning salt water.

And now she couldn't bring herself to go in.

1:25pm. The only company she had was a contemplative dog, and a lonely teenager who wept over his cell phone before redialing. The acidic little man had gone into the back room with a poster of Bipasha Basu in Ajnabee. Somewhere inside the theatre, a man shifted in his seat, a frown deepening in his forehead.

she couldn't bring herself to go in.


It wasn't 'why': 'what if' was the terrible question this time. Doubt. Like a toothache, it got worse as the actual appointment neared. They had talked about the possibility of the feng shui being wrong, and it was all worked out, like an a la carte menu, tax inclusive. They would watch the movie, then get coffee, watching each other for signs of a lack of rhythm. When there was nothing more to say, he would drop her back at the hotel. This was their exit strategy. They would use it, without fuss, like grown ups do.

But she didn't want to have to use it. There had been such a light grace about their... communication? dance? Relationship was too big a word... team work. Two people playing tennis, two people rowing a boat...

She walked towards the big swing doors. Vermillion against black granite. Up four steps, towards the three second zone where a clone of the acidic man stood, outstretched hand and lifted eyebrows demanding proof of purchase. Her skirt billowed in the wind, her hand unconsciously going to where the two panels of the wrap-around ended, steadying the stormy ship.

Vermillion is not used by contemporary artists, because of its unpredictable nature.

Deep breath.

Cold blast of air. She's in, clutching a piece of coloured paper. She doesn't analyze the handwriting; instead, she concentrates on not stepping on the generous folds of the skirt while climbing the stairs. Balcony. She is nodded in, the ticket finally a crumpled ball in her hand. Darkness. 9M. Right corner, the last but one seat in the row. And he was there, in the last seat. Right leg stretched into the aisle. Sandal under big toe. Screen reflected in glasses.

This moment was worked out in her mind-- noiselessly slipping past his knees, gathering the vermillion folds so that she wouldn't curtain the view of the fat man in the seat on her left, and then stare calmly ahead till he made the first move.

Vermillion is a red pigment based on artificially produced mercuric sulfide (HgS). Its hues vary from brilliant reds to more purplish tones.

Her face was heated; the temperature was causing a fall in air pressure around her. She noiselessly slipped past his knees. Gathering the vermillion folds so she wouldn't curtain the view of the fat man on her left, she sat down, and glanced up at the screen. A small movement, his watch glinting in the reflected faces of the Dolby digitalled screen. She glanced down.

In her attempt to keep her skirt away from the fat man, she had forgotten about a large soft panel of vermillion that now lay spooled across his left forearm and thigh. A cool draft of air licked at her calf muscle, her knee. It was the curse of a wrap around, and this was karmatic punishment. His hand moved gently, replacing a sleeping cobra, a curling vine. His fingertips grazed against the bare space of warm skin, before the red could cloak her again. Tingle.

The final color corresponds to the amount of grinding it undergoes: the more finely it is ground, the more vivid its hue will be.

Her face was heated; the temperature was causing a fall in air pressure around her. He leaned in, seeking her ear, his nose greeting her lobe. Raspy warmth breath. Tingle.

"You're late" he said.


References: Hildebrandt, Rachel & Cindy Heller. Student reports on pigments, 1998.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

At first glance

Can you feel this?

I would not let us speak, to say the unnecessary words that serve as a blind, the everday murmurings, till the desperation of time, or this breathing behind closed doors turns our human bodies the usual way.

Words that serve as a blind are like japanese rice paper against a burning flame: they only serve to suffuse this strange passion, a glow against the dark lean-leafed fingers of the night outside. But here is no controlled house fire, no tiny lantern to guide eyes down rigid lines down a page.
Here, I fear to touch your cheek with my finger tips... what scars would I leave? I ache to feel your scalp under my palm, cool skin to warm, but there are flames running up my wrists...I fear hurting you.

But this is only the beginning.

Soon you will beg to be burned, to press your sweat and dreams and anger into my skin so I carry you like a tatoo.

Soon I will press and drag my fingers into the cold recesses of your mind and pull you close, urging you to not leave space for thought or.. words, that serve as a blind, the everyday murmurings, till the desperation of time, or this breathing behind closed doors turns our human bodies the usual way.

Here, see this: the purest ground you will ever lie on, lungs aching from the strain of taking in the smell of rain. Here is the moment before the music starts. Here is the moment when just standing in front of you is almost too much to take. Here is the moment where with absolute care you reach out to touch the ends of my hair with your palm, as if I would break or dissapear if you held too tight, too soon.

Our eyes begin it, before the music does. Digging deep past bone, we look into each other trying to see what brought us here, when did the words pause themselves?...

...I swear if you were to touch my shoulder, here, this knob, this flat blade of skin that moves reflexively under yours, while murmuring hello, welcome, please stay.. if you were to touch my shoulder, I would cling to your skin, nose and mouth buried in the deepest parts of your heart, hopelessly afraid of how you came and then words left the room without a fight.

Where is the dance, the light laughter over cold water in cheap crystal, over roses sad-faced in tiny bud vases, over the stained cloth, and knives and forks... where is the opening of doors, the traces of ice cream on chins, the noticing of your walk-rythm? Where are those silly moments when like napkins we twist to keep each other neat and tidy, tagged with a number memorized by the second afternoon?

You will hurt me. This does not cause any fear, for it must happen.
What causes fear is a thought: you holding me away from you after, and looking and looking-- and not saying a word, for after they left, they refused to come back in.

I beg you, dont. Leave if you must. But do not stay silent, and just look. I will wither and stay creeping about the flush-tank, the curtain rod, in the corner where the a/c doesnt reach, for I will not be able to leave... I will not be free.

Kill me.

Take my heart and bones and gasps in your fingers and run them through like sand out the window. The flowers that will grow will not speak to you, for they are polite neighbours who are interested only in the weather. Take me and let me come in-- I will show you the lonely places of your bed, the old memories of your head that nowadays, sit mumbling outside your door. I will show you the lonely places of me: the warm inside bend of an elbow, a hip-bone left to be bravely alone-- my shoulder will speak poetry to your chest, murmuring, watching the tiny dark roots wave like grass under wind over meadow.

I will know the fear only till you tremble with me, your mouth and eyes a mirror for this surprise-- where is the opening of doors, the traces of ice cream on chins, the noticing of your walk-rythm? But then we will melt, honey over sun-dried silk spun from a worm that sat within the heart of that first apple, and knew what it was to sleep with desire in front of a god. We will melt and surge like an ocean, tasting our salt. Bone to bone, I will watch your face to see if you ever close your eyes-- Please, do not close your eyes.

At some moment, our arms will hold each other, our chins and cheek seeking out the warm space where neck turns to thrumming skin... the words will come like ancient women from some fort, and laugh softly, making music that we will both ignore, concentrating on my breathing, your breathing.

I will tell you of being barefoot in a room filled with home, at age 10. You will tell me what your favourite song is, again. You will mouth the words to me, and walk your fingers over my face and chest.

I would not let us speak, to say the unnecessary words. It is like japanese rice paper against a burning flame: a glow against the dark lean fingers of the night outside. But here is no controlled house fire, no tiny lantern to guide eyes through rigid lines down a page.
Here, I fear to touch your cheek with my finger tips... what scars would I leave? I ache to feel your scalp under my palm, cool skin to warm, but there are flames running up my wrists...I fear hurting you.

But this is only the beginning.

Can you feel this?

Saturday, September 24, 2005

A sparse tale: the myth of the beginning of red heads, and their tempers

She sat, frail, pale, folded. Odin stroked his beard, his one eye contemplating a crossword. Only Frigga rose, tight-lipped, and bid her sit at her feet, and undo her blonde tresses.

The Stone comb dragged in and through,
Further and deeper as in her consternation, Frigga realized what this affair could mean.
Loki was a curse at weddings, and now his bastard wolf get: Fenris. Who would not wear a tie, and dribbled rabid hate into the wassail cup.

The Stone comb dragged in and through,
Further and deeper
Its teeth biting down in punishment.
The blood drained from her lips, only to reappear luxuriant, lustrous, till the tips of her hair.

Under the bright moon, the dye set.
She rose, revived, by the water he brought, panting his rage.
The ice has melted on his way back from the world's end.

She gathered her flaming hate around her, and left for an island,
where the clover reminded her of her lover's pug-mark,
before he stretched and entered their cave.

Every full moon she would return bringing the comb, its teeth now dry-dye-darkened.
Once a wolf cub with red fur accompanied her, hackles raised at her feet as he bared his


Frigga, tight-lipped, refused to go down.
Odin stroked his beard, his one eye contemplating the crossword, looking for 4 across: used to chew, times 32.

Friday, September 23, 2005


I must tell you Achelois, of the thing I have discovered.

Im beginning to understand why we are all drawn to touch, to hold and enter, to build, gasp, and fall apart, only to come touch again.

Im beginning to understand what it is especially about women. Smell. Scent. Perfume.

Fingers down between my thighs a while ago, and while walking to this coldly immaculate place of books, under tree and sky, I lift them to my nostrils and find that Marquez was right about the matter. The unforgettable smell of dried flowers.

Not rot, but that wrinkled knowing fire-glowing smell that tells you here was a living thing, here where there will always be a living thing, for it is here, out of what has lived and come down to its knees midst the softness and dampness of an earth afternoon post-rain, it is out of here that new tendrils will rise, out of here where seeds are caught and gently tendrilled into taller life. There is no substitute for this smell.

Bury your face in the fresh earth, the moist grass. It's touch is warm with the sun, and cool with the knowledge that water runs in secret pools by here, and has before, and will again. In your nose, on your tongue is the promise of all the undefined joy which, except for that first time on the beach-- when you were five, making castles and war cries to the ocean-- can only come again in your life this one time.
It is here that you know the only other thing that will last forever alongside the memory of the ground between the roots of the old tree in the back yard of your grandparents house is this-- her smell of dried flowers, and her touch like leaves that fall with the evening and stay caught up in the embrace of your hair.

And as for women themselves?

Maybe all they...we... I... do, is to seek at times, at times wait, for the one who can sense such a smell from a distance, and who then spends the rest of his or her life chasing endlessly after us for a chance to lift handfuls of deep, richly dull, copper-red dried petals to their nose and stay like that, crouching, living, warm and breathing, forever.

Domestic bliss

The centre of her smelt like cooked warm potatoes.
Each piece juicy, their skin crisp with chilli and the knowledge that they were being stir fried by her sweltering third eye.

This is why he loved her. She reminded him of lunch at 3:00pm.

Thursday, September 22, 2005


What I love about them is that you can feel the lines even in the dark. Even while skin’s on skin, you feel them writhe, rise and breathe with you, your silhouette only a background now.

Which is why a tattoo is very like a bite. But different.

Unlike a bite, you require no company. The cigarette, the slender glancing of light where the light shies away from the glass, diving into the amber liquid inside—These are all extras. Props to a much bigger act that never ends, that throbs in every line, seen and unseen.

It’s the act of memory.

Some keep photographs. My mother used to label and date each one, serialize them into tameness, preparing you for the change that age makes, slowly. No gurgling toddler-smiles in a tub immediately followed by profile shots of breasts hidden under bemused layers of cotton. No sudden absences from group photos. Big bold titles, like “GOING AWAY PARTY” or “WEDDING” to warn you of the sweet pain that only change can bring.

Some keep bills. Letters. Underwear. Such have the ability to make you feel silly. And they become …cumbersome. Unless of course you prefer filing: then memory becomes the dusty box in the attic, which sits on top of the shaky cupboard where an old lizard lives, snaking up to nibble blue ink and nestle in red silk.

I sometimes let them see one, or two. Under dim lights, with music playing. There always has to be music playing. A lazily stretched tendon… claw marks. A twined rose and thorn. Sometimes from under a black shoulder strap. Lingering along the bone of my ankle. Blossoming where the slit ends.

And yet they do not come close. Because it is easy to see that I require no company. And also— Here are no decorations for a new bride. No invitations to try.

These are scars.

Which is why a tattoo is very like a bite. But different.

Bites are worn with the complacent smile that accompanies a crowd watching a pregnant woman, or a man celebrating a promotion. Cyclical, and will disappear with time. But like tattoos, they serve as reminders.

When he’s biting down just where that rise on your chest begins, his smile buried painfully into your skin, bone on bone to grip harder, waiting for you to give up… give in. When she sucks at your skin, the tightly stretched skin over the bone of your hip, her need bringing blood to cool your skin, waiting for you to fight… or give in.

The morning greets a blot that could’ve been left by an angry child alone with a wall and a purple crayon. To be hidden with the help of collars and scarves.

But these… these are scars. Every line curving scowling lilting crawling clawing on me is in memory of those I have known… in a biblical sense.

Of course they hurt. But they do not ask for your gasp, your strangled cry of confused pleasure. In Japan & the Polynesian islands, only men received the full elaborate back and chest work. Women were given tiny marks across their chest, arms and feet—even then, the receivers. Like insistent bites from weaning cubs. Now they are less confined, the artists. The only test of strength is silence.

Tiny needles, constant, metallic and into your dermis. The ink must go deep for the memory to remain. Being taken a hundred times by a thoughtful man, intent on leaving a mark.

Care is important. Antiseptic cream… no hot baths for a week. Mum labeling and serializing. We all turn into our parents. We all want to keep something.

These scars dance in darkness and in light. It’s the act of memory every night; violence and child-like fear have the same name:
To be reminded of when you were broken, and yet survived.

The Sioux tattoo their totem to the chests and backs of young warriors, who have proven their strength in battle.
Walking back under streetlights and light rain, you feel them burn under the fabric. Every demanding mouth and every hotel number stenciled into you. The knob of ash glows bright, reflected in the crack of water on the pavement. Somewhere a wolf howls.
Scars are a memory of victory, loss and pain.

Which is why a tattoo is very alike a bite. But different.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

A night's tale

The candle light flickered against the mirror and caused her carroty hair to glow, fire-like. She smiled, indulgently, brushing the ends of it for the enth time-- And why not? It was a lonely tower, and her maid had runaway with the gardener last sunday.

At least she had left her a note of apology and a basket of fresh cucumbers. Father always knew quality in his servants, and martha was quality. And the cucumbers had added flavour to the cheese sandwiches she had been assigned daily, so all in all, martha abandoning her did not particularly put her in a miff.

The room did though. The four-poster bed took up most of the space, and the piano the remaining five feet. Who wanted a piano? She hated stereotypes. Not all princesses played instruments, you know. She even knew one who mud-wrestled wild hogs for sport-- In secret, of course.

She sighed at the golden flicker on her bare shoulder. Such was the kingly glow that filled the sky that first day she saw....

A sudden horse neigh below made her jump and rush to the window. She expected it was martha with more cucumbers, for who else would dare come upto this tower, especially when he was expected to return any moment?

A reedy, just-cracking voice rose up on the night air-

"princess, I have come to rescue you!!"

She sighed.

A thunderous roar accompanied by a flash of red lightening saved her the trouble of replying. She sighed softly, unconciously holding her breath as she peeped through the grill.

The walls shuddered gently with the thud of his footsteps. The horse squealed and tried to hide behind the reedy-voiced suit of armour. Metal sounds of fumbling, and impolite mumbles followed, by the clank of steel drawn tremblish on steel.

"Who ARE you?"

She sighed again, and leaned her forehead on the cool stone of the window pane.

Reedy-voice launched into a speech he had obviously rehearsed for. Only the noise of what sounded suspiciously like chattering teeth marred its effect.

He waited patiently, and then thudded up to her window. She gasped-- He didnt speak to her often. At attention like she was back in school, she tried looking directly back into his beautiful, smouldering eyes, and almost succeeded... till in a gentled, gruff tone, he asked her if the chattering suit of armour was family.


[She couldn't help it. That deep gravelly tone made her knees and the leaves shake at the same time]

"you know... a brother, perhaps a cousin?"

"Erm... no, not that I know of"

"Right then"

He swivelled around, and she almost swooned with that warm aroma of musk, dried flowers and mauritian sunsets that he always smelt of. Holding onto the bedpost, sitting on the piano, she heard him ask--

"Well, me lad- what do you want?"

To his credit, Reedy Voice stopped shaking and drew himself together with a clank and said-- "the freedom and safety of the princess from your rapacious ways".

Brave. But stupid. The skies darkened, and the low growl that left his majestic belly made a caterpillar's hair rise 3 hills away. He growled and then spat out,

"so that's it, is it? Come poking about my house and my doings simply because you think Im like all the others. I'll have you know I pay my taxes, you shrimpy little man- Im a full citizen!! Just because I look different doesn't mean Im any worse than any of you two legged smelly little people down in the city!"

Then a funny thing happened, that made her choke and her eyes fill: she could swear that she heard a tiny sniff exit those lordly nostrils... a plume of smoke rose on the night air.

"why... why must you always think I have evil intentions? Why cant you leave me alone?"

"I've had enough". He sniffed and determinedly turned towards her window again, his tail knocking down four 200 year old pine trees making the horse squeal again.

"princess..." [oh, his voice was low and gravelly again] "... if you really want to go, you can... I just... well... I didn't know and... was flying over the castle garden that day and... ummm... you were playing cricket with that fat maid and I... well... I..."

Her heart surged. How she wanted to caress that gentle crimson flush that rose to his bony cheeks. She stretched out her hands through the grating, and hesitantly ran her palms over his emerald skin... A sudden hot gust shot through her window, against her face, heating her entire room. His face had a look of happy shock, his lips still frozen in the "whew" that had just escaped his throat.

Her eyes met his, smouldering coals in both. She smiled, and asked him if she could be let out now.

One hurried hasty claw tore the wall of the tower down... the other gently carressed her face, then lifted her onto his shoulder.

She buried her face just under his jaw, caressing his scales gently... a deep gentle rumble rose out of his gold-flecked neck, and he swung her down with a happy grin and held her as she wrapped her arms around his neck.

He took her to the pool for a drink so he could cool his lips, afraid as he was of burning her. The horse and suit of armour stood aghast, and truth be told, havent moved till this day.

Sitting on top of the tower later that evening, wrapped in his leathery wings, she, stroking his scaly chin, asked him if her human blood would make dragon babies look ugly.

He chuckled, and the trees danced with the glee of it. No he said, breathing a warm glow into her carrotty hair.... not at all, and he laughed and she laughed and they laughed and held each other and burned with life, his snout to her neck, her arms, her side...

And the moon rose, their flying and tumbling love a shadow against it, as the warm purple night closed in around them.

Of love and other demons- Prologue

Oh, she could tell you of love.

People came from all over to hear her, wrapping the shadows around themselves and nursing their drinks while the spotlight blinked over her voice, husky and calm with the telling of...


Children, men, women, priests, bikers, salesgirls, hookers, mothers, presidents, chefs and zoo managers came to hear her. And she had stories for each one of them. Each one heard every story differently, and went away with tears or smiles in the purse of their hearts depending on what clothes they were wearing, unpacked from whose luggage.

No one asked her for a name or a number. Many bought her drinks though, which she would awknowledge only with a little nod, nothing more for that would interrupt the telling.

Bar men have cried, as they will tell you. Grown men have walked out singing. One played a guitar and then drove himself off a cliff, but the coroner blamed an overdose of caffeine. No one asked any questions. To hear her speak meant putting your soul on the line, which was a tacit agreement among those who came to listen.

For she told everyone's story, every hope and dream and despair and pain and wove it into the night of her hair that like warm clouds breezed around her head as she spoke, moved my the pedestal fan kept backstage.

No one has ever written her stories down before. Till now.