Jesus set us apart

A woman stopped me in the street
to inform me of the coming of Jesus
her mouth hung like a lazy hammock
between two trees while she spoke in the
voice of breaking glass, incoherent at first
but adopting a new found eloquence
that helped the words gather in her mouth
gentler, as not to cause offence, so I took her
brochure and she was satisfied, though I doubt
Jesus would saunter through the unholy grind of
chicken shops and underground trains, these soft
silver cobwebs that we rest our backs on, but that
was before Jesus came to my home in the shape of
Mrs.Robinson who was visited by spirits one morning
holier and holier until her children cried for the devil
and she left her blaring stigmata outside my door as if
it were a painting of a fruit bowl, so I told her I didn’t
like the noise and now our eyes hardly meet when we
say hello.

the big poem

We travelled from Bombay to Lahore
up to Telegraph Hill, its snowy circumference
staring at us like dried plaster waiting for paint
it was my silly idea, to see a view of apartment lights
dimming narrower and narrower until they became
freckles on the faces of soggy clouds, all so I could talk
about my ancestry, unnatural to be spoken of at ground level,
because my parents are first cousins and my great-grandfather
had three wives, a story I repeat in my head sometimes,
counting off each wife on a prayer bead, then naming
both his daughters, Irshad and Kalsoom who are both
my grandmothers, and yet I have all my limbs in the right
place and nothing twitches, no sign of schizophrenia yet,
so we travelled further upwards, past a little town
in Virginia that still rattles in my sleeve, to talk
about G-O-D who made sure that no two snowflakes
ever looked alike and we may grin our crooked toothy
grins at this absurdity and may our eyes widen into
polished china plates and may our blood rush a little
faster to our itchy scalps because no two snowflakes
have ever looked alike, and then I remember to fetch
my grandfathers who are brothers too and place them
side by side as fork and spoon along with two butter
knives , (the sisters who birthed them) and yet all the
limbs of my kitchen utensil family are still intact! this
is something I take great pride in, and though I stumbled
along after my brother as a stale afterthought, I brought my
arms and legs with me, slender yet fleshy, my thighs hardly
touch eachother! I tell you these things as a friend and more
importantly to shock you because we are already falling away
like a dying soul cartoonishly withdrawing into a shining
star in a movie we saw as children, but really when my
grandmother died, the village women embroidered themselves
over her body, their shawls dampening in their mouths and I
plucked them off, one by one thinking ‘this is not your grandmother’
the same way we will never really know that no
two snowflakes can’t ever look alike
the same way my grandparents are really
just half brothers and sisters
the same way that my hand inside of you hand
is not really my hand, but a commendable imitation of it.

party poem

Parties parties parties and after parties
in Dalston, Hackney Wick and Bethnal Green
It is the age of hip hop and trance, I see my friend’s
reflection a happy ribbon swimming over a glass
table freckled in salt, heavy with bass
she mispronounces the name of the city
she is from while talking to men with
freckles behind their beards who wear
threads and melted forks around
their wrists in clumsy artistry
she is in her best light- cutting a black wedge
under her cheekbone her dimples carrying
displaced shadows like nightly foxes
perched on dustbins, ponds of quiet laughter
surprised to find her face to pour their darkness in
the music insists on pushing our bodies on other bodies
frantic amoebas trying to find shape under the filmy
descent of the night before we all dissolve into the street
like small drops of mercury, pooling together fast and
stretching away faster.

January is the coldest month

January was the coldest month
streets hooded in black bloated umbrellas
drooped like half closed eyes
falling nearly into slumber

the sky, like a pulpy new bruise
stained the skin of the evening
setting into the bright eyes of night shifts
their retinas like bouncing eclipses
laughing in front of a humble corner shop

the drunken man was running out of drunken slurs
when we crossed his path of toothless gums
like a stuffed letterbox they poked
through his lips, two puddles of spit
like beaming cherubs hung on a Christmas tree

we staggered along, pale faced and wise
with our school children knees, behind a dingy factory
to talk about our lives, our problems and our beliefs
under the dull leathery gleam of a streetlight
hung like a crying lily over a baby’s crib

a pigeon fell from the sky, bewildered and twitching
spattered into a gravy of feathers, its beak wide open
we gathered around the tiny spectacle
you, me and the drunken man
who had volunteered to become our ghost for the evening
we left what was left of us in his midnight hauntings
our two heads sheltered under his clinking jacket

in the morning I thought of the fallen pigeon
the rubber gloves worn like a surgeon
to pick at the open wound
the detergent they used to disinfect
the proof of entrails, what shape his blooded
head left on the pavement

standing where he died
the shadow of a fallen scripture
between my bare toes.

Mrs.Robinson

Mrs. Robinson put tiny lamps in my room
that glow, ripening from a watery melon
into a bitter lime as soon as I touch
them, I hear her children and grandchildren
fuss over something every day in voices cut from
velvet, their laughter and screams thudding
like falling bodies on a staircase, a family I wake up
to that is not mine so I am careful to unpeel my hair
from the bathroom sink and take my shoes off before
stepping on the carpet when she smiles from the kitchen
before I leave the house, a gold stitch on her tooth
and she is wearing a maxi dress in February, covered in angry,
ruthless lilies, a half- mother I rented for a few months to greet
in the mornings, settling for the wave of Mrs. Robinson’s uncertain
hands in a house down the road from where I used to live.

hardship

It came in a coffee shop
another squander of the
city I had been forced to
claim as my own

when life left me briefly
a frenzy of birds unsettling
from a cable wire, escaping
into vents, the way all the birds
would shake off from me when
I was younger to carry other burdens

I asked for help and the girl
thinking I was a drug addict
was half sincere,
half frightened
to watch my hair untwist
from a sweaty ballpoint
clasped at my scalp
head hitting the round wooden table

I rested there for a while,
the drug addict version of me
a hand opened to call the menacing
birds back, a song called ‘sexy boy’ played
as they found their way back on the cable wire
beaking their brindled wings in their own self-love
leaving me slightly colder than I was before.

the shy circus artist

We helped the circus artist find her new home
a cabaret factory in a damp golden hollow
of Hackney Wick, through bashful streetlights
leaking into puddles of rum and red wine
she is too shy to thank us, we are too happy
to notice. I climb a window, my feet puzzled
into the grill, backpack hanging off a shoulder
like an after-school boy wanting trouble
these are things I would never do back home.
we realize she is German and our ‘Oh’s!’ turn
into ‘Auch’s!’, we take turns to carry her luggage.

later, Aria and I will see the shy circus artist
fly like a balloon suddenly unplugged of
its air against high ceiling beams that
demand atleast the whisper of a prayer.
but by that time, a flame would blossom
from her armpit of fiery lavender and we
will applaud for the shy circus artist because
we were the ones who helped
her find her new home.

Dimitri

Dimitri the hairdresser
had hands soft
like a puckered mouth
about to kiss

cushioning my peeling fingers
the tips still cold in detergent

‘mountains never meet
but people do’

he spoke like a messiah
his eyes sliced happily
like a fresh ripple
in humble waters
not yet settled

I had no wisdom to return
but the smile my mother
taught me
practiced and apologetic.

when your father fell

When you waved from across the room
lips squared in a smile, shawl dropped
in a half embrace around your shoulders
I saw your father fall backwards
maybe not the way you did
maybe he fell on his knees

you wear his shock on his face
when asked a question you
don’t understand, the corners
of your eyes trailing like the streak
of blackness left by a smothered ant
your jaw still clenched with the last
small scoop of his life hesitating to stay

there’s blood on your chin
from the fall you took
rusted like a clumsy birthmark
God’s thumb stubbed
as you winced away perhaps
your collarbones still bold,
excusing yourself from further
blessing.