Notes From The Underground Poem by Keki Daruwalla

Notes From The Underground

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The wind is cold and the wind burns.
The wind is cold and the wind is acid.
On the Bar counter ice and amber swirl
in thick gleaming glasses;
in the Bar the ash of small talk,
the smoke of ruminations.
Light purrs on a bare shoulder,
her feet are hidden
in the drooping hem of her sari;
ice and amber swirling
I sit here between betweens,
to the left of voices
to the right of memory.
Thought floats into
the slow silence of air currents;
the hours squat with me
as I snap connections
in autumn leaf detachment.


Nowhere to say this
no one to say this to
except to the typewriter
(the computer would store it
in its chip-memory
and that could be embarrassing)
as she pulled out
he turned into a dead crab beach
when the sea pulls out


Were the sea to pull out
sea birds would pull out
and the breeze;
shells would turn brittle
under crackling boot;
fish and fishermen
would be sucked into the great ebb
and our traders
would turn the white sea bed
into 'The Salt Crystal
Shopping Arcade',
selling grounded oil tankers,
ocean liners dredged out of the mud
and whales flaked in salt.
You could buy goldfish though
as they circle the belly of a water jar.


You didn't come with me
to the mountains this time,
but as you know
when you climb mountains
the stars get nearer;
don't ask me why this happens
or how this happens
but it happens -
when constellations smile
death drops your catch.
but often the stars
go about their office routine
in the night sky
like glum bureaucrats -
this astral bureaucracy
is even more baffling in its ways
than our central ministries.
In auto mode Rahu gets into the act;
So does the moon debris that swirls
around Saturn and forms its rings.
Then what has to happen, happens.
That's what happened to you.


The almond tree flowers white;
beside it the peach flowers, as only peach can
with its own interpretation of pink;
and further in the lofty rear,
winter has left its brown imprint
on mountain and crag.
Perhaps with the rains
green may return to the slopes,
a little moss here, a little grass there;
you never know though,
the rains may never come
or life may run out before the rains -
the almond blossom, each petal soft as an eyelid,
will also not see the rain.
They are divided by a scimitar:
parched landscapes and rain,
parched lips and love.


Watching the wind-ruffled
down on bird-breast
I think for no particular reason
of wind through quivering paddy
in the Nepal terai.


I think I am at peace now,
he said, for my dreams
move like the thinnest
veil of mist over water.
Awareness of absences,
of what is right with me
or wrong with me is also like
the perception of a veil of mist
over a perception of water.

My troubles start
when I think of hope,
that thin smoke of mist
over the iron-grey waters of dawn,
icy waters, he said.

But you are with me always
like a spring of
underground water
like the murmur of a spring
of underground water.

I didn't for the life of me know
whether he was addressing poetry
(he had lost his touch lately)
or his beloved.

Forty years with you
and I am a better man,
he said, awash
in forty years of cleansing waters
and forty years of light.
The trouble was
She couldn't hear him.

Keki Daruwalla

Keki Daruwalla

Lahore / British India (Pakistan)
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