April Poems by Rohini Kejriwal
30 Words often come easier than feelings, Like vicariousness instead of lived experiences. Or hearing stories about heartbreak versus having your heart broken. On my thirtieth birthday, I sit with my mother, eating cake, Waiting for the good news. A new member of the family Arriving any second now. I am flooded with an overwhelming feeling of tenderness. My big sister, strong and beautiful, The little one, sanitised and out of reach. We are living in a time of virtual reality. On the television, I watch a man rescue a litter of bear cubs Abandoned in the unforgiving wilderness. Closer to home, A father paces up and down the waiting room, In the midst of a global pandemic. All he wants is to catch a glimpse of his youngling. He must wait four days before he can hold her in his arms. This is the beginning of tenderness. The inexplicable bond of unconditionality. Our paths will keep crossing The world will keep imploding Until one day, Everything will come crashing down The only thing that will remain Is you and me.
Excess When we’re young, Invincible, Busy conquering the world Nothing comes between us And the blissfulness of youth. Until one fine day When life catches up, and You’re forced to accept The woefully hard facts That knee pain is real Just like the congestion in your chest. Or that you need to take pills For being an emotional wreck. And every Friday morning, When you call the nurse To give you a shot of Vitamin D Do you realise, And wish You had listened to your mother When she tried telling you about Balance and moderation. Everything in moderation Nothing in excess. Repeat after me. Everything in moderation Nothing in excess.
Ask They told us to be curious To not shy away from raising our hands. They said there were no stupid questions, Only stupid answers. So we ask them about systemic racism and intergenerational trauma, About hate crimes and bloody politics The normalisation of injustice. We never get the answers, Only excuses and lies, A journalist is killed somewhere, Elsewhere, a student is gagged. How can we find the answers In a system so deeply rigged? We badger on incessantly Till there’s nothing left to lose.
Vaccine Poem We take the vaccine, As the doctors prescribe. And wait patiently for the natural defences to kick in, All geared up for the fight. They say hurt people hurt people. I cannot disagree. I wish there was a vaccine To protect mankind from itself. Years of subconscious conditioning. No jab can ever cure. In truth, all we have to do Is to learn to let go. And one day in the near future, The collective consciousness shall heal, Our minds and bodies - so resilient You won’t even feel the prick.
Kurinji We bear witness to the miracle the joyous blooming of the neelakurinji, a magical purple hue under the delicate silver moon. The long twelve-year wait ends the Shola forests come undone fields of blue on the rolling hills mother nature sings her song. Under the mackerel skies the violet wonder flowers sway. if we keep murdering our blue planet, will we ever see the kurinji again?
Break the habit Nobody tells you How much harder it is To break a habit Than to form one. Attachment Detachment How to cope Or avoid Opposites attract, Pleasure and pain Two sides Of the same coin. We watch and learn this Early on. But to navigate The ups and the downs, The downs The downs Just keep pulling you along. Don’t scratch the scab Or it leaves permanent marks. Don’t hold on tight Or prepare to pay the price. We merely carry on Hoping That one fine day, We’ll wake up free of vice That our lungs will heal In due course of time. While the truth Remains so far From the truth That the carrying on The itch that won’t stop The puff-puff-pass That’s keeping you numb
Won’t stop Till you stop, Really slow down, Take stock of your life Of all that is wrong. Then begins the recovery Learning to unlearn The thoughts and patterns No longer serving Your soul. Until soon enough, The light shines through the cracks And in the best possible ways, There’s no going back.
Word by word To be a lexicographer seems like a pretty good life living with words for a living a dream job of mine. I don’t mind if it’s Oxford or Merriam-Webster the dictionary feels like home since my tryst with Enid Blyton When I was young and impressionable I read day and night with a pencil in hand. the dictionary by my side. New worlds awaited with every page turn, how could I not be enamoured by the possibilities of words? Learning new words and meanings, the true idea of fun the more obscure and bizarre sounding the happier a nerd I’d become. Then the Internet came, a new curiosity bloomed, suddenly, the entirety of words, at the click of a button. I still adore the dictionary, and making up words, instead of a lexicographer, life turned me into a poet.
Stop the press It’s a time of sleepless days And angry nights. Human rights stripped away, Endless privilege on the other side. The news so dark It keeps us up all night. We watch the country burn The flames, too bright. The educated among us, Seemingly well thinking minds Have forgotten basic humanity They stew in a mirage of lies. Every morning, I wake up Afraid to know the latest hate crime. Someone, somewhere Constantly crossing the line. The shootings won’t stop A river of blood flows How this chapter of history ends Only time will eventually show.
An elegy for Henri Rousseau We go through life Constantly striving, looking To become the people We always knew we were. Henri Rousseau taught me That sometimes, It takes forty nine years Of strolling through zoos Taking walks in botanical gardens And looking closely Before the call arises Somewhere deep within The inner child awakens And you enter the dream. Suddenly, the jungle is alive, Poetry of lushness grows. His strokes, primitive and childlike, Like how memory tends to flow. In the moonless desert, The gypsy woman sleeps, A lion watches over her, My heart skips a beat. Did you know you were dying When you painted the final dream? Where fantasy meets realism You found your masterpiece. How you chose to paint your truth, Is nothing short of wild and brave. The stars, the lion and the gypsy Asleep beside you in the grave.
Vast They measure progress By the bridging of gaps Hypotheses proved true and valid Intergalactic travel no longer a myth They even sent up somebody To free fall from outer space A publicity stunt to defy gravity A cosmic feat for the human race. In the vastness of this universe, On a dot we call home We are merely dots in nothingness Each one equally insignificant. May some mysteries of the cosmos Stay buried like Red Rackham's treasure. Do not look for every answer Some things are better left unknown.
Protest poem for my unborn child Little one, I am sorry for bringing you into a world So frail and full of terrible things. I will fight for you So you can have a voice In a country Where dissent is no longer your birthright. I will fight for you Saving every drop of water Planting trees in your name For I do not believe in a world Without the colour green in it. I will fight for you For all the other creatures Small and big Who walk the earth among us So they don’t end up in a list Of endangered species Like our fellow brothers and sisters. I will fight for you So you can choose to love To be anybody that you want To take up space as who you are. Anyone who tells you otherwise Will face your mother’s wrath. When you arrive, I will teach you How to walk with your head held high How to reject hate and learn to love When I am too tired to protest, Or on the verge of giving up, I’ll think of you and pick myself up Until the last fight is done.
Eat the rainbow She put the rainbow on her tongue Waiting for the colours to explode Like marble painted ice cream. How wonderfully sweet To see the clouds bursting into A fifty shades of blue To taste a pinch of pink and yellow On her tongue. Her childhood flashed before her eyes Like a dream forgotten Returning in microdoses A splash of coloured time Like an oil spill on the footpath Merging with the rain. A door opened, She walked into the light. There was an awakening A moment of transcendence. Too beautiful to remember Too perfect to forget.
Warm When my father died I couldn’t bear to feel anything cold For months. I gave up ice cream, I detested winters, Even penguins upset me. All I sought was warmth The right amount From the winter sun, The glass of bournvita milk, My mother’s hug before bedtime. Nothing that reminded me of Lifelessness and frigidity Had any place in my life. The months turned into years Parts of my brokenness healed. Viraha took its place, The feeling of realising How much a person means, Only after a period of absence. Even today, at thirty, The cold doesn’t quite sit right. I find myself yearning For the soft warmth of hands in mine Lingering hugs that fill me with sunshine Chamomile tea that doesn’t burn A home that reeks of love.
Unstillness I look for moments of stillness amidst the chaos of nationwide vaccine deficits, new lethal variants of the virus, night curfews and looming lockdown. It is as though time stood still though 365 days have passed. Every day, I bring out the steam machine. Inhale. Exhale. Hoping for the body to relearn homeostasis, to reach some kind of equilibrium. But in this constant state of almost emergency, no amount of meditation or drinking kokum juice can save me from the unstillness from the crevices of uncertainty from the loud voices in my mind that untiringly chatter on.
Need No matter how many things we keep adding and adding and adding to the wishlist of life the hierarchy of needs is fairly simple: A nurturing family who only ever want the best for you you not always meet eye to eye, but they are there when it counts. Food in your belly, eat and taste the gratitude for there are far too many among us who do not even have that. Love from a person who feels like home because nothing compares to the feeling of being held, like you belong. Respect for yourself and others for when it comes down to brass tacks it doesn’t matter what job you did or didn’t or how much wealth you amassed what matters is who you are.
Jumanji I never knew the joys of magic realism, how to willingly suspend disbelief till a young Alan Parrish found a dusty old board game that unleashed the most savage of my nightmares into reality: giant mosquitoes and lions, swarms of bats and monkeys hunters and crocodiles spiders and other creepy crawlies. How my little heart skipped, unable to fathom what I saw secretly wishing it were all real, that I might one day join Robin Williams in the game of Jumanji. Sometimes, even today, I hear the drums getting louder the imaginary dice rolled, I quietly watch the horror unfold, assess the next move, hoping to make it out alive oh, what a story it shall be!
This is a love poem The layers start peeling off the closer you get it starts off as friendship and before you know it, you want to share yourself your hopes and bruised dreams with each other yin and yang, me and you, stars can’t shine without darkness. You watch yourself grow, together, apart, shyness fades, synergy in full bloom, your voice on the other line, makes up for the loneliest day. We found each other once, knowing that our kind of love is like lightning, it never strikes twice. I first realised it when we met in a dream I woke up with the feeling of love bursting through the seams. A soul connection from yester lives never imagined I would feel such a beautiful thing so majestic and gentle like the perfect summer breeze.
Burden It has been far too long since the world made sense. Every morning, we wake up to a reality even more painful than yesterday. Suddenly, I cannot stop thinking of crematoriums and the smell of rotting flesh, of body bags showing up everywhere, unwanted, nobody wants to deal with the dead. We thought living wasn’t easy try bearing the burden of death in the middle of a global pandemic when there just aren’t enough graves. I choose to turn to poetry. where the page does not judge where the ink merely flows, unburdening me of nightmares teaching me how to let go.
Meanwhile The woman paces up and down in the silent house palpable tension in her gait, left-right-left-right no time to waste. As she awaits the test result she pours herself another cup of chamomile tea brewed far too long no sense of time no sense of taste she loses track of everything. Meanwhile, the birds outside keep chirping on frivolously singing the perfect birdsong they live each day without a care no covid tests or bird flu scares to keep them cooped up in a cage wings of freedom, fly away.
Bucket List The pandemic came, along with it, the forgotten bucket list. No more dreams of walking through redwood forests, of swimming with dolphins, growing lemons successfully of publishing that first poetry collection stashed at the back of the cupboard of the mind. I let go of the old list, start again: -make peace with solitude -watch the seasons change outside -do more of what makes you happy -look for mundane joys
Lost Estate walks Follow the dog I think we’re lost
The Book of Instructions In the dead of night, she opened the book of instructions to dissolve the pain, the unbearableness of loss raw wounds and heartburn 1. Heal the world by starting with yourself no more fight or flight take it one day at a time. 2. Strive for discipline, another form of self love do not underestimate the joy of monotony. 3. Don’t let the burden of worry or perfection weigh you down embrace the in-betweenness. 4. Water will save you drink plenty, dip your feet in, float, don’t sink. 5. Open your eyes, let the mysteries in don’t lose sight of the road not taken.
love poem guised as a moon poem I cannot see the moon tonight but I can feel you drifting towards me the gravitational pull do you feel it too? How many dreams of your shining light your warmth is a coat lightyears away. Soothing, your touch against the harshness of dawn we, the lovers of the night, shedding the darkness for light. I will moonlight as a star by night only to come a little closer whisper I love you, my sweet moonshine.
Mallige dreaming The poet enters the poem verse after verse, every word lingering at the tip of her tongue. She puts the kettle on, crushes the ginger pressing the cup against her cheek, how perfectly warm. She catches a whiff of the pleasant mallige lulling her to a place the gentlest of dreams. She listens as the flowerpecker outside her window, sings odes to the summer’s day the poet starts to hum along. She looks down at the page, the bird and the tea and the mallige. Where do poems come from? Where do they disappear? *Mallige - jasmine (Kannada)
Handle with care This poem is broken just like the systems of oppression differentiation fascism within which we exist, barely. Do not try to fix the poem or feed it with false hope with delusions of repair of wholeness. No amount of stitching, kintsugi, carpentry, glue, scotch tape, praying can put the pieces back together. This poem does not need a consolation prize for being broken. It will learn to cope like all broken things do. It will survive because it must.
Illegal He was only a child, homeless in his own home, motherless and petrified on a boat to a place with no name. Who defines the borders? How can a human be illegal? His little brain could not fathom the cruelty of the world. Adrift on the merciless sea, he watched the others die, delirious hunger, bitter cold no sign of land or respite. He wanted to be anywhere but there there was nowhere else to be.
Nightbird On the full moon night the city shut down. Some sat in balconies by windows listening to the silence of the streets. Some sat around television sets, news channels blaring, plates in hands, a child playing a game in another room unaware of the public health crisis outside the door. A year indoors can make you forget the real world. Some sat in waiting rooms of the mind dreaming of reunions with loved ones and friends of next hugs and unisolatedness of saying the unsaid things to the ones who leave home never to return. Outside, the sirens of incessant ambulances like flocks of nightbirds shrieking madly into the skies wee-ooo wee-ooo the only sound for miles.
Monsoon Monsoon arrives: the scent carries me back to the first time my eyes caught a glimpse of what lightning looks like how suddenly the skies darken the clouds burst the trees dancing with the wind the slanted raindrops knock persistently at my window. An outstretched hand tries to catch the sky’s tears.
Hope This poem tried 57 times to not exist. I tried and tried To write of hope in a time of viruses and robot cop dogs, not a ray of sunshine visited the empty page I stared at the skies, looking for silver linings not one passed me by I almost gave up on the hunt for hope when, from the corner of my eye I watched a little word walk down the road then came the next and the next and the next and soon before me, a poem appeared!
The perks of being a daydreamer As humanity fights new challenges day in, day out, it has been recommended by scientists, researchers and poets worldwide that every individual must make time for daydreaming minimum twenty minutes a day. Let the mind drift to a place where dinosaurs exist hiding in the clouds where fiction and fantasy roam freely where the annoying pigeons dance like ballerinas only for your delight. It might seem like the eyes playing tricks on you but it is the merely the daydream working its magic imagination and cortisol flying high the burden of reality slipping away, momentarily. Somewhere, someone hits Pause on overthinking and we forget for a while suspend disbelief and make time for tea parties with imaginary friends that jump out of books from your mind’s library all your favorite childhood reads flying from shelf to shelf.