Left alone with the mind and morning,
a few sparrows up in the guava tree filled
with what seems impossible,
yet distantly possible, in the swift
opening and closing of their tiny beaks,
in that flash it seems possible to know someone,
or have unsullied companionship.
And the self? You have a different voice today,
says the voice to the voice. Like a friend who was abruptly
by his lover, without warning. But in truth
you were that friend, it’s to tell the story
and make a friend that you chose to begin that way.
There’s no story. It’s another way of
making you focus on branches, and not on
the next person you’re going to break down
to about your fear of death.
Each saying is so different, it’s unintentional,
but full of intent, meant to make out who was here.
They happen. Sometimes the sparrows throng
to a low branch, almost making it touch the ground,
and even when happy I can’t say it right to anyone,
when furious I think I appear amused, and being always
terrified...Something else always draws the lines then
drowns them in clouds, bits of sweet ash.
It’s too early to tell if this bowl of fruit on the table
will do anything for your past. Let’s face it, some things
were already decided. The wind picks up pace because
you say too much when you shouldn’t. At different times
the looking changes, so much sunlight to only ask how could
this body be abandoned?

This one is so different from that one. And that one.
The grass says I am sense but I will never be able to be.
I had never imagined grass to be that painful,
but in the end, if I ask myself,
and I’m looking out, deeply unhappy,
am I facing it? Can I answer that?
There’s only so much the first
person can do, then there’s you.
I’ve been misled myself,
there’s no other way to explain, or even try;
a little justice for my mother would be enough,
I can let go then for now the slow, red worm
crawling up the wall.
Long shadow across fresh dung, like something
to mark the passing of a brief moment of brilliance.
Always in the sweet shadow of passing.
How inconsolable? Leave it open. It’s too early for the leaves.

In another room I am rising from bed with no desire
any more to put anything down, and with a tree’s
wisdom of grief, whatever that means.
In what mode do I speak of
the rock lying there, now a different
bird coming to perch on it,
now the sense in me arriving that it’s time?
At its core always a spinning
where it appears you’re there but not.
I am looking for a passage into my lover’s mind.
And the sparrows are all suddenly gone, taking with them
the possibility and the impossibility.


Sunlight and anxiolytic flora
drink themselves silly.
An eastern pinch of sky blurts
like it forgot to take its pills.
The worm has wept
all Sunday while you were
reading the newspaper.
Of watering the taste of a fleck
of midnight fruit between your teeth.
Of the hummingbird, disturbed
by the sound of hideous undressing,
again leaving the portrait
of uncut happiness
unfinished in the whorl.
Mist rises towards
the balcony and leaves
a trace on the rails.
M is in the kitchen rinsing
the stained cloth.
Wind bends a shrub,
exposing its mangled roots.
An unsettling wave of sound
rises from the valley:
like it’s time to hear
what has made through.
Clouds rushing in like the early
death of someone you never knew.


A lone truck at midnight humming
at the edge of the road. Having forgotten
if I have taken my pills, I take them again.
I cannot risk a second feeling something
plunging a bucket into my heart
tugging and manoeuvring the rope
so it sinks nicely in
before it’s abruptly pulled up.
Now I’m cling-filmed, my feelings bubble-wrapped,
my thoughts still in me yet their weight borne
by someone else, somewhere, but there’s flashes
when a blurring strikes, something in me pushes really close,
I feel like wind around a noose.
I have to be careful, still, of myself.
Restless, I step out for a walk towards the truck.
Its hum is almost brotherly, like it wants to
offer me something warm to eat, run its hands
over my head. In the dark
of the truck’s back I see eyes,
bodies huddled, men staring past me.
There’s no room between them but each one
sits so singular, almost unaware of the rest,
each one as if meticulously working
on something alone, undisturbed.
I turn around to see what they’re seeing
and past the yellow haze like a giant
repulsive back of a hand, on a faraway treetop
I think I see a peacock, maybe two,
maybe more, but not enough.

To a Moth

The meanest thing I said
all week (to a moth trying
to perch on the screenlight): I’m sick
of you but you’ll be
dead by dawn anyway.
I placed you on top of a bunch
of golden everlastings in the garden, wings
still spread out. (I didn’t know
you weren’t dead yet.)
You jumped from the bract tower, buried
in pollen. A little movement.
I put you back. What’s a little more life?
Like another note of wind wound
to the inside of a word.
Saying yet. Yet.
Further away, a familiar cloud
turns foreign, followed
by a gasp no one
will ever hear.
A quiet bruises the valley blue.
What will you remember?
Air so painfully clear, as if nobody,
not a thing in this world,
is thinking anything.

Annus Horribilis: Poems

Excerpted with permission from Annus Horribilis: Poems, Avinab Datta-Areng, Vintage Books.