Poetry: Feby Joseph

Hailing from the beautiful South Indian coastal state of Kerala seeped in green and poetry, Feby Joseph describes himself as a spiritual vagabond still trying to figure it out. He is currently working as a Piano teacher in Mumbai and also learning the Cello. He is the winner of Reuel International Prize for Poetry, 2020. Some of his works have appeared on Café Dissensun, Wild Word and Bold+Italic to name a few.

1. Once was Bapu

 
Once again a page turns – a number rushes to a date.
Once again a figure is raised from annals of dust
Exalted to the stature of gods by few, or torn down by others
In the wake of false retrospection or secondhand stories.
 
Once again a face on a coin looks sideways, unable or unwilling
To see dreams of a rural and pastoral romance remain
Just a dream. Perhaps his ears have worn out
Listening to the souls of countless dead soil-nurturers
How ironic he should celebrate the basic symbol of greed.
 
Once again there will be prose – there will be poems.
Once again he will be compare to salt
To allegorize ideals and morals and values; forgetting
That behind that smile was after all once flesh and blood.

***


 

2.    Musing in Large rooms

Scenic, upon my window
A lonely cup
Would pull your gaze from the roads
I wonder?

I would place it there in between mornings
Of well thought out coincidences
Like the last two slices of bread from a dwarfing packet
Which lay down, warm, to embrace the last egg in the refrigerator –
Its Van Gogh yellow sizzling on a black pan…

A scenic plate, upon my table
2 pieces of toast and a bull’s-eye egg…
Do even pairs please you, as much
I wonder?

The coffee, long cold – Suicide point of a few eager flies
And sedimenting brown rings in the off-white china
Silently taunts time to tell its age;
The forgotten pale cup lazes like a cat
Framed in a lone window on a tall white wall…

A scenic tall white wall, white (… just white)
Surely must allude to tall rooms…?
Would you guess the whiteness and breadth
Of my rooms – I wonder?

Or the breath and square feet of this house;
The plurality of emptiness or rooms.
It must be the summer heat, which has caused the walls to expand.
I hadn’t noticed it before – how my shadows would linger behind
In sunny rooms and how echoes took too long to reply.

This scenic house must have grown
To accommodate all this sun and whiteness
Would you count the number of steps (like I often do)
Between the front door and my bedroom – I wonder?

Sometimes I get bored walking all the way and take detours.
Would chancing upon new roads
Excite you as much I wonder?
The Sun and whiteness have wiped out all the roads I made
It’s just large white tiles now – sans directions.

Sometimes I visit other rooms to keep them company;
The wall-clock checking in hourly like a night nurse.
Would the almost silent swish of the second-hand
Please you as much, I wonder?

Washing up has become easier –
One Cup
One Plate
One Glass
Who counts forks and spoons anyway?

Perhaps I’ll repeat my scenic breakfast again –
Would you join me –
Would a lone apple on a coffee table bring down your mornings
Long before sunset – I wonder?

Would a lonely cup – forgotten
On a lone window on tall white wall of a large house,
Leased by an absent sun during daytime
And echoed by crickets and moon at night
Inspire you to rouse a sleeping doorbell, I wonder?

Do I dare to wonder about the face behind that roused door –
The face; the eyes (or will any eyes fill the space?)
Do I dare to wonder if it’s you? Or would “you” fill in
For the pronouns that I wonder, wonder about me.

***

3.    Spider

 

So, a spider moved in last night –

I had no warning – Just my window

And a green lattice of rose-veins and sleeping buds.

 

This morning the dew settled on a dozen pink white roses

And a jali of fine thread enclosed within themselves

Like ever widening octagons of waves suspended between

The potted rosebush and a coconut palm leaf broom.

Seated in a corner was a red-black spider

In quiet meditation; Gazing at the tiny green worm

Slowly breaking fast on dotted green leaves.

 

Was it blind? Maybe –

For many a times I had seen these slugs move

Right into the salivating clutches of a larger insect

Or the beak of an impatient bird. The spider, though

Looked on with leisure as I sipped my coffee

Watching the documentary unfolding before me.

 

Soon my maid rushed me out, to clean my balcony;

The spider, rose and green worm all hushed

Behind a curtain as I sank into my morning chore –

A bed-sheet newspaper oozing stark black words

Of thundering timbre and no consequence

And flaked corn lazing in a pool of milk.

 

Later, I walked back to a Spartan space sans spiders and dry leaves

And the receding echoes of my maid’s litany on cobwebs.

The green worm had by now ascended

To the hem of the pale rose, rose petals.

 

As I used a torn edge of newspaper to squish the offending worm,

The green glue spreading like viscous ink between black words;

I looked up at the ceiling to see the spider

Swinging back and forth in a crazed dance, creating

Yet another lattice – waiting for my maid tomorrow.


4.    Sakhi - I

 

Sakhi, didn’t you know?

Those mirrors you sit by and cry

Are nothing but silver silhouettes!

 

The reflection you see in them

Are tired mirages

From the wet tips of Dali’s brush.

 

Sakhi, did you forget

How beautiful you were –

When you looked at the midnight moon

Swimming in a languorous pool

And chanced upon your reflection

In its silver glow.

 

Did you forget about the time

You took a swab of kohl

From the night sky

And painted a gondola

Under your eyes.

 

Every time, I read you a poem

From my crumbled pages

Shiny white lilies would blossom in that black boat.

 

Sakhi, don’t you remember –

Your anguish began

When you stopped looking at the moon

And started to chase those silver ghosts

That taunt from behind smudged mirrors.

 

Those tears aren’t even tears

But perspiration of the skin –

Somehow in the language of mirrors,

Heart and skin must be synonyms!

 

Sakhi, didn’t you know?

Those mirrors you sit by and cry

Are nothing but silver silhouettes!

 

False memories of a thousand painted corpses

That parade in daylight

Screaming at Botticelli and Rubens;

Undulating their razor sharp hips, syncopating

With fiddles in a danse-macabre.

 

Sakhi, did you forget

How beautiful your crow’s feet are?

***


 

5.    Prawn Curry

Sunday schedule – Highlights.

Receding echoes of an early morning mass

From the domes of an ancient black stone church

Preludes the bustle of a mid-morning market

That replay mock-shocked expressions and bargaining and

Bags of herbs and vegetables and breakfast-breads

And shiny bright gray-orange prawns.

Noon-day sun finds the house wafting of jazz records –

Ella waltzes through all the rooms… Often Frank joins in!

Countless aunts and uncles and cousins add to the joyful cacophony;

The house by then, a symphony of loud and cheery contrapuntal passages – 

Laughter and debates and hissing pans and clangorous pots

And exploding mustard seeds and dark-green curry leaves.

The kitchen would be lost in a sweet tamarind mist

And gossip and chopping and sautéing and tasting…

Later – a large dining room table beaming with fresh garden picks;

Various stir-fries’ and condiments and soups battling for space

Amidst plates of steaming pink-lined rice awaiting the ‘Sunday-Star’ –

A creamy, coconut laced, saffron prawn curry.

Rest – just details.


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