Live Encounters Poetry & Writing May 2021
Poet, novelist, artist, teacher and playwright, Randhir Khare moves from role to role effortlessly, reinventing himself, expressing the modern-day spirit of the Renaissance through his creative work which has garnered numerous awards and accolades. He has published thirty-six volumes of poetry, fiction, essays and translations and has had seven solo exhibitions of his art. His new book of poems Travelling Light and memoir The Flood & After is soon to be published. Apart from his numerous public commitments and his own creative pursuits he is a professional mentor to children, young people, young adults and emerging artists and writers, encouraging them to find their own voice through the arts. https://randhirkhare.in/
It’s been a long journey through dark and light –
Walking, dreaming, hoping, loving, losing,
Being born again and again from pyre to pyre,
Gyre to Gyre;
Now in the shade of this tree
Where birds roost in silence
Evening rests it’s palm on my shoulders
As I wait for the sign,
Prayer bells rise with flocks of egrets
And dissolve into the dark.
I will return tomorrow and wait
Cleansed of memory,
Cleansed of dreams,
Cleansed of all that I was
Cleansed of all that I hope to be…
But I know there will always be dust
Lining the hems of my robe:
Dust from the roads I have travelled,
Dust from the homes I have lived in,
Dust from my worn out promises,
Dust from this debris called life.
I rise and walk away,
I will persist
From life to life,
From pyre to gyre to pyre to gyre,
Great whirls of longing to be free
Spin me, fling me, tear me limb from limb,
Crack open my skull,
Let the birds feast on what remains,
That I may become bird, forget myself,
Feed me to worms that I may return to earth,
To the elements, to nothingness….
I know something will remain.
Something WILL remain
Dear light within, set me free.
We Are Afraid
We are on the edge of a salt lake of questions,
Unable to strip ourselves and walk in
Because we are afraid of the scars on our bodies,
Afraid that they will grow scabs
And scabs will waken wounds beneath them
And the wounds will push out and flower,
Opening petal by petal. Full-bodied. Wholesome wounds.
Faces of lost friends rising. Broken hopes. Despair.
We are on the edge of giving,
Unable to open our palms, spread our arms,
Afraid that the other is not there, is just a dream,
A figment of love;
Afraid that love is a liar, a cheat,
A gypsy whistling an enchanted tune
Walking under frozen stars, content with being alone,
Countryless, homeless, heartless.
We are on the edge of flying
But cannot beat our wings
And rise like the great white birds of the air
Because we are afraid;
Afraid that when we rise, feet off the ground,
The ground will disappear
And we’ll remain suspended in the air –
Slammed by gusts of wind,
Moving, spiralling upward, onward,
Towards the sun, scalding feathers,
Burning bones till they dislodge
Hurtling down through space
And meet the earth, headlong,
Like glowing meteorites,
Mud folding around us as we journey
To the centre of the earth that swirls in flames.
We are on the edge of ourselves,
Like water lining continents, lapping, grating,
Gnawing the shoreline, unable to break in.
The most we do is carve small islands
From ourselves, set them afloat.
We are the unresolved. We are.
I speak on behalf of us.
I am the voice. What I say, we feel…
Raise us up in the palms of your hands
Like you would water from a flowing river.
Take us out of the current, suspend us in air
Then sprinkle us across the landscapes of our lives…
The past, the present, the future,
So that our wetness spans time and makes it whole
And makes us one. If you are there.
Raise us up in your fists like you would sand
From a moving dune,
Take us up and throw us skywards…
That every grain may separate and drift far out
Across the roving blue –
And backed upon the wind and set us free.
If you are there.
Raise us up as you would a pot of ashes from a pyre,
Carry us to a sacred watercourse and empty it
That we may feel the gentle ebb and swing of the living
For the last time and not forget the fullness of this life we have.
If you are there.
Speak to us, we request you. We demand of you.
You who are supposed to be infinite, all seeing, all knowing,
Speak to us.
Is this a joke? A poor sick joke? Are we talking to ourselves?
If you are there.
On The Edge
On the knife edge of night
When last dreams share embraces,
Bodies clutching bodies,
I watch the moon
Falling into a silent river
Till it dissolves in sewage glow.
Why do we struggle to love,
Struggle to belong,
Struggle to breathe into each other’s beings,
Struggle to pray,
Struggle to believe,
Struggle to hope,
Struggle to trust,
Struggle to tell ourselves there is a beyond?
In the heart of this moment
I wait –
For the cracking of the shell,
For the yolk to ooze,
For my voice to become
The voice of another,
For the word
To curl in my palm,
For each breath to become a prayer bead,
Lord of the unknown,
Topple me over the edge so I may dissolve
Drop by drop
On streets strewn with silence,
On alleyways that lead nowhere,
On minefields of malice,
On the waking cry of a new born,
On limbless eyeless mouthless hopes
Swirling in foreverness,
On the night sleeping in the sewage river.
Lord of the unknown,
Turn me into a fistful of swallows
Throw me into a dark whirl of wings –
Travelling towards a summer of violets
Dust-hazed with wandering;
Turn me into questions without answers,
Into songs without words,
Into arriving without departing,
Into the moment of now
Suspended over the moon drowned
In the wastes of this city
Flowing like an open wound.
I sing of drowned sailors,
Bones polished smooth lying on the floors of silt,
Layer upon layer,
In the shadows of leviathans.
Constellations of bones wait to rise up with the land
When waters shift and continents are born;
I sing of them
Hard on dry land, smelling of shells and silence,
I sing of them waiting to form rocks and sand,
Moving ceaselessly like the wanderings of time;
I sing of them, the drowned sailors,
Bones polished smooth lying on the floors of silt.
What does the pillar of smoke say,
Drifting along the underbelly of the sky,
I want to be a cloud? A cloud heavy with rain,
Unzipping water on a restless land.
The dead cannot turn to water.
The dead remain. Fine particles of dust. Worlds.
And inside those worlds, more worlds and worlds beyond.
Beyond, within, deep down within.
I sing of drowned sailors,
I sing of the rain that fills the oceans
Moving across the city like angels.
Feet sweeping rooftops.
Hair trailing wet over the hoof-prints of the wind.
Bells stop ringing in factories and the hooters are silent,
Waiters and watchers at lonely windows turn and smile,
Remembering returns and reunions
And the meeting of bodies and the drowning of eyes.
I sing of the rain in the mountains,
Moving like flocks of wild sheep
Over mossy rocks and ferns,
Over bare hands and shoulders,
Over wooded humps of prehistoric mammoths,
Over abandoned Arks,
Over stranded seashells hoisted by the earth
Some shuddering aeons ago,
Over bat-stench nights of time,
Over the mute song of the sea.
I sing of the rain moving across open plains,
Licking ears of grain, drawing out sighs
Trailing mist over sleeping farmlands,
Entering their dreams, mixing colours,
Smearing, smudging, flowing,
New colours emerging, trickling out,
Streaking between emerald fields,
Wild cocks crow, hens cluck,
In the shade of giant lantanas
Boars bruise mud for roots and bulbs,
Ants shelter in the dark bark of trees.
I sing of the rain moving along the coast,
Patting the sand down as she goes,
Polishing coconut palms, combing casuarinas,
Playing with a lost ribbon in the wind,
Swinging on racks of dried fish,
Lying down in empty boats,
Straddling waves between damp thighs,
Riding out to sea.
I sing of the rain moving like a lost child
Down the empty passageways of our lives,
Across our cities, our mountains, our plains, our coasts,
Along the borders of insanity, beating with tiny fists
On the grey walls of memory,
‘I want to go home, I want to go home,
Please let me go home to the nights of the moon
Where trees spoke in the language of silver,
Please let me go home
To the rambling house and the river.’
I sing of the rain moving in great spirals outwards,
Onwards, away, leaving me wet and gleaming
Like a new born calf,
Wobbling to my feet, nostrils flaring,
The cud of silence rising to my mouth.
In the arms of trees all night,
Mist slides down trunks, swinging from branches,
Dripping from leaves into dustbins,
Over free dogs curled into themselves
Empty bellied, scabbed,
Dreaming of kindness.
I understand longing, now
That I have walked through the dark,
A free dog, tired of fleeing from stones
And closed gates
And wire nooses of control
And the indifference of many.
I have nothing to give
Only an empty purse, an open palm,
Stories of past lives, past loves, past hopes,
Past wanderings on pathways
Of dark and light,
I want to lie down and sleep
As my kindred souls the free dogs do,
Just curl into dreams,
Free from myself, my graveyard heart,
And let the fragrant arms of mist
Quietly when the wind blows
I rise and walk the night
With nightjars, snails and owl-wings
And silent words in flight.
Stardust on my bare skin
Moonlight in my hair
I move through gusts of crickets
And climb a midnight stair.
Over domes of sleeping trees
I glide on wings of dark
Sway with music of the dead
And the creaking of my bark.
There’s forever in my breathing
And wandering in my song,
For I walk the midnight soul-way
Carrying my heart along.
© Randhir Khare