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Jose Varghese – A Veiled Life

Profile Varghese LEP&W Sept 2021

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing September 2021 Mini Edition

Jose Varghese is a bilingual writer and translator from India. He edits Lakeview Journal and Strands Publishers and is the author of ‘Silver Painted Gandhi and Other Poems’. His short story manuscript ‘In/Sane’ was a finalist in the Beverly Prize and his second collection of poems will be published in 2021 (Black Spring Press Group). He was a finalist in LISP, a runner up in the Salt Prize, and was commended in Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Prize. His works have appeared in Joao Roque Literary Journal, The Best Asian Short Story Anthology, Dreich, Meridian, Afterwards, Summer Anywhere, Unthology 5, Unveiled, Reflex Fiction, Flash Fiction Magazine, Chandrabhaga, and Postcolonial Text.


 

A Veiled Life

Shifty eyes, a quaver in your voice,
faltering feet and fumbling fingers
reveal yourself
as much as they fortress
your secrets. A faint smile might
light up the serpentine path
leading to a
cloistered courtyard, but
the flowers in your garden
are never in full bloom. You might
invite the guests indoors, but
they’ll have to be cautious,
with each step they take,
of the trapdoors that might
open and close in the fraction
of a second. You might
offer food and drinks, but
they’ll consume them only in
small amounts,
scared of the effects
they can have later. You might
show off your art collection, but
they’ll wonder whether
they were
acquired illicitly. You might
even show them photos of
your family trips
to exotic locations, but
they’ll worry if the invisible family
was purchased on credit as well,
like the holidays. You might
tell them you’re an open book, but
they’ll excuse themselves
and refuse to read even a page.


 

A Moment Before Rain Claims a Life

The rain falls
on his head,
turning his mane
to wet strands
of silver and charcoal
that stick to his
temples and neck,
but he doesn’t move
from where he
sits hunched
in front of a shop.

The market is
almost empty.
Even the pigeons
are flying away
with their
share of the last bits
of discarded food
from the rubbish bin,
leaving behind
a couple of cats to
clear it between
useless fights.

People pass by
in a hurry
and fail to notice
the drenched
currency notes stuck
to coins spread on
the cardboard
in front of the man,
as a weary breath
departs, to
stop his shivering.


 

A Microphone in Search of a Prodigy

The child has restless fingers
that need tiny superhero figurines
to keep themselves busy,
pressing and rubbing,
wrapped around them like tentacles
in sweat-filled uncertainty.
The heat of his palms
passes through me when
he leaves them for a while
to get ready for the audience.

He shifts me from one hand to
the other, enjoying the cold
contours while clearing his throat.
He hates to talk,
to answer questions, to respond
to jokes, before he sings.

He has to forget me,
and everything else – what
he’s going to do, how
he’s going to do it, and who
he’s going to impress.

His hands stop trembling, and
fingers flow over me in
kind caresses, as he sinks the hall
in a voice that belongs to
the celestial world
where no divisions exist.

People forget even to breathe
as his voice swims through me.
We become one rare
musical instrument filled with
the mysterious designs
of stars and planets.

His voice absorbs
the hidden waves of despair
within me, as it dawns on us
that I’m the one
to which he is meant to flow.


 

Restraint

They will not allow those eyes
to steal their silence
where windows speak more
to buried urges.

When their bones creak, and
a prayer forms within
those rooms that are thirsty
despite hopes, the sun
shines bright on the hymns
of widows and orphans
that last through their chores
till the dusk’s death.

They should perhaps think of
a smile that could’ve
killed the clocks to save them,
but they never do that.


 

After the Swirl

Some days the room upstairs waits
like a canvas, and the colours are ready
to dilute in a dash of turpentine,
mix with one another,
migrate to the tips of brushes, and dance.

The hands that guide them
are guided by visions from above,
and though they try to reach
above the murky lands to places that
exist beyond wild dreams,
they’re fatigued after a whole night out.

The feet would then retrace
the steps downwards like a hushed pet,
impatient, longing for
the next treat in vapid waiting rooms.


 

Storm After the Calm

Indigo swims down
a luminescent white cloud to spread
in a gray over the amber sunset.

An eagle soars
above the tallest tree in the valley.
Sparrows, parakeets and mynahs
flit about lower below
with unique calls
that slice the air and patch it.

Frail flowers sway in the breeze
and spring back upset
by their own ghostly reflections
on the darkening lake.
Their white and purple souls
refuse to smudge,
and wait instead for eyes that are
ready to engage with
the beauty of drained hopes.

An impatient car speeds past like
a bullet, its silver-gray
metallic glow, noisy engine, and
whiff of fuel spreading
an eerie disquiet that atomizes
a mindscape where these
hues and sounds
had stayed for a moment too long.