How to write a poem

(1) Always keep an open mind.

Thoughts can be poetry in motion. Often, bad, irrational poetry. But once in a while a half-baked starter will arise. Or a perfect conclusion will almost float out of your awareness. Your weary mind might be too tired to grab it, but you must. Grab the words, and stuff them in your memory as poetic scraps. Later, they will come back to you. Your whole body will surge with recognition of its own creation.

(2) Some thoughts will solidify into topics.

You will be able to weigh its potential in your palm. The thought was only a key, you will realise. Now, a world of interesting and experience awaits you.

(3) Sometimes, you must taste the subject.

You must treat it as clay; step within it and also inspect it from without. Shrink it, stretch it apart. Try to capture it in such detail that the poem almost falls apart. Almost.

(4) There are times when the words will rush to you because the poem was always complete. Always ready.

But other times, you must coax it out; offer it word after word; that your body will reject on behalf of the poem. Sometimes, you wait.

(5) You must recognise when the poem comes back to you.

In between your concentrated thoughts; your mind may signal the poem’s readiness. Do not curse the distraction, welcome it. It is what you were waiting for.

(6) Let the poem build up from below.

An increasingly twitching foot becomes a jiggling leg and to free yourself from the restlessness, you can only walk. You will carry yourself according to the poem. As the words hurtle into your mind so fast that they will collide into each other, your pace will increase until you are running for paper, for a pencil. Anything.

(7) Reread your first draft.

Let your finger feel every word before a scratch or replacement.

(8) Breathe a sigh of relief when the poem has finally left you.

Ask yourself who this poem is for. Yourself, a love, or the world? Do you want to share it with the world? Don’t be shy, go ahead.

You were waiting for the poem;

And now the world is waiting for you.

 

Skies

Maybe it’s a Chicago sky.

The even gray hanging over a city I could never completely call mine,

Simply because I never knew it.

I only knew its edges, its suburbs.

It’s funny how the world reflects the sky.

Obvious,

But I marvel nonetheless,

The gray seems to have seeped into the atmosphere, touching my bones, lulling me to sleep.

Instead my father and I go to school,

The car purring along the roads.

The blankets of untouched snow have melted,

The snow angels reduced to muddy boot prints on squelchy sidewalks.

It’s the time the icicles are melting.

The Christmas songs have faded from the radios,

The Christmas lights turned off, and packed back into cardboard boxes that will collect dust by next year.

Once the warmth of festivity and celebration is gone,

I realise how lonely winter is, especially here.

We stop the car,

And I get out to join other well-warmed children my age.

Blondes, brunettes, the black haired all milling around, wrapped in scarves and laced with boots and covered by jackets as big as we are –

Ready for another day at school.

*

But it’s closer to a Delhi winter.

The roads are still busy, they always will be.

The drivers curse like they did before, the buses honk like they did before, the beggars beg like they did before,

They’re all dressed a little warmer now;

Wearing ugly and effective mufflers.

The cold seems to touch nothing more than their skin.

The white that blanketed Chicago, veils Delhi.

Fog so thick I can’t see two metres in front of me.

We all eat dinner in one room now, which is really the best –

Coolest in summer, warmest in winter.

My body has wrapped itself around the cold –

I find myself shivering so often,

My chest, my gut shuddering-shuddering-shuddering.

The mist will be gone by afternoon,

But the cold will stay.

*

But it’s definitely a Bangalore sky.

Pressing down on us with a cooling breeze and a heavy sense of sleep.

Bangalore, the most even temperatured city I’ve lived in,

And I still snuggle myself into my hoodie, stuff my socked feet into slippers.

The sun starts to break through the oppressive sky,

Which is infusing with blue,

The grey breaking up into clouds.

It’s been seven years since Chicago,

Five years since Delhi,

But I still see traces of my past in the colours of the sky.

Balancing Act

It’s the closest we get to an adrenaline rush;

Figures hunched over notebooks,

Stationery scattered across desks,

The only thing darting faster than our pens are our eyes –

Matching numbers: from the paper to the notebook, notebook to the paper –

Calculations are done in various ways:

Eyes open, eyes closed, one eye open and the other closed,

Imaginary numbers scrawled in the air,

Real ones scrawled in the rough columns,

Not along the provided lines,

But falling horizontally;

Splattered across the sheet,

Numbers on numbers;

Until all that is legible is a furious blue impression.

 

Armed with our pens, pencils, and scales,

We are at war.

But the numbers do not even stay within the allotted columns,

They expand outward,

Or collide with grey pencil lines,

Or cram themselves into a ballpoint mess.

 

But it doesn’t matter,

Nothing does.

Our hearts beat harder with every mental addition we do.

Legs wound tight around each other,

Our hands racing zeroes across the paper, before we are even aware of it –

Numbers flashing in the mind’s eye,

Half formed thoughts that fall out as numbers,

Each matching the other side,

Until the debit equals the credit.

 

We strike three successful lines on the both sides,

One above, two below, and sigh.

 

It tallied.