Monthly Archives: January 2013

And so it is

Head in his hands, he sat at the bar;
a little while back, she’d come with her car
to take her things and all that she had
left there before things went bad.

He wondered, now what would he do?
If you were there, he’d ask you too.
And there he sat, till light went dark,
alone and cold, without a spark.

The lady feared that she had rushed,
for in her heart in tones quite hushed
she heard her lover’s softened beat
as she collapsed from head to feet.

The next day came, the sun was bright,
birds were out, serenading light.
Old love kissed, that knew the dark,
embracing all stops along the arc.

© 2013 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.

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The Window Watcher

It’s a busy day at the office, I step out for lunch and I want to go someplace to relax for a bit. I see an empty seat in the window of the Starbucks across the street and I quickly cross to get there before anyone else. A woman is at the door, smoking. She moves aside and nonchalantly blows smoke into my face. I ignore her because my attention is called towards someone else moving in the direction of the seat in the window. She has a food tray in her hand. But instead of going to my seat, she sits down at a table with friends. This must be a different kind of Starbucks, I think, because I see many people with food trays. I finally get to the empty chair at the window. I look outside at the people on the street – walking, talking, smoking, waving, rushing. Different kinds of cars, buses. People of all shapes, sizes and ages, well dressed and working class. This is a nice, restful perch and I finally let out a sigh and relax.

Something feels oddly familiar. I’m not sure what it is. Then I remember – I often did this as a boy, looking out from my window in the suburb of Mumbai where I grew up, counting cars as they passed by – a counting game to pass the time. I’d get lost in it, a world I could escape into whenever I wanted. I’d count the taxis that went by. Let’s see if twenty taxis will pass in the time it takes me to count to fifty. One, two, three, four, five…there’s another, then a long wait; I’ve counted to forty-eight and only eight taxis so far; maybe I’ll count to a hundred to get to twenty taxis. Sometimes counting to a hundred would get me there; other times I’d have to start all over again. I’d count black cars, gray cars, lumbering British relics from after the Second World War, the latest Japanese cars – usually bright red or blue, motorbikes. I rarely counted bicycles – not too many to make the game fun. People – Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, other religions, guessing at who were non-believers – the not-so-secular society I grew up in was loaded with rabid religiosity, the type that divided the world into believers and non-believers, and if you were so unfortunate as to be in the latter category, you were as disgustingly bad as homosexuals – a group of people born of Satan’s loins, and either pitied or feared. However, like homosexuals, and unlike priests of all Indian faiths, non-believers did not come with external markings – they probably still don’t, I think – and so they did not readily figure in my game. I counted women with babies, old people, teenagers, children, men with beards, bald men. I usually played the game on quiet evenings in the summer holidays, after all the other boys had gone home. I’d sit in the living room window, sticking my head out through the solid wooden columns which secured the metal grilles that prevented little children from climbing out for a one way visit to the great outdoors. The streetlights were not fully lit until later in the evening, so I had to peer carefully into the dark to pick out the subjects of my game. Many times pre-teen girls my age would pass by. Sometimes they’d look up at the boy in the window. I’d notice them but always looked away and pretend that I was captivated by some fascinating object in the distance. I’d wish I could talk to these girls or that they’d come up to me to talk, but at the onset of puberty, the childhood freedom I’d had interacting with the opposite sex was replaced by a nameless fear that for all practical purposes rendered me mute around girls. Talking about academics was easy, but verbal and visual paralysis set in when I tried to make small talk, or worse, combine small talk with eye contact. I sometimes did think up ways to get noticed though.

Marie was in my Sunday school religion class. She was the first real crush I had, if you didn’t count my third grade teacher. I spent many school periods lost in thought over her. And, to my credit, deftly avoided answering nosy questions from annoying siblings. I didn’t yet know how to put two social sentences together, though, which was a problem. But I knew how to run. So at the end of the religion class every Sunday, I’d walk out with everyone else and then break into a maddened sprint home, interrupted by leaps above tiny bushes in the churchyard, imaginary stones, and small puddles of water. I was convinced that Marie was impressed with my athletic ability, affirmed by the fact that on a couple of occasions she accepted the then popular brand of bubble gum I slipped her, very Don Juan like, when the teacher wasn’t looking. One day, on the way to school, I saw Marie on the other side of the street. It must have been my birthday or some special occasion, because my school uniform of short-sleeved white shirt and half-length battleship gray pants was complimented by 70s-style platform shoes that were all the rage at the time, and saved for special occasions. Foregoing articulate sound, I put my courage into my well-adorned feet and sprinted towards school. In the middle of that mighty dash, I was wondering if she had taken notice, if not of me running by, then at least of my impressive footwear. But I was too terrified to turn around and look back and let her know I was doing all that just for her benefit. I made it to school well in time, though I don’t think my efforts did much for Marie, because at the next Sunday school class, I saw that suddenly, out of nowhere, she had a boyfriend! I’m not sure how that made me feel, though I think I didn’t share any more bubblegum, and I probably found another fascinating girl to render me mute. Years later, when I was no longer religious and quite as terrified of young women, I saw Marie in the neighborhood and wondered what it was that had attracted me to her back then.

The background chatter of other patrons in the Starbucks pulls me out of my journey in time. I’ve been at Starbucks for more than twenty minutes now and I decide to step out and take a walk through Grand Central Station before I head back to work. A woman sees me getting up, and rushes towards my seat, food tray in hand. She has a napkin that says Alonzi. I look at the line by the counter, and most people have food trays, though a couple of them are holding coffee cups. Maybe Starbucks has teamed up with another company at this location. Or maybe this used to be a Starbucks – because I was sure I saw the sign outside. I decide to double-check on the way out. I look up – the sign says Alonzi. Starbucks is next door and has been for all the time I was sitting there. I’m not sure what to make of this, but I feel like I was in a time warp, traveling to an alternate reality that abruptly ceased to exist. I head to Grand Central, and I’m glad to see that it’s still there.

© 2013 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.

cold

chills the body
cools the brain
unfreezes our
silent rain

slows the river
calms the pace
quiet on a
hurried race

shines a light
shows the way
lets the soul
have its say

© 2013 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.

For food and shade

While his heart aches
and his mind cannot fathom
how things have changed
since Eve and Adam,
he must, of hunger,
choose a trade
that gives him food
and a little shade.
As he paints,
he think of dawn,
when in a few hours
tomorrow’s born,
and then he’ll have to look his best
and go out there and take the test
and find a job that gets him bread,
though tomorrow,
his heart is dead.

© 2013 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.

Her

He tied her to the tree of fear,
a tree to him that was so dear,
so dear he couldn’t feel the rain;
a man who preferred death to pain.

His wife was just a piece of work,
no holy duties did she shirk;
no stone unturned for god on high,
a god that drowned her child’s own cry.

They are beyond the reach of life,
it’s time for her to quit the strife –
they will not change or let her be;
if they knew how, they’d set her free.

Now where does she go, what does she do?
Should she intellectualize it too
like her father, like his wife?
Or, will she give herself a life?

Her eyes say she is not done yet,
she endeavors daily to forget
the ways that shut out all the rain;
she wants no more to avoid pain.

© 2013 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.

Above the tide

From the depths of despair
into the heart of hope,
on the arc of the unknown,
I need a little rope
to keep me above
the reach of the tide;
just one lap ahead,
sun rays inside.

© 2013 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved

Into the

Fast asleep and lost in thought,
I am doing what I must not;
Advancing age and ending time
Make this less than quiet sublime.

The alarm bell goes off loud,
It’s here to wake my spirit proud;
A chance to cry, a chance to weep,
A dance I forego if I sleep.

The bell keeps ringing, it’s not too late
To make a change before the gate;
A knock that’s only heaven sent,
A life unringing, gone unspent.

The old man looks at me and nods,
A chance connection from the gods;
A twinkle and a peaceful smile,
A look exposing all denial.

The bell it tolls, it tolls for me,
And soon I will be history;
Unknown, unseen, unlived, unhurt,
Unembodied and soon gone to dirt.

And when they write my letters on
A stone, that soon will be forlorn;
The markings of a man in time,
An average spirit, not quite sublime.

© 2013 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.

Ipsany and opsony

Ipsany and opsony
went on a ride.
Ipsony and opsony
didn’t need to hide
their love of life
and joy and pain.
Ipsony and opsony
loved the sun and the rain.

© 2013 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.

A place to lay my heart

You accept me with all my faults
and everything I do
is watched by you for signs of love,
kind words from me to you.

You wake me up because you are
ready to start the day,
the crazy joy you bring to me,
a dog that wants to play.

I wonder what I will do
when you’re no longer here,
you tell me to enjoy your love
and never shed a tear.

And when some days I stop and sigh –
at times you drive me nuts,
you wiggle waggle my sighs away,
my darling mutt of mutts.

© 2013 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.