Night-life. Letters, journals, bourbon
sloshed in the glass. Poems crucified on the wall,
dissected, their bird-wings severed
like trophies. No one lives in this room
without living through some kind of crisis.
No one lives in this room
without confronting the whiteness of the wall
behind the poems, planks of books,
photographs of dead heroines.
Without contemplating last and late
the true nature of poetry. The drive
to connect. The dream of a common language.
Thinking of lovers, their blind faith, their
my envy is not simple. I have dreamed of going to bed
as walking into clear water ringed by a snowy wood
white as cold sheets, thinking, I’ll freeze in there.
My bare feet are numbed already by the snow
but the water
is mild, I sink and float
like a warm amphibious animal
that has broken the net, has run
through fields of snow leaving no print;
this water washes off the scent—
You are clear now
of the hunter, the trapper
the wardens of the mind—
yet the warm animal dreams on
of another animal
swimming under the snow-flecked surface of the pool,
and wakes, and sleeps again.
No one sleeps in this room without
the dream of a common language.
It was simple to meet you, simple to take your eyes
into mine, saying: these are eyes I have known
from the first…. It was simple to touch you
against the hacked background, the grain of what we
had been, the choices, years…. It was even simple
to take each other’s lives in our hands, as bodies.
What is not simple: to wake from drowning
from where the ocean beat inside us like an afterbirth
into this common, acute particularity
these two selves who walked half a lifetime untouching—
to wake to something deceptively simple: a glass
sweated with dew, a ring of the telephone, a scream
of someone beaten up far down in the street
causing each of us to listen to her own inward scream
knowing the mind of the mugger and the mugged
as any woman must who stands to survive this city,
this century, this life…
each of us having loved the flesh in its clenched or loosened beauty
better than trees or music (yet loving those too
as if they were flesh—and they are—but the flesh
of beings unfathomed as yet in our roughly literal life).
It’s simple to wake from sleep with a stranger,
dress, go out, drink coffee,
enter a life again. It isn’t simple
to wake from sleep into the neighborhood
of one neither strange nor familiar
whom we have chosen to trust. Trusting, untrusting,
we lowered ourselves into this, let ourselves
downward hand over hand as on a rope that quivered
over the unsearched…. We did this. Conceived
of each other, conceived each other in a darkness
which I remember as drenched in light.
I want to call this, life.
But I can’t call it life until we start to move
beyond this secret circle of fire
where our bodies are giant shadows flung on a wall
where the night becomes our inner darkness, and sleeps
like a dumb beast, head on her paws, in the corner.
Changed my mind. Time to shut down nomadclature. EL FIN.
Necessary to forget certain haunts that I can’t rid myself of, completely.
Let the cleanse begin!
Much love to LL and the few dear friends that have been loyal readers (even through all the haphazard posts) and have always reminded of the good & pure. I’m forever yours.
My dear LL, Happy 25th —
You are and always will be one of the best people I know.
There’s a green and pink hippo sitting on my desk as I write this. You gave it to me for my 16th, before we both left for college, saying that you would always be there for me even if you couldn’t be there. It’s traveled from CR to IC to India to Antigua. It’s habit now to bring it with me everywhere, but it’s not necessary because you have always, always been there for me. In all the moments. In all the feels.
What I love is that you know me so well that you see what I’m seeing. Sometimes with better clarity. How beautiful it is, to have such a dear and old friend stand by you and soak in all the sights - regardless of whether it’s beautiful or difficult or gloomy or quiet or inspiring. There’s nothing to hide, no pretenses, no insecurity. You mean the world to me and I love you so much, thank you for everything we’ve seen together this last year.
May this next year be filled with love and curiosity and a NYT bestseller ;) But seriously. I can’t wait to see what this year has in store and I can’t wait to be near you.
Last month, we paid ten rupees for a rickshaw
to the fortuneteller. We passed the market,
the school where S spent her childhood learning
sentences in Telegu. I was leaving
in the morning, and we longed to feel future
in our bones. Explore new things, Leo. Make way,
Scorpio, for good to come into your life.
Tonight in Hyderabad, men and women flock
to the fruit market, feet weaving among booths
of mangoes, baby bananas, pears. A girl
drops chapatti into hot oil. Beside
an alley dumpster, a man duct tapes a bomb
to his handlebars and inhales—as hopeful
somehow, as we’d been, preparing to make way.
Last night, I was trying to fall asleep and I put on Frank Ocean and maybe it was because we listened to Frank a few times in different cities, on different beds or because I really do love that album or (probably) because I miss LL by my side or maybe surprisingly because I feel far from lost, even while being alone and in India — that I couldn’t hold back my tears. A catharsis of emotions that I hadn’t processed or sorted. It was so unexpected and felt so strange, but good. Really good.
Earlier, I was thinking about memory and how flawed mine is. It’ll always be my struggle. Maybe that’s why I have this obsession with taking pictures or keeping in touch with everyone that I ever really knew — I don’t want to lose them, I don’t want to lose those memories. But I do. Easily. Anyway, last night, after I calmed down, had turned off the music, slipped into my unbelievably soft green gypsy pants that I had purchased with LL at exhibition and tossed and turned at least a couple hundred times trying to sleep, I started thinking about the memories that I knew I’d forget from our travels:
Brahim, the bearded driver who found me as I was talking to him on the phone at the Goa airport; the beggar draped in orange cloth that banged on our windows for what felt like eternity in the shady part of Delhi as “Aamir” and Krishna counted 500 rupee notes like there was nothing unusual; the perfectly formed idiyappum with coconut sambar that Robin made for us in Munnar; the swamis walking barefoot onto the plane taking us from Kochi to Hyderabad; the free yoga posters (10 & 5 AM) in Fort Kochi and the bronze heads stacked on each other at Kashi; being somehow unexpectedly upset at the elephants in chains when they were getting washed in a lake somewhere in Kerala; the shirohodora ayurvedic treatment at Ganga - the oil dripping like a pendulum on my forehead & lulling me to sleep and then the cabinet where I fell asleep again, my head resting on the wood, my body inside filled with steam; Adrian, the millionaire we met at the Kochi airport, currently living in the Taj Krishna, favorite city: Mumbai (because they really know how to have fun up North) and who wanted our input planning out his next weekend (Philipines, Vietnam or Cambodia?); in the backwater tour: the old Isreali water engineer and his wife with long blue beads and a rainbow dreadlock clip in her hair and their questions to the tour guide whose skin was a dark hide from hours spent under the Kerala sun but who also had the biggest smile of almost anybody we had seen in India, the way he repeated everything twice like we were his kids and he didn’t trust that we understood or were listening; parasailing in Goa, watching the twenty something telugu guy across from us who was disabled and on crutches up in the air wiggling his feet in the sky; the currency coming out of the giant gold head statue at the “Mindspace” in Hyderabad; eating almost the entirety of LL’s shrimp with white wine sauce and leaving my lamb stew untouched at Thalassa; how strikingly long the trees are amidst the tea plantations in Munnar like they were put there purposely to measure the length of a day, their shadow over the tea leaves, over the women picking them by hand..
And more. Many more.
I know I’ve already forgotten quite a lot already. But I think that’s okay. Because I don’t mind if I forget these things. This is what I want to remember, from this precious time I’ve gotten to spend with LL, for this new year, for years to come:
“If you do not go, you will not see” – LL overheard the Isreali wife of the water engineer saying this casually in conversation. I want to remember that once you get past the exhaustion, the mosquitos, the hard beds and all the other uncomfortable & unexpected things that come with traveling, there is such beauty in seeing something new – a sort of “Paradise”. I kept coming back to the word after I learned in Delhi that it originates from the Persian word “Pairi Daeza” or enclosed earthly garden. Meaning: paradise on earth. In Delhi and Agra and also in some of the gardens in Jaipur, we saw the direct manifestation of that word – these beautiful Persian gardens built exactly as paradise was described in the holy texts such as in the Holy Quran. That was just so baffling for me, to see architectural marvels of paradise. You know it’s going to be beautiful but being actually there and seeing it – like the Taj Mahal – it felt like the breath of fresh air that I had been searching to find all of 2012 but couldn’t. I still feel like I’m breathing that fresh air – it’s the exact opposite to all the air leaving a room. Then we went to Goa, where we found paradise in relaxing by the beach, in the fresh seafood or in Rio, by the pool, in the plush beds. In Kerala, paradise was exploring Fort Kochi harbor and seeing how art permeates so much of that area – from the Kathakali performances in Greenix village, to a tree painted with colorful faces, the intricate Chinese fishing nets, the beautifully drawn graffiti on the buildings. With its heavy European and harbor-seaside influence, it didn’t feel India in certain parts, and that in itself, was a certain kind of paradise for us. Munnar was paradise in its stunning views of the Western Ghats and the tea plantations that our homestay was blanketed in. There, the fresh air is scented with tea leaves and spices from the spice plantations – again, paradise. I remember commenting to LL about paradise and she brought up the thought that it makes you think if “paradise” needs to be enclosed, if it needs to be man-made. I kept coming back to this thought too because we saw both – the paradise made by man and the paradise naturally created by nature. Does it need it be either/or? Can it be both?
I like thinking of paradise as man-made. I spent so much of 2012 suffering because I thought paradise was pleasure, comfort and that if I was true to myself, I could care for someone who was untrue. But I see more than ever, as all of my closest friends had already pointed out to me a million times, how false that belief was. Belief is a beautiful armor, but makes for the heaviest sword, like punching underwater, you can never hit who you’re trying for.. Matthieu Ricard, the happiest man on earth, claims paradise is training your mind to be in control. To feel everything, but to not be swayed by anything, to not be carried away by it – whether it be good or bad. I want to believe that. I want to spend 2013 building my own paradise, pairi daeza. I think I know exactly what that entails. To start off — Invest in the people I love. Minimalize everything. Be healthy again, get better, it’s just been way too long..
I probably should edit this, this just turned out to be a super long entry (lol Lace take this for free-writing) but amma is calling me to help grind some ginger so I’ll just post this before I change my mind. Sorry it’s so long.
Really miss you here, Lace. I’ve only spoken to people over the age of 60 in the last 48 hours.
Too many bottles of this wine we can’t pronounce… (real love, I’m searching for a…)
LL is sleeping and I am sitting on the edge of the bed, wide awake, because I am all of a sudden struck with this immense sadness that we have reached the halfway point of our trip and LL will leave in 8 days and I will be alone again, very soon. I haven’t felt this.. myself in many days. In more than a year, almost. The comfort of being with someone that knows you in so many different facets and understands and loves you for everything that you are — it’s home. I am so blessed to have had this time with her. I need to remember that blessing and not be concerned with anything thereafter. It’s really hard
I wish I could remember everything about this trip vividly enough to sustain me for these next six months. I want to remember this about right now: the sound of waves crashing on the shore just steps away from our door, the waiter with a British accent talking to the elderly patrons in the restaurant next door, the top 40 hits playing on the radio, the white noise of cicadas soon to turn into the morning call of the seaside roosters & one of my closest friends nestled in blankets and fast asleep right beside me.
We can see our breaths on the walk toward the Taj Mahal. Passing camel carts and monkeys and “rowdies” and kids selling Taj snow globes, I stuff my hands further into my pockets. The morning fog is thick; we can barely see twenty feet ahead of us, and already I know that the mausoleum will look like a ghost in the haze.
Last night we watched a documentary on Youtube that described the secrets of the Taj Mahal. The history is rich. It is said that the great Mughal emperor Shah Jahan confined himself in a dark room for two years following the death of his favorite wife, his soul mate, the ravishing Muntaj Mahal. To prove his love and immortalize the memory of his wife, Shah Jahan called the world’s best archtiects, engineers and craftsmen to Agra to construct a masoleum matchless in size and grandeur.
As we enter the gates, I hug my purse to my chest for safety and warmth. As expected, when we peer through the door leading to the gardens, there is only a thick white fog. People disappear with their cameras. We walk closer until the long row of blue fountains becomes visible, and then we see it - the first wonder of the world.
Words fail. The building is gigantic, regal, unparalleled. Inside holds the tombs of Shah Jahan and Muntaj Mahal. I find myself thinking of love, death, and time. Has one person ever felt as much for another? Surely. Just maybe not someone with the power and resources as an emperor. I will tell S on the way out, our feet dodging piles of camel dung, that this must be the closest anyone has ever come to immortality, but I’m probably wrong. Four centuries is nothing in the wide span of human history. Four more centuries, and it’s doubtful the Taj will still stand.
But it stands today. Always my eyes looking upward. I ask if it’s possible to go up in the minerets, the four tall towers on each corner of the mausoleum originally used for call to prayer. Our guide tells us no one is allowed inside after a person committed suicide by flinging himself from the top of one twenty years back.
I imagine a man, dark hair and skin. I imagine a Muslim, someone who reveres the sacredness of this place. I imagine desperation, or peace, or both. I imagine someone conscious of the way their time spent on earth will fail to produce a love or a legacy as magnificent as this. I imagine the man stepping barefoot onto the edge, his toes curling against marble and precious stone, his eyes open as his body falls.
My imaginations are unfair. His is not my story. But the Taj makes you wonder, somehow, what your story is. It makes you question, like so much has during our travels so far, the nature of legacy. The endurance of love. How you find either, or how, maybe, they find you.
Later, we will leave Agra behind. We will ride on the back of a camel cart through the desert and laugh at the absurdity of it all, listening to the man cluck his tongue to make the camel move. We’ll sit on buckets in a dark market, our left arms outstretched, two young men painting the curling designs of ancient mahendi on our skin. We will bow down as an old man presses his finger to our foreheads, brandishing us with the bindi. We will stand among a field of yellow wildflowers and smile into the sunshine.
But now I am smoothing my fingers on marble, tracing them over calligraphy and jewels, hoping for a life defined by love.
Still too tired to write a proper entry so I will just share this fan fiction Lacy wrote about Shah Jahan —
Shah Jahan’s eyes are dark tonight. There is something in them that calls to the deep recesses, to the bottom of the sea, and I am afraid.
"Shah," I say, moving my hand to his arm. "Shah?"
In the candlelight, the jewels around his neck look like the sky’s brightest stars.
"My love," he says finally, moving his eyes to me slowly.
"You are troubled," I say.
"My baby is in you again," he says. He rounds his palm over my stomach. "Something stirs."
I say nothing. He is right, though I have not told him I carry our fourteenth child. Many things we do not have to say. We feel.
"The moon barely shines," he says. His fingers on my skin like silk.
"The moon will shine forever," I say.
Well we’ve had about two hours sleep in the past thirty six hours, oops. Life is an interesting mix of delirious and euphoric (c/o hot showers) in the Delhi hotel room this evening. Michael Jackson’s on Vh1. We have a space heater. It was foggy half the day, domes of the mosques disappearing into a hazy gray sky. I didn’t expect any of these things when I imagined India back home, but I’m finding India too grandiose to dream up. Today a man pedaled us through Chadini Chowk on a bicycle rickshaw. The roads are narrow as hallways but there is too much happening for the senses to absorb: the smells of the world’s oldest spices, men urinating on the side of the row, donkey dung, gasoline and fried food and rotten bananas. So many people packed into such a small area, so much poverty next to the vibrant roar of life. The only thing it reminds me of is Kampala, Uganda, but even there, the colors weren’t as bright.
Delhi is a holy city. We visited and saw many holy buildings today, places crafted with an eye for beauty and architecture, for the intricate and for strength: they all still stand, centuries later. And how did they know to dig the moat and filter the water through just so? And how did they know to build every mosque facing Mecca? Standing in front of the buildings, I feel my eyes drawn upward, and it cannot be coincidence. Holiness leads to wonder.