Paeans - and Aches

over the years

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Performance Piece

There are different ways to perform a poem
       If, that is, you're okay with the word 'perform'
       Because there are those, you see,
       Who believe that the faintest hint of emotion
       Is so last century, so high school elocution
       So they read words of passion and pain
       Of despair and decay, of revolution and rebirth
       In a sad monotone
       They can make "I love you" sound like "I hate you"
There are those who rhyme
Any old word, any time
Breaking lines any
Where as long as the penny
Falls into the slot
Makes sense of not
       And there are the ones for whom performance
       Is a nice excuse to say
       What they wouldn't say in front of Mum
       To say "Fuck!" on the microphone
       Without getting arrested or spanked
There are the earnest ones
Whose friends or children
Don't listen to them
       And the patriots who expect applause
       Because they wave a flag
       Never mind that they spout cliche
       in bad rhyme
And the awesomely erudite
The professional academics
Who don't care that no more than five
People in the world understand them
As long as those five are in a position
To hand out residencies, fellowships and grants
       And yes, the performers
       Who will bring drums that add drama to their inanities
       Costumes to clothe their banalities
       Or take their clothes off
       To Make Statements
       Except that's all they do
       Make statements, not poetry
And worst of all
The ones who have nothing to say
So, instead, they
Bitch about those who do

A Bombay second

It's the time between
The light turning green
And the first impatient honk
It's the time he says it will take
To find that file
It's how long
A wedding procession
(or a plaster god
or a funeral)
Will block the road
It's the time you could give
An ambulance, siren imploring, to pass
But don't
It's the time by which you miss your train
Which costs you a red mark
And one-third of a day's leave
It's the time a taxi drivers says
It will take to fill his tank
Time he never had
When his meter was up
It's the time a poet wants
From you


Give me back my poems
The verses I wrote in my head
While I was hanging out of a train
Or so tightly squeezed into a bus
That I couldn't reach my pen
Give me back the ryhmes
That appeared fully formed
In conference rooms
Give me back the lines
Scribbled in the margins
Of newspapers a raddiwalla now owns
Give me back the metaphors
The deft turns of phrase
I loaned you for your magazine piece
The word play I gave your ads
The rhythms lost to your deadline clock
Give me back my poems

This poem

This poem is not unusual
many have written similar
more will follow, unperturbed,
that it is a path often taken

This poem is not about struggle
or discrimination
or poverty
This poem was written in the back seat of a car
headed for an Open Mic
a car with a full tank
and an engine that purrs smooth
though the paint is flecked
the body dented
and the carpets leave no doubt
that its the monsoon

This poem was not born to privilege either
it will not be read merely
because of its provenance

This poem has friends, though
who will nod and smile
at the right places
and applaud with sincerity
born of friendship if not enthusiasm

This poem isn't sure it's a poem
It searches for itself
in the faces of others
it is looking for its white picket fence

This poem would like to have coffee with you
maybe dinner and a drink
and talk until morning

This poem is not a love poem
but it thinks it loves you

This poem is not polished
it must warp and morph
perhaps into a Form
be cut and rearranged

This poem must compete with non-poems
that bring food to the table
and pay the rent

This poem wants to wave gracefully at you
from under its crown and sash
this poem wants world peace
loves Mother Teresa and Mandela

This poem knows it won't live forever
that it won't even be remembered
that there's no heaven
but hell is obtainable

This poem thinks mortality sucks

This poem has potential
This poem wants to be brief
This poem is terrified of your inattention
This poem thinks it should end now