Friday, February 17, 2012


"I adore imperfections," she went on, "that odd crooked tooth, that mustard stained page in the magazine, the creak of an old closet, petty jealousies for strangers' shoes, that scratched DVD that always freezes after 14 minutes, the cracked tile behind the handwash, that typo in the exam paper, the pear-shaped scar behind the ear, the static that accompanies old tapes, that needless lie on the application form, that awkward boy in the class picture, those "R"s at the end of foreigners' words that always loiter on the tongue too long... It is there that beauty hides, in our inadequacies, the incompleteness of moments, our life's errata. Yet we spend so much of our lives insulting them, striking them down. How can it be that we're taught to reject the romance of imperfection for the boring predictability of perfection?"

The street was mostly empty, save for the occasional shape staggering out of the big red door by the bend. We were seated on the pavement, legs stretched out with our backs to a beige wall. Neither of our feet could reach the edge of the pavement, we weren't tall enough. Ahead of us, the street unfurled in waves of rectangles, the shapes grooved on the wall behind us uniformly flowing into the road and marching up the wall on the other side. If anybody was on the terrace above looking down onto the street, its creases making for a perfectly ruled notebook page, I suppose our parallel shapes would have made an ornate "H" inscribed in an old english font, the slender poster rolls bridging our knees.

"Yeah, I know. This is the night talking. The empty street, the river's faint murmur beyond that circular square, the evening's sugar and, of course, all those poor exsanguinated grapes. When the sun comes up in a few hours, I know, everything will be normal again. Shamelessly we will chase ghosts again, the perfect answer, the perfect love, the perfect memory, the perfect score, the perfect outfit, the perfect smile, the perfect car, the perfect riposte, the perfect job, the perfect son, the perfect house, the perfect future, the perfect death even... It's just what we are. And along the way, unknowingly, we will lapse further into ordinariness, becoming what we were always destined to become - someone's forgotten classmate, someone's slack employee, someone's unsent letter, someone's shared cab-ride, someone's thoughtful gift, someone's chronic disappointment, someone's annoying neighbour, someone's smear of lipstick, someone's grumpy customer, someone's anonymous sandprint..."

The words trailed away. She sighed feebly and fell back onto the wall, staring ahead. By the time she slowly turned her head towards me, we were both smiling. She leant closer, letting out a slow whisper, "I've never heard myself talk this way, ever. Will you at least remember?"

Friday, February 10, 2012


"Be careful"
they said every time
our hands reached out for the doorknob.

A thousand sundays later
here we are
lingering at thresholds
lest we are not "careful" enough.

Monday, February 6, 2012

An education

[To Wislawa Szymborska]

Under a bridge in Trzebinia
there is a wooden bench
whose planks are no longer parallel.
They lean into each other
the way sundays do into mondays,

The view looks out on a silence
whose throat has long dried up.
Top left corner: a steeple clambers up the sky
desperate to escape its inhumanity.
Elsewhere, saggy electricity cables argue
like old men over newsprint.
On tired railway wagons, time frays.
Unshaken, dry heather sways
like postmen's yawns.

It was there
that you sat me down and unfurled life
as things came tumbling out,
"chairs and sorrows, scissors,
tenderness, transistors, violins,
teacups, dams and quips."
It was almost as if
good old Prometheus had
taunted the gods once again.

At night, old dreams return
like cats to spilled milk.
In the unwitnessed quiet of a windowsill,
that stolen flame still cradled
in my grateful heart,
I remember.

[4:43 am | 3rd February, 2012]