summer rains tonight —
i take the long way home &
am mugged by fireflies.
summer rains tonight —
i take the long way home &
am mugged by fireflies.
Every love story is a ghost story.
David Foster Wallace
in a flyover state where
the trains do not stop
but chug on toward the
hills, a quiet chord drifts
out over the darkling
plains and is lost for ever
to the wind and rain and
perhaps we are only
this: ghosts before our
time burning through
books burning through
women burning through
ourselves hoping to find
oceans away — a place
where nobody speaks the
language of the heartland
— you wait for the Q44 to
take you home. lights
alight. church bells toll
the hour. tonight the
street is empty and the
night is empty and the
moon will not rise and
there will be no stars to
guide you home. only the
dumpster fires rage on,
filled with the debris of
Time was a string of knots, a spiked wheel,
a seam that you could split and heal—
As a boy, reclining on horsehair
one morning on a train,
you watched the countryside,
a single light-filled frame
in which lives flickered, drawn forward
like a train along a track; you saw yourself,
suspended in a fractured, endless motion,
going, never going back.
Lauren Wilcox, The Moving-Picture Principle,The Paris Review, Summer 2004
AND then there was that band that had that song called the Loving Sounds of Static. Before then, I’d never thought of static as something that could be loving; beautiful, even.
And then I learnt the only thing I remember from high-school physics: that 2% of the static you hear on old radios as you turn the dial from station to station at sunset is primordial waves — remnants of the Big Bang destined to course forever more through the lonely spaces between the stars and I feel a bit strange knowing that, don’t you?
And the band was called Möbius Band and a Möbius strip is a band, too — not the musical kind — but kinda like the one you wear around your wrist except it has a twist in it so you can visit both sides — inside, outside — without lifting your finger.
And Arthur C. Clarke once wrote, famously, about the bittersweet songs of distant earth but he also wrote about a wall of darkness at the edge of an alien universe and I remember reading it twice in one go and wondering at the magic of it all, and wanting to be a writer, and that was about a Möbius strip, too.
And since then, that’s what I think of whenever I hear static on old radios: sci-fi and interstellar origins and whatever it is that lies just beyond the border of everything. But more and more, now, I think of those quiet evenings spent endlessly tracing a finger along the continuous surface of a band worn, once upon a time, by you.
in a hinterland galaxy
by a mid-sized star
on a strange blue world
a hairless ape stands up and
gains sentience and
looks up at the stars and
is never the same again.
far out at sea
it is raining.
it has been raining for
many, many days
and there is no one to see
This post was also published here, on the Ziauddin University Atlas Blog.
Man’s heart a river be
deeper in depth than the unfathomable oceans,
Ah! Who knows the wailing of the heart
in search of its Lord?
Sultan Bahu, d. 1691, (translated from the Punjabi bySayed Akhlaque Husain Tauhid i)
THERE is a stubborn Sohni in my soul who longs to cross the Chenab of two worlds to reach her beloved, Mahiwal. I refuse. She persists. I patiently explain how fragile my ghaṛiya; how vast—how turbulent—the waters. It is but a simple thing fashioned of simple, unbaked clay: how dare it aspire—ad astra—to the stars? She smiles at me and slowly shakes her lovely head.
A marvellous thing: as we watch the shoreline recede behind us—and the waters swirl higher, ever higher—my turbid heart settles for the first time since I was a boy of twelve and found that battered old copy of the Conference of the Birds and learnt of love and Love.
And together, my Sohni and I watch as ourMahiwal appears on the distant bank and dives into the waves and strikes out for our simple, fragile, star-seeking, little ghaṛiya.
(Still from the music video of Coke Studio’s “Paar Chanaan De” (Across the Chenab) by Noori ft. Shilpa Rao.)
A million years ago — as they sat by their little campfire — a father pointed out the constellations to his son. And the infinite night sky didn’t seem as intimidating anymore.
It’s the stories we grow up with that whisper the loudest within our hearts; they are the framework for our dreams; they pulse with the rhythm of our short, bright lives.
Thank you for giving me the stories that have made me who I am today. (Here is one of them.) Stories of social justice and dignity and equality. Stories of a divine love that is greater than the stars. And stories of who I was, who I am, and who I will be.
They are stories that will last a lifetime and I shall never tire of telling them.
Love you, forever and always.
a photograph is all that lasts long
with glory years and quiet fears gone
when summer days are far away
you can dream of skies and lover’s eyes
Shoecraft, Eyes, Blue
OF all the addictions that may plague a man, an addiction to love is the trickiest addiction to have. This is due to the singular fact that one can not buy love in the marketplace. If one could, that would be another matter entirely and we would not be having this conversation for I would be in the marketplace but we are, and I’m not, for it is — truly, insufferably — priceless.
Its effects are astounding. It can take a boy of fifteen — a promising young lad with a first-rate mind and sound disposition — and render him anaesthetised to worldly pursuits. The worlds of commerce and politics and sport are forever more left grey and drab to him. The gold stars of society no longer mean anything to him. He has glimpsed a world drenched in colour and he can not thrive without it. Over the years, he secretly feeds his addiction with scraps of poetry and ancient Persian treatises on Sufism. He devours literature with an unslakable thirst, searching, ever searching. He sees something he can not articulate in the way the sun sets behind lonely apartment complexes. Something beckons to him on the sea breeze as it blows through banyans in the hot afternoons. And something tightens in his chest every night as he watches the rising of the stars from the roof of his ancestral home. Everything he writes ends the same way: smeared with the half-remembered colours of forgotten love. Like waking from a dream and scrambling to put it all down before it’s lost to the aether; knowing it’s going, knowing it’s gone, knowing even as you begin to write that it’s useless and yet still grasping for another fix, you addict, happy in your addiction, wouldn’t trade it for the world because you’d rather your half-remembered colour than the grey, grey, grey of everyone and everything else…
There is a boy or a girl a thousand years hence on another planet who is reading all this, feeling all this. Here, Earth is merely a byword for an unspeakable nostalgia. I write to you — future-boy, future-girl — from your ancestral home. The colours are real. They exist. There is only one way to find them and there always has been. Good luck. Godspeed.