Writing Our Time / Painting Lesson
by Medha Singh
Stretch a canvas across the pane of reality
and you will see all that is surviving.
You will see the curving earth
in a fist of black smog. Amazonia finding a way
to sprout plumes of smoke from its feral, maddened belly
miscarrying her children borne by the arrogation of fetid male
breath and somewhere across the quaver of human ears
in a forgotten world mothers are anxious with the tightening
noose of time, mothers are anxiously telling their sons
time is shortening, aloft the light closing it will all pass.
A sculptor is using her fine chisel of gunmetal and gnawing contrition,
picking out holes in ribcages where hearts once keened: first a pellet gun, then an
aerial camera found them scattered across the valley.
a girl is ravaged in the temple, a boy blinded in class
by the incalculable torpor of men in green it’s hard to see them
beneath the trees behind the bush. Look home, a door ajar, kicked in
there is mother’s yellow dupatta pickled in tears and blood, put the crud in the grave
with the pellets the bullets the mallets forever hauling our eyes to the sea.
Say ‘amor fati’, say, ‘we will never foresee the nature of things that are yet to drag us into their love’. Say, ‘the wish, the hope, the dream, the solemn hug that didn’t last, the dry tug of it all’, say ‘the story is never over, nothing is ever over’, say, ‘the sun in the sunflower seed is the veil of denial rent open’, say, ‘the end of hope gives way to clarity’, say, ‘in the end, you once stood upon the rocks at Sahastradhara’, say, ‘they told you it is water that cuts stone, gorges, valleys, the great barrier reef, none of them stand alone’, say ‘in the wide swathes of time (and pass, it will), everything will wash over us’, say ‘we will live as the taste of brine in a whale’s mouth’, say, ‘we? we will all be washed away, our bad bits washing up on every beach.’
Hammer in the canvas over the frame
Hammer in your dreams upon the canvas
Hammer the truth into popular consciousness
and watch the world baulk at it like a dalit forced into birth.
Forced into a name, into living, pummeled into death.
Are you waiting for the winter to wane into an upright fog?
Are you waiting to align your spine with its quiet dignity?
Are you waiting for the man and the woman living inside your belly to fall in love?
Are you waiting for them to be in conversation eternally?
Do you want to stop being, because being is not doing
and not doing is the undoing of being?
Are you waiting for life’s embarrassments to wither into a convenient forgetting?
Are you afraid they will not?
Are you waiting for the simpletons who never understood you enough
to forgive you? Are you?
Are you waiting for desire to learn that its always on the wrong target?
Are you waiting for the day you will find the words, and won’t fall short?
Do you wish words did not exist in such excess?
and has excess been the undoing of all your charm?
Do you wait for the hour when others will cease to skirt
around the bush? And push the detritus of their peccadilloes into the universe?
Are you in the habit of coveting your neighbour’s horse? Your best friend’s wife?
Do you know your life is nothing, when you don’t control the destiny of your words?
Grief never belonged to one, always a guest.
(I) Watch mother hold the flag at half mast
in her heart, eyes welling as she casts the bones
into ceramic waters. Her husband is gone.
An empty beehive still sways, hangs on
the porch of her village home.
Praise the farmer that unburdens the land of his own weight. / Praise the children who wish he had taken poison,/ not hung himself. Praise / the village that knows poverty as epidemic.
Praise the woman who forgives him.
The word enthusiasm originally meant there is a god living inside you.
The world be damned for not knowing it.
Open your mouth wide, close your eyes
feel the rain sluice down your throat
and pull out your insides.
Behold. The canvas is still empty, immortal.
About the Author:
Medha Singh is music editor at Queen Mob’s Teahouse, and a researcher for The Raza Foundation. She functions as India Editor for The Charles River Journal, Boston. She is also part of the editorial collective at Freigeist Verlag, Berlin. Her first book of poems, Ecdysis was published by Poetrywala, Mumbai in 2017. She took her M.A. in English literature from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and studied at SciencesPo, Paris through an exchange program, as part of her interdisciplinary master’s degree. She has written variously on poetry, feminism and rock music. Her poems and interviews have appeared widely, in national and international journals. Her second book is forthcoming. She tweets at @medhawrites from within the eternal eye of the New Delhi summer.