Poems | Michael Creighton

Artwork: Balbir Krishan,
Dream of my life, mix media on paper, 2008

1. Dadri Blues

They say the mutton’s beyond belief in Dadri—
but friend, I hear you’ll die for the beef in Dadri.

A burning cross broadcasts the news where I’m from;
the temple PA delivers the brief in Dadri.

A man’s dragged from his home and slain in the street;
‘We’ll test for beef,’ says the police chief in Dadri.

The PM poses with Zuckerberg in Cali;
a family sits, alone with their grief, in Dadri.

‘Accidents happen when feelings get hurt,’ they tell us—
but a lynching’s a lynching; nobody’s naïve in Dadri.

How does a place turn metaphor? Babri—
Godhra—Muzaffarnagar—now breathe in ‘Dadri’.

Zafar, my barber, cries, ‘Michael, they’re saying
people like us, may as well leave Dadri.’

2. Advice

Something is happening--
a hawker is hawking his wares, perhaps,
or a friend is announcing a feeling
of great weight.
Step back, look and listen:
you may hear a crow calling,
or see a dog drowsing on the side
of a dusty road. This one is short,
but there is always room
for a simile: straightforward,
like a mirror hung slightly askance;
or unexpected, like a green guava
gone bad from the inside out.
Focus now, we are nearly halfway there—
look hard at the hawker again, or the friend,
and uncover some small surprise;
how his cycle wobbles
as he rides to the next market,
or a word or two she says
that can be understood
in more than one way,
like that green guava up there
or the dust that hangs over the road
running next to the lazy dog.
If we’re lucky, we might arrive
at a deeper understanding
of the world and our place in it;
this insight would almost certainly involve
something familiar: God or love;
betrayal or trust;
joy, doubt, or death.
In the end, most of us till the same earth,
the only difference being the shape
and size of our ploughs
and how our hands feel
as we lift the loose soil.

3. Fog

Do not be fooled: that image you hope will point
to love or grief can never do all that you ask of it—
the dust-covered rose distracts from the mutable sky,
the discordant grass, and the roil and stir
of the eggs and toast you ate for breakfast—
to say nothing of the heavy past—
but before you blame the dust or the rose,
or even the unmentioned rotting guava,
consider the words themselves
and whether they can ever reliably signify
what we say we hope they will say;
does the name we give to the rose
really conjure a rose—
and if it does, which and whose
imagined rose is it?

And what of our need to map the chaos
that whirls around us and in us?
is another kind of lie and all you need to do
is think about it and you will see the problem:
the Handsome Prince’s bad breath;
Cinderella’s lifelong fear of abandonment;
the wolf lurking in the woods outside the palace.
Can literary cartography contain or explain
even one moment in a real lived life?
Not completely, you may agree.
But dig deeper: who are you to make
that or any other stable judgment—
a painter will tell you perspective
is just a form of persuasion—
the size of the sprawled savior’s head,
his wounded feet and wrists.
And deeper still: who are you?
A product of your upbringing and experiences, you say;
but ‘product’ suggests a finished thing and though you will concede
that none of us are finished,
even the idea that we grow from seed to bloom
in an ordered way is a deception;
don’t we slip and churn into new forms
depending on whether our eyes linger
on the rose, the dust, or the grass;
whether we break our fast on eggs and toast
or left over aloo paratha;
whether we are viewed as the Prince,
the Princess or the Wolf as we walk
down crowded city streets?

Maybe it's hopeless,
but we could muddle mapless
from somewhere to wherever,
encountering things that make no sense,
like the world we live in:
strangers discussing shellfish in Leviticus
in a discount department store formerly known as-
while sorting through socks made in a country
formerly known as-
listening to a song written by an artist
formerly known as ‘the artist formerly known as-’
or maybe we’ll turn you into an I and later a we,
to suggest the slipperiness of identity—
or maybe I’ll just say it:
the opinions expressed herein are solely those of the narrator,
who may or may not be the poet,
who may or may not be a poet or even a teacher licensed
by the Teachers’ Standards and Practices Commission
in this or any other known jurisdiction,
or maybe we could just make words rub
up against each other in a way that plays
a different melody to anyone lucky enough to hear them:

Friend, if you boggle and fog my trousers in a fruity pan,
I will hold you in standard regard for a cookie

or at least for a breath of mint.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Michael,

    I've started at the top and read as far as here and have loved each poem. There are so many though
    that I despair or re-reading. (: I will be back to read more.