Last week I worked with a few fantastic artists on a new commission for An Indian Summer, a festival in Leicester. Long term collaborator Mayur Narvekar (aka Bandish Projekt) and I wrote a couple of tracks, which were augmented by kathak dance by Louise Mazmanian and Aarti Lodhia, tabla by Mayur and Hiren Chate, visuals by Rob Newman and Gurdeep Sian, and my poetry. It was possibly the most fun I’ve ever had, and the show was electric.
The Muslim man next door to me
Bids me a happy Diwali –
Are often celebrated
Perhaps we’re understanding -
This is the promised landing!
Not only do we all belong -
What’s more, we’re all related
In the cities, we migrating beasts huddle together,
Nobody wanting to be alone.
So we settle in shepherdless herds, we birds of a feather;
All of us searching for a place called home.
We won’t let go of the tales of our ancestors
Which meet our own stories, and become entwined.
We’re afraid to release these pieces of the past
For fear that we’ll leave our cultures behind.
But perhaps, in our struggle to water our roots,
We forget that we’re breathing our neighbour’s air.
The sweetest scent of all is in the flower of our meeting.
Home is to be found in the moments people share.
So the next time you feel you’re surrounded by strangers,
Grasping for support in a world full of changes,
Remind yourself that all of us yearn to belong -
and wouldn’t it be nice to get on with the neighbours?
I think an alternative , slightly more tongue-in-cheek, name for the poem might be ‘White Flight’.
Today’s the birthday of the most intensely brilliant, paradoxical, radiant, generous man I have ever met. We only hung out for a short time, and then passed away, shuffling off this mortal coil like only a dancer could; a trishul-tripod-trickster two-stepping into the void. We got wild on the dancefloor in his house a couple of times to Jimmy Castor’s “It’s Just Begun”, hence the title of this poem. Peace out, Professor. Miss you, homie.
I grieved – I felt bereaved – bereft -
I lit a flame for those who left
I sent them wishes on the breeze -
My love was carried over seas
Wild was the wind that stormy night –
My wishes filled the sky with light
And though the past can’t be undone –
Perhaps their journey’s just begun
I am often described (sometimes by myself) as naïve, an idealist and a utopian.
I’ve watched this animated RSA video of Jeremy Rifkin speaking about a move towards a more empathic civilisation countless times.
Here’s a sample of his talk: “When we’re talking about building an empathic civilization, we’re not talking about Utopia, we’re talking about the ability of human beings to show solidarity – not only with each other, but with our fellow creatures who share our one and only life on this little planet.”
A commissioned poem for the brilliant London-based Chaps Choir.
My dear old friend, Ansuman Biswas, suggests that “it seems to be a number of poems tussling to get out”. I think he’s right; so let’s call this a series of commissioned poems for the Chaps Choir, which I perform by glueing them together in one coagulated lump.
I look in the mirror. My deepening faultlines smile back like they knew the blueprint all along.
Whatever sword I carry before me is tempered and forged by my urge to belong.
All of us strangers to unforeseen change, and it’s hard because change is a foreigner’s land.
I look down to find hymns I didn’t know I could sing, songlines engraved in the palms of my hands.
These days my anger gnaws my insides. There’s no place to fight, roar, or beat my chest.
So I push away love and I hide beneath covers of linen caves I castigate myself in when depressed.
These days I keep my hands clasped on the tightrope between the twin towers which pull me apart;
I swing between the dark and light, and gay and straight, and black and white, and all the shades of grey which coexist within my broken heart.
These days, my psalms are carved from my passion and pain, and my every mistake;
The rhythm and cadence of rivers i’ve prayed in while swimming upstream;
from every shattered dream and hidden cost;
I pray every time a friend fades away, or leaves without saying goodbye;
for every friend that wanders through the wilderness alone, because he doesn’t know how to say he is lost.
I yearn to be married to something as wide as infinity.
I’ll worship whatever you tell me you call love.
And I’ll look for it in the gaping ocean separating you and me.