In Tact

Thunderous frowns
Wring the skies
Spluttering
Pearls of wisdom
Upon the ground –
Then to dance
Or to drown
Differs
Only in sound –
Those canopied
Are yet bound
To their pebbled lanes
And undergrounds
While the victims
Of innocence
Learn to thread
And wear
The fallen
Round their necks.

– Akanksha Gupta

The Illusion of Freedom

My fingers don’t shake
Yet my pen hesitates
And the paper is black and blue.
I tighten my hold –
Had I been so lax
As to let the pen grow bold?
It is but a paper anyway;
And papers come and papers go –
The convenient martyrs
Of our self-effacing ways,
Covering our rot within theirs,
Letting our thoughts stay
Strangled within our throats –
Little birds
That now whisper
In our ears
Words
That make words cower,
And ideas, that yearn
To run free,
Find themselves
Short of words
Suddenly,
Apparently,
Justifiably.

– Akanksha Gupta

Lurking In Them Blue Pills

A house stood
In the far east end
Not quite marble white
Mud brown or charcoal black —
The colour faded before its quiet strength
Like the yellow of the yellow pages
And the red of the red moons —
Turning, waxing, waning —
Like a gnomon
Meditating
In its own shadow
Not so much abandoned or reclusive
As part forgotten, part oblivious,
And part elusive —
Just enough to have
A perceived objective clarity
As a bridge
Between dream and reality —
A house
Sometimes rented,
Sometimes owned,
Seldom sold,
Seeing all under its sun
Through windows
Cataracted to its soul

– Akanksha Gupta

A Wound In Time

In the darkness of the night
There are secrets that we hide

In the brightness of the day
Faces give naught away

There is blood and there is grief
There is pain no words can ease

They are shadows fires cast
Burning the future past

Gone
Is it my wake?
I hear the dirge
Am I awake?

In the dying of the light
We don’t go without a fight

In the crook of in-between
Dreams are true, truth’s a dream

There is death and there is life
There’re no truths, there’re no lies

They are shadows that time casts
Blurring all th’ futures past

Gone
Yet I’m awake
Or is it all
In my head?

(I composed these lyrics to accompany the haunting melody of Javier Navarette’s Lullaby from Pan’s Labyrinth)

– Akanksha Gupta

Dysfunction

The apparent imperfections of life
Appear as lesions marring its skin,
Imperfectly veiling the deep wounds
Rupturing the will within.

What paraffin can then suffice
As fire for ice when ice afire,
What liquid strength can hold and embolden
When those icy cracks are clogged sepulchres dire.

And yet through them –
Through the little cracks in our souls –
We want warmth to seep in; to seep into
Each cut ‘n every fold

The warmth of recognition
Of acknowledgment of our existence
Of sustenance of our rights;

The warmth of appreciation
Of admissions of our successes
Yet omissions of our strife.

But those moments and that age
When we used to yearn for them
Have long passed our doorstep,
Leaving in their wake
Fractures –
Untended and unchecked

At the root of which lies
A quiet and visceral need,
For a tincture of the warmth of celebration
Of each moment of the life we lead,
Henceforth, to seep in; leaving
Each cleft-end to the other cleaved.

– Akanksha Gupta

THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS

Don’t lose yourself in pretty words
Their artful eloquence
Beware the silences between
Hiss with malevolence

Too long don’t stare into the woods
Keep count of every branch
Wayward traveller, wary be
Of stumbling in a trance

In vain pursuit of netted sun
On blue-green waters, hark!
Lest in you wade too deep, yet miss
Upon each wave a shark

And when embark upon next verse
Do turn each page with caution
Sharpened edges draw first blood
From beguiled opponents

So judge not by it’s cover a book
Read between the lines
Double entendres hide amidst
The seemingly benign

This world, from ‘far, is abstract art
Up close a labyrinth
The devil lies in its details
Trembling with innocence

– Akanksha Gupta

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Out of the night that curls around
Glittering from pole to pole
A sleigh of dreams shimmies about
The contours of our souls

And in the gentle caress of sleep
It brings a world to life
That lifts the stubborn blanket of snow
Lodged in our year-struck eyes

To show beyond the place of self
Lies a joy beyond measure —
An exchange without cause or clause
That begets unbridled pleasure

Then it matters not how weary the road
How blistery the soles of day become
We shall always find the shade of friends
Even when on our lonesome

Because —

Out of the night that curls around
Glittering from pole to pole
A sleigh of dreams shimmies about
The contours of our souls

And in the gentle caress of sleep
It weaves old tales with new
A realm of possibilities
We knew not could be true

To show beyond the place of self
Lies a vision of tomorrow —
A free fall into novelty
Past year-stale joys and sorrows

Then it matters not dawn streaks
The inward eye with reddish gold
The dreams herald a future
That is ours to have and to hold

— Akanksha Gupta

Tread Softly

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When you look at me and those I paint
I hope that you see a rainbow coloured haze
For though I speak sharp with words so sure
They reflect a mere fraction of what I think I know

When you think of me and those I paint
I hope it’s not a puzzle but a mosaic
Because what I know are parts of a whole
Coloured by mine and growing evermore

When you speak of me and those I paint
I hope an equal lack of judgment is displayed
Those words that seem sharp, sure, and succinct
Are opinions, fickle; the truth has always been extinct

– Akanksha Gupta

Once Upon a Deadly Song

The night air
Sits primly upon my breath,
It’s crispness biting my tongue,
Which stills, stung
Into silence –
The cool of each
Thusly laboured death
Brings with it
A refreshing lack of thoughts –
I know that winter has come.

The faceless moon blackens every day,
A shiver of stars lie
Unblinking across a cloudless sky;
Their spartan starkness
Sending tremors of disquiet
Down my spine,
Roiling the river of scarves
Ribboned and coiled with poise
Around my neck –
Equal and opposite –
They press against a cloying warmth;
I can feel my throat tighten,
Prickling
At the bitter-sweet thoughtlessness
Trickling
Down
Like poison.

Thence the blood flows
Painfully, slow,
And nearly glacial —
A reluctant heart pumps ice
To temper and placate
The wrathful winds
Scorching my eyes.
And as I blink,
Fire and ice
Wound and lick
My flaming, mottled face
That I veil with
Endless swathes
Of downy cloths,
But the mattress remains cold
Underneath a chilled soul.

– Akanksha Gupta

MATCH 22

All the world’s a matchbox
And all its people a bundle of sticks
Unequally proportioned their figures
With peculiarly apportioned heads
Each with unique entrances
And equally unique exits

To begin with they are thusly formed
When each newborn, slithers
Out of the same old mould –
The wilderness; the savage stones
(By the book of cut-and-fold)
Crumbled, sutured and apparently, evolved

Assembly line production
(I hear tell it’s called)
Intelligently programmed to introduce
Per product Transgressions
Where every Difference in the delicate mix
Starts subtle, but grows, startlingly

To sow
The basis of conflicts
Villains and heroes – the tragic misfits
Stories and legends – the tragedies
Bards, audiences –
Subtextual nobodies

Co-existing under the same roof
Put asunder by the same goal –
To burn brighter than the bright
Sooner and longer than the rest,
To leave scorch marks in the wake
That remain undead after death

This struggle for a phosphorescent fame
Inflames the longer left unlit,
Fuelled by the silhouette of innominate death
Born of an unfortunate circumstance;
Such as dereliction due to dis(or mis)use
Or an incurable, congenital defect

And so every head butts against every other
To scratch and tip the scales in its favour
But – even & by sporting a red dye – every form
Remains conspicuously uniform
Making no difference to the fortune or fate
Of those unchosen abiding time and faith

Who rejoice at the measliest spark
That might just kickstart them into burning bright,
But after being brightly lit for timeless ticks
These enlightened (or accidentally ignited) minds
Flicker like flailing fish toward their end, then surge,
And cease, with a soundless dirge

Lamenting that while they lived, they lived
The way they were supposed to live
With the only changes being when-from,
How-bright, and importantly, for-how-long
Never stopping by, to wonder why –
Much like the cogs in a wheel – what-for

Thus it is why that history
Tends to seamlessly repeat itself
For every life is wrought with instinctive greed
In a box overcome with collective unease
Stemming from the common fear
That one day they’d quietly disappear –

A microcosm of civil friction,
Embrittled by a puppeteer’s dance,
A macrocosm of fractious civilisations,
Even as bundled together in a united stance –
Insidious match; afraid to combust –
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust

– Akanksha Gupta

 

Quotidian

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Humming a half-chewed
Part eschewed
Hastily rewritten
Version of ‘Zehnaseeb’,
I am waiting at the bus stop –
Now 20 minutes and counting;
My patience is floundering,
It’s like time has stopped for me.
Why, it’s with recurring, insipid and
Unguarded jealousy,
That I watch the little people hop
Into their little taxis
That come, that go,
That go, that come,
While, all the while,
My unsteady fingers
Steadily drum,
And a deft foot taps
Left, then right,
While idle thumbs twiddle
Verbosity alight,
And oh!
There I see
The bus  my bus
Merrily making its way,
With the torturous velocity
Of an ignoramus, unambitious snail…
Ah finally! It has stopped 
To let the passengers go;
Tedious and slow,
As they clench within them,
An unhidden, unbidden desire
To push against
The damn viscous flow,
And, oh no 
Aboard, there still are,
Two lost foreign souls
Talking with an equally lost driver
(Who’s desperate to return
To looking bored)
And I?
With an inward sigh, I shake my head
And brave my left foot before right,
To become the First Person on the Bus 
First  since some 30 minutes ago,
The First Woman, actually
(Because, somehow, it matters more)
And so,
The rest of the people,
Now undaunted and properly sheepled,
Step in too;
Unceremoniously hinting a good-bye
To the poor lost foreign souls

– Akanksha Gupta

Inertia | A Proof by Contradiction

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The state of being idle
Is ideal in itself
Unreactive to any situation
Unresponsive to any request
Completely inert
And inertly happy within itself

To have not
Awakens a hunger
To have
Awakens more yet
To be oblivious to simply having
Rouses no regrets

To Not to be
Incites a longing
To be
Stirs up a hornet’s nest
Yet being oblivious to the question
Yields no such desire for success

That having said,
A sorrowful success
Beams
Remorselessly at idle beings
For, to have not oscillated
Between any two extremes,
Lulls into a sense of complacency,
Where, all is not what seams to seem –

The seams between experiences
Are not stitched flawlessly,
But are absent
Because they are unnecessary,
After all,
Gaping chasms are inert
And collapse unto themselves
Soundlessly

– Akanksha Gupta

Continuum

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We are but stories
Told from birth to death
And if special enough
Prophesied and celebrated
And yet, I can’t help but wonder
Which is worse, or if any is better

The stories, however
Remain indifferent.

Yet
It’s curious how
They ebb and flow into each other
Until their very edges are frayed
And indistinguishable
As strands of time
Lost to and in a sea of murmurs
Their individuality threatened
Their impact everlasting
Paradoxical
And utterly flabbergasting

And so,
Though we are but stories
Told from birth to death
We are born of many others
And birth some ourselves
And yet, I can’t help but wonder
That the question of which story came first
Is not unlike that of chicken-and-egg

The stories, however
Remain indifferent

Yet,
It’s curious how
They roll and cascade into each other
Until they are but one story
Infinite on both ends
A mesmerizing sea of murmurs
Whose individuality is ephemeral
And impact everlasting
That which is paradoxical
And utterly flabbergasting

– Akanksha Gupta

In Limbo

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When I was younger
And couldn’t even reach up to that doorless shelf
Where your cruel crafty self hid my jar of mango pickle,
I wished to be just a little bit taller
And a tad more carefree
I didn’t know then
I was unknowingly
Tossing my wishes into the well
Of deliciously ageless irony
For you see,
When I was younger,
I wished to be
Exactly as old as you,
For I felt that you had no homework
And that Papa just read news,
I couldn’t wait to be there too –
Me as old as you and you as old as me;
I couldn’t wait for time to liquefy
And slip past my fingers.
But as years went by, and university called to me
And as the easygoing school syllabus of ten months
Got compressed into tiny nuggets of three
Every time that the exams arrived
I sighed and held my breath
I longed for that liquefied time
To season those nuggets with.
Too late twas when I realised
I wanted to savour those moments,
Hoping that somehow they’d stretch themselves and
Tuck me in, like blankets in my sleep.
But somewhere along the way
Those flimsy blankets too slipped away
And now as I yearn for their warmth,
Every time that I apply for jobs
Or talk to the next gen folk,
The sign of a grown-up life
Flashes much more lucidly before my eyes.
It’s that melee of excitement
With a fear of uncertainty
And an utter dependency on self,
Whence Sophie’s choice and Murphy’s law
Seem to be playing the devil’s advocate,
And me?
I am standing in limbo
Between the devil and the deep blue sea,
Balancing my hopes on a nylon rope;
Those plans of wanting to work hard up the ladder
Seem to be laced with mettle no more
Because the ladder is frail
And its steps paced erratically
Now
Listening to them grown-up problems
Makes me think so differently
For living the erstwhile third person analysis
Is a completely different story

– Akanksha Gupta

The Tissue Chronicles

There is something to be said for the transience of tissues,

From Kleenex to Gossamer;

Of Kleenex

I wish all paper

Could wither away

Like this one;

Burdened with thoughts,

Unburdening another,

And the thoughts going no further.

Of Gossamer

Some times I wonder

The others I wander

About different people

About different places

Knowing, all that there is to glean

Lies in wait in between.

– Akanksha Gupta