Final day of commitment, vacation, roommate: beginning of study in paperback, extra-curricular chapbook, Sam’s life in the Netherlands. A job in the newspaper office, with avocational thoughts to sunder the second hand. Lesson planned to make a fair fight of the portly, thunder-wielding inventor and the lanky, farm-bred president. I have yet to buy milk tonight. Cows wander in the streets of Delhi. They are not hit. Cars are mindful. Over kebabs she turned fish eyes at the thought of burgers in Kolkata, so we took more chicken, rice, and coconut fluff. At a previous dinner, we reduced ourselves to one fundamental difference, spoiling our ability to share silence without plastic smiles.

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Drums of Heaven.

Drums of Heaven.

How could I resist ordering drums of heaven? Final verdict: they were ok. They were also as brightly colored as the ketchup.

Mold creeps along the crown molding of my kitchen every few days. I’ve tried to drown it in vinegar, but it keeps coming back. I wonder it could be a symbol for something? Perhaps I can ask Shalu ma’am, whose eyes open wide when I play around with palmistry. Whose name is “like a stone’s throw.” Could consult the epics, even, or ask my parents, who are fond of crown moldings in the mission-style. Something about stains in my mind, or the uselessness of half-hearted efforts. Apparently the barber didn’t even out the lower edge of my hairline. I will return with a smile anyways. He always comes to shake my hand, unless his is covered in shaving soap. Wouldn’t call him Buck Mulligan though – not quite articulate. I am reading a series of letters addressed to the failed poems of a poet. One about acronyms caught my attention. Reference to another work I’m reading.

Everyone has a mouth, often rose-colored. The edge between lip and chin, or between lip and strip of skin between nose and mouth, is often hard to discern when looked at too closely. More difficult after a close shave. Today my mouth was difficult to trace. Chapfallen in the mirror, with a little blotchiness due to a boar’s hair brush. Feels good with chin up to a cool breeze. Where I once stepped in mud, today I kicked through a mound of dirt as a concrete truck bellowed at rickshaws and “human horses.” The Ph.D. candidate sleeping on my floor these past nights labeled them that way. Our third at coffee twanged her eyes, and I am fairly sure recalled her aversion to riding to the market to the sight of a man at the pedals. Learned about the Punjabi version of ohm with a blue hankie on my head, after a jaunt through the bazaar. An orange turban, foot-long beard, wiry broom on the lap. Gentle admonishment for pointing our feet at his guru. Another in jeans.

On the table swam a plate of stranded rice. After school I walked the fringe between split-level shops and metro wall, then sat on a red-seat stool. Lovely Fast Food Joint. He said the Chinese here still tastes Indian. Conversed about “there is more to life than money” while waiting for drums of heaven. When evening approached, and I mulled over a story about a boy with three pennies, we caught eyes and convinced each other we didn’t. Tramped back along shining asphalt to a group of French tourists. In my mind, “dull clothes for a funeral.” Felt fabric with a sawdust cross pressed in the middle. Iron nails railed in. Eternal return to the plastic bucket with a rag full of rainwater, noting down the resemblance of the marble floor to Dalmatian hides. Only warm after noon.

Milk in mind. Glanced at the gloss of green marble on the staircase, and hushed the claps of my sandals for the sake of my landlord’s daughter, Arya. A tree had fallen just where my barber’s mirror hung, so metro workers held up traffic with the glints of their axes. Hung up to dry on the electric lines. Quick work. Damp wood. The doorman smiles under a moustache: remembers me: still a foreigner. Mustard seeds, eggs, and mango juice. Only soymilk tonight, which irritates the gums. No change. Behind the counter a wall of shampoo, condoms, and liquid deodorant. I stepped in mud on the way back, thought of an Irishman wading in seashells, minding the crunch. Apologized to a few editors today, for the waste of time of the apology itself. In typewriter font, the punching drone warding off stray dogs, a pack of raving teens, the squatting man in blue at the roadside, washing his hands with a water bottle. Rice tomorrow morning in lieu of cereal or eggs – just like the Indian-schoolteacher-supermoms at 4am.

Midnight trek: aglow in whitish pants, with damp wind brushing away desire to sleep.

the second of, “and six after”

I am in the process of painting thumbnails, and was handed an opportunity by a woman named Vandana. She wore green sequins. To seek her out in a four-story building, H-shaped, was the test I had to take. I remember a credit reel of a man chasing his own shadow to a psychologist’s office. Remember at the birthday of a 3-year-old, a child half the age swiped some frosting to his face, and again a second time, all before candles. His head had been shaven, and we thought about it. In the taxi on the way home I pressed my eyes in the pocket of my elbow and wondered at my inability to say no. A group of three at the metro platform ignored anonymous calls. The same, now tired, witness small wheels tear rifts in a submerged alleyway.

Today, on my way to a residential colony, the wine reappears.

In the spirit of Basho, or Kinch, maybe. . .

An unexpected wind causes me to take a step into cold shallows today and for six after. To wade with eyes downcast, an observation of the ripples and reflections at the motion of my ankles. I push fingers into my hair, and think of a morning’s bucket and pitcher shower. Rub my eyes, and see spots appear on the terrace, hear the aluminum pings of monsoon on the roof. Last night I thought over the use of hiring a driver to and from Balvantray. I remember the thought occurred, that if I can wash my own dishes I can stand on the mud-curb under the metro line for fifteen minutes at a time. I recall the summer of hour-long mornings, hands in the air, embracing the view of Sheridan Road. Today a traffic sign: STOP Raping. Our eyes sought skepticism in each other’s glance. One May night on the lakeshore I tested my ability to walk a straight line while staring ninety degrees to the left. Black waves still sound. It is now dark. Tomorrow we will eat cake, and emulate the three bachelors who work at an infant toy store in South Delhi. Before that time I will attempt to teach Honest Abe to Indian children.

Painted Today

Painted Today

Riding in enough autos inspired me to paint one, and living in India for a month and a half encouraged me to try it without a reference picture!