How to Paint a Cloud: A Valentine’s Day’s Sonnet

Its harder than it looks; it isn’t just
White on blue. The underpainting lies
Beneath the dark as well as the light.
It really isn’t a matter of just
Slathering on the white. In fact,
By far the harder thing to do
Is coming away from the bright shades
With greys and burnt umbers and you
Must remember that the brush moves
Always from dark to light dark to light.
Love must be a lot like that, you think
Preparing your canvas just right. But really
Love is just one of the tiny, curvy vees
A bird winging itself into sight.


For Chaucer, TSE, and Annanya: An Amaltas Poem

Summer without the heat: just sunshine and glory
Every bunch dripping with molten gold, chandeliers
Lighting a delirious dance in some glad apsara’s story
I’ve read of many Aprils now, cruelest of months
Or sweetest, depending on your poet. My ears
Have become tuned to its many songs, a daily
Epiphany, you might say, when each small, mundane
Thing beckons you to its lay. April is the Amaltas month
Each poem an exploding bloom of the secrets of the day.


Today I went to Kleifarvatn again
I’m not sure what I wanted to see.
The mountains around it bulged with
Strange colours, ochre and rust, bent
As only hardened lava can be. Even
The sandy shore reared away from
The whipped waters, blinding the black
Shores brown. I let the hair blow into my eyes.
“Look”, I said. “How astonishing, the ropey
Ground. How it rippled as it flowed.”
The mists hid almost everything, but I saw
The water’s edge, white-frothed and clear.
“I’m so glad you could see this,” I said to my friend.
“I always bring everyone here.”

Paper Writing – Some Simple Answers

For oft when on my couch I lie, my
Laptop on my extended knee,
Over the screen I often spy, some
Things that it fills my heart to see.
Not a host but enough stalks of
White and gold daffodils; dried
Roses from last spring, yellow
Amidst candles purple and blue.
The paper almost writes itself. This
Mellow afternoon, it’s easy to do.

Paper Writing

The floors are swept, the crystal dusted,
The cushions plumped, the carpet adjusted.
I’ve sorted my drawers, I’ve braided my hair,
Put the dog in the garden and the cat on the chair.
Fresh flowers are in the vases, the books are on the shelf –
Now why hasn’t that paper written itself?!
I’ve procrastinated, discussed it with friends,
Intended to read the articles I need to meet this article’s ends.
I’ve sat in cafes, nursing crises existential,
Cursed my limitations, doubted my potential.
Prayed to gods, demons, a giant and an elf
But that stupid paper still isn’t writing itself!
Am I doing something wrong, I suddenly think
Clutch my heart, feel my stomach sink.
Have I missed something out, forgotten to do
Some critical, important activity or two?
Why do my senses fail, my enthusiasm taper?
What must I do to be done with this paper?!

Plenteous Twenteous

The girls are making us an anniversary dinner. Remember
When we mashed bananas and pears for their
Toothless selves to eat? Fed them from purple
Hippo and green turtle plates with frog-bibs?
The years we careened about the countryside, hectic
And frazzled, impossible commutes, every day
A composition of carefully controlled chaos
Culminating in the culinary calm of dinner. And each
Year, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, siblings-in-law,
Nieces, nephews, parents, friends, and yes, kids, congregating
To eat, laugh, cut cakes, sit around, conferring, debating,
Dinner long past, till everyone left, lingering at the gate
The cars gently departing, leaving the lane to its late-night
State. Remember the Blue Frog – just us, a dinner date?
How many dinners make a score of years, anyway? Some
May say 365 into twenty’s plenty. Me, I smell the cooking, hear
The giggling, wait for you to be done with the gymming, take
Another look at the mehndi picture, and my dear, like
A good appetizer, this is just the beginning.

A Dog’s Life

Dogs can be trained to not beg.
This is what we were told, and it’s
Probably true. Whack’em on the nose
Admonish in stern voice. Let them know
Entreating for food is not a choice. The
Owner’s parent, however, is harder
To train. My dad refused point blank. “Teach
Your dog not to ask”, he said. To be frank,
That was all we got for our pains. Each
Pet knows – as does every grandchild –
Who will be firm and who will be mild. Our
Current dog looks at my mother-in-law
Lifts up her eyes and holds out her paw
Gets pheasant and beef, sometimes chicken
Gives undiluted adoration and a good finger
Lickin’. The cat can’t be bothered to wait:
He sits in her lap and eats from the plate.
Moral of the story, word to the wise
Dogs are parents make the best allies.

On the burning of cathedrals

Grand cathedrals burn down. It is in
The nature of things. Greatness seems
To mark beauty, at the edges, to
Singe. As if destruction sculpted the body of
The old, as if the stealing were in the
Glory of the gold. Palmyra was flattened
They say, even statues brought down
And levelled with the grey of sand. Entire
Cities stand witness to time in their falling.
In the Museo Nacional they found – amid the
200 million treasures lost – a human skull. The
Oldest human, Luzia, like a book recovered from
That blaze of human history, Alexandria,
Survived like a photograph from a vacation album,
Taken, oh, a few years ago – we remember the exact
Year and day – of us, standing, see? right there,
You can see it looming behind the kids, the
Unfallen spire, I can’t believe we’ll never
See it again, such a place! Such is the nature
Of human desire, fueled into passion by
Such a lie. How seductive it is, to see things
Die. To know that the histories of Iraq were
Scattered to bidders in various lands. To feel
The contours of cathedrals that live now, only
In our hands.

“You are the way and the wayfarer”

Stayed in my heart for as long as I
Can remember. The traveler who stumbles
In warning to those behind, and in reproach
Of those gone ahead. “Teach your children well”
They say, or the “silent reproach” of those behind
Might not even survive the thin ice or live to
Tell. You can do “it [your] way”, take
“The road less travelled”, “call it another
Lonely day”, but for the sake
Of the “beauty of the way, and the goodness of
The wayfarers”, I wonder if the thronged
Thoroughfare, with its stumbling stones waiting
To be removed, doesn’t have a strong
Claim on those of us who lay such store by
The words of those who went before.