Poetic Perspectives

How do I not think from my own perspective? Do I impose my perspective on another perspective, inaccessible to me, when I attempt to change my perspective? What effects does this imposition have? On the imposed, on you, on me? Am I scared? Maybe.

The following poems are very different from what I usually write. They feel more like thoughts to me. Distinct from the usual heart pouring emotions, thoughts are hardly ever absolute. Thus, these poems posed more questions to me than they allowed me to answer anything with certainty. I have tried to change perspectives towards what is usually considered inanimate, non-biological: the poem itself, a statue, and time. In ‘what the eyes in the mirror know’, I imagined a pair of eyes seeing things only as they are, purely as phenomenons, innocent of connotations. What must it be like to understand the essence of an object, a person or anything else? How do we perceive time differently when we sit by the candle light? What if words rebel in our heads to be not what they are supposed to be? If this inaccessible perspective is the one actually needed to do an encounter justice? We continue to try…

Imperfection

The poem was stuck at a dead end
Words came, fought themselves, then left
The poem was desperate and screamed
but it was of sound bereft;
Like an unborn baby struggling to breathe
first breaths.

The agency so stunned it.
Words came crumbled and trembling
scared to grow into sentences
to become a whole, wholesome unity
of productive sense
Verse, rhyme, metre for meaning
Clear, healthy, dense

But the poem still scattered
like pimples on a youth’s face-
Still fell apart
Like failure.
Like hearts.
Like apple crumble.
Like lies.
Like entire cities.
Like humanity.
Like theory.
Like you.

Then the words loosely swinging
on a string so thin, so fine
came to touch your mind
and the poem ran free
You smiled to see
that by chance you came to be.

What the eyes in the mirror know

The eyes in the mirror
watched a hand
draw incoherent lines:
A shape called human
with all its distorted confines

The eyes in the mirror
were untouchably far.
They do not see
but still they knew,

they knew of flesh and skin,
of human insecurities
of breast, stomach, limbs
that did not have a choice
as neither body nor background
had a voice.

They knew
before teachers showed
an animated video
describing phenomenology-
Phen-o-men-ology
(as if the video cared)

They knew
when a stone turned out to be a butterfly
as if the lifeless can be alive
if you choose a set of different eyes

They knew
that the tree you sat beneath
radiated the warmth of your ancestors’ hands
combining the essence of the three of you,
constantly negotiating conceptions
of what is real enough to be not only perceived
but the conceiver of perceptions.

An assembled mess,
woman, man, tree
are but things
assigned to be.
and be as seen.

Ganesh in a glass cabinet

Ganesh knows our story.
Witnesses, willingly or not,
the fights
at the breakfast table
Sees us rushing about,
listens to us sitting alone
with a cup of coffee
drowning in doubt.
He watches my grandma
day in and day out
with her big glasses
watching NDTV
wondering what life
has come to be
within these diaspora walls
Culture lost
No one calls for a puja
Ganesh Chaturthi passes by
like any day
No one stops to think or pray
Ganesh watches our Christmas
and never complains.
He doesn’t get candles and songs
Ganesh stays quiet.

Ganesh knows our story
but I don’t know his
I am sorry
we are treating you like this
The pain of ignorance
I hope you can forgive
that I can only learn
but hardly understand
what you mean,
how you mean to exist
among deities petrified
Teach me please
Are you tied
to a life you did not want?
Elephant head,
caught in a vitreous West,
can we talk?
can we start anew?
Beyond the glass
my reflections are listening
next to you.

Time

When the seconds strike your back
softly, watching muscles move
and the minutes are rain on your face
on the porch of a hot night
ticking to the song she sang
to make hours feel lighter
when you fall asleep.

The days tend to beat-
catching high notes
then dropping the bass
themselves intoxicated,
against running weeks,
and months holding memory
molding it in slow motion
sometimes a clay figure
resembles god.

But oh, the years-
the years are old
coming and going,
wisdom by convention,
years are yours to keep,
to ripen in a hopeless night
are the scenes before you realise,
years are but
seconds in disguise.

*

Words: Sonja Shah
Edits: Sanjana Takru
Illustration: Debasmita Das

For a lack of better ways to describe complex identities, Sonja is a queer poet and activist. They like to read all kinds of books, write little rhymes, pretend to be a singer-songwriter, and switch every now and then between fun and melancholic. They currently live in London and before that lived in Germany and India, where their parents are from.

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