The Golden Glass and other poems

The Golden Glass and other poems

The Golden Glass

And now, the last glimmer in the golden glass,
I raise as evening comes, evening after evening.
In euphoric dreams I sit in a three legged chair
Till dawn, or a little before the blue birds start to sing
And silently climb into a silent bed crowned by pillows
meant for couples with still some vigour in their arms
hips and legs;

But i am alone and feel the stretched bed sheets 
Made plain for a bachelor's                                           
enterprising night across
the stands, vertically at first, and then in horizontal posture.

The old housekeeper balancing her                                           
hunch against the wall
peers through my open door, placing                                             
a heap of visiting cards
along my bedside lamp: ‘She called’                                                      
and ‘She called to inquire
if you are lonesome tonight‘
‘listen crone, listen clearly to me:’                                                        
Take your rent and let me embrace
the dawn’ — ‘The first pink rays have                                                            
arrived on a chariot of clouds — Can’t you see’?

‘Take your rent, double it, if you                                                 
will — let me embrace this first                                                            
ambrosia of deep slumber’.
‘I care not for boys; nor for females                                                     
writhing on your silken coverlets;
This whole matter is sub judice in                                                          
my mind, as yet.

It is perplexing: a directionless                                                                          
dick shielding grapes of wrath or a                                                           
messy pudenda
on these covers with dancing                                                            
peacocks in the rain.

‘Did you know that the great beauty                                                                 
of life; the greatest reassurance                                                                          
of living
is the finality — for all these fragile                                                         
gestures will become a howling void.

So hold my hand you seasoned crone;                                                         
you are near the victory goal.


In the evening I raise my cup
at the crowded street corner                                                                                   
where the muezzin calls and where                                                                   
an associate of the early years                                                                                     
has passed into the longest night; 
he will be disposed of
outside the city’s limits.
And now, I fear to walk that distance. 

For Master Harrow

To be the English way, he travelled 
to  the river Thames  
rolling with buttercups on wide meadows
in May. 
I am told he died at a cocktail 
just yesterday;
It could have been a disobedient liver
or suicide.
It must be true:
he hasn’t returned home
though the house received its finishing
touches some time ago.
I think he choked on circumstance.


Leaving us at right angles 
to the forest,
the sun makes over charge 
to a yellow moon.

Ajmer Sharif

The last moon
the sleeping lake
and with a lingering
climbed another hill.


As we have reached a forest
of mockingbirds, now   
shall we go instead
to a peacock farm
to review the sunset of our lives?

In Lodhi’s Garden

You asked me to consider  
the birds returning 
to their bamboo grove 
at sunset. 
I thought all night   
of taking you home to cover you 
with a thin white sheet 
but for your eyes, 
and ask you to go nowhere  
else alone.

Tree of Life

(In reply to a question, long after it was asked)

I scaled a forest of thought,
And under the dome   
Of a starlit sky, 
Stopped for breath beneath the tree of life,
Atop a snow mountain.
And dwelling over a landscape
Far, far below
Of ribbon-like rivers of silver
Criss-crossing a satin night,
I saw a house I once knew
Aglow with lamps of joy,
Its doors open for me 
Like the open arms of a lover.
To answer your question: Yes, 
I have seen happiness  
In day dreams, from a distance.

Delhi Diary

Does it matter
where I come from 
or where you belong
as we pass along 
from one moment 
to the next?  
Come, be with me 
there are enough  
hands to build 
walls, enough 
hearts intent on arson, 
let us be equals
tonight let us love.

And What Remains

And what remains in the end?
It is the beauty of space __
Freed from strife and sorrow;
From the anguish and bewilderment
Of evolution;
From the veil of miscalculation; 
From the checks and balances
Of judgement and merging 
With the cleansing breeze
Of the limitless desert.
And the soul is filled with understanding;
With the equipoise of silence.

Government House, Kashmir, 1974

When you are ready 
for me
my dear 
I shall be gone.
The first chill 
has come 
to the trees   
and in the 
the dead leaves flow
to the start
of another spring.


Hurrying to the old house at gathering pace 
after a lifetime of working in alien lands, 
I paused at the corner of my street, 
to see if I would be seen. 
There were taller houses now 
with many more windows, 
and a few gnarled peepul trees,
of times gone by 
that somehow, still remained.
My parents had passed away long ago 
handing me a ring of rusted keys; 
also, the half-preserved detritus 
of some old associations.
It was a sunless afternoon at September’s end 
with neither wind nor any breeze,
and as I stood with uncertain step, 
not knowing what I should do next, 
my feet took me to a gate
half open, painted in cheerful colours
and a pretty housewife of the newer kind 
said to me, ‘Go away, Mister old man!
We don’t know who are you. 
Now sqooze me, ok?’
So I gave up on neighbourly love
and turned the key into a dusty hall 
to find the leopard skin still hanging 
on the wall with its frozen eyes 
and muddy head without thought 
or recollection of any kind. 
An old Carrara marble lamp 
held by cherubim which shed no light 
just smiled disbelievingly.
And mother’s wedding photograph 
in brocaded garb stared blankly 
with a jaded Tutankhamen look.
Retracing my steps to sunlight again, I saw 
a stray came up to me, wagging his tail 
and suddenly, I wasn’t alone.
I named him Jackie, my friend in the city 
That had become a stranger to me. 
We walked up and down the street 
Together, many miles over 
the same street, again and again.
 I settled down with my companion 
and the house came alive.
But the season of contentment ended 
with a sharp complaint.
The pretty housewife did not like it at all
that old men and stray dogs 
should lay claim to her street, crowding out
cars and stilettos and pleasing men.
And then the municipality men came
with chains and nets and leather thongs, 
looking for a dangerous, rabid stray.
He called for me and I rushed out, stumbling  
and swaying into the street 
as the van sped away, drowning
my protestations, my commands 
my lost authority, my cry 
that Jackie was my friend in an angry world, 
that everyone deserved a friend.
The street was silent, as the world was 
unconcerned as Icarus fell. 
And I sat on the doorstep of my empty house. 
What would happen to Jackie now? 
What would happen to me next? 

Jamun Tree

From behind the lattice sheltering my wide balustrade,
on a night of darkened monsoon skies, 
I watched a wretched rag picker stealthily 
collect fallen fruit, picking it up quickly 
from underneath the old Jamun tree at my gate.
It could have been a woman, or a man draped loosely
in shapeless sack cloth; twisted and half-gnarled 
like a broken tree or one struck by lightning , or sorrow —  
a rude , rare sight to behold in a city 
of mammon , renowned as the city beautiful.
The committed rag picker separated with dexterity 
the rotten jamuns from the ones just ripening. 
So I descended into the dimly-lit courtyard —
‘Take them all!’ I told the rag picker,
‘From the laden branches and the ground beneath. All.’
And bowing low, trembling, begging for forgiveness 
before my astonished eyes, the rag picker threw aside 
her bag —or was it his? — and fled into the shadows.
And I ran after her with meaningless words — promises, hope —
and an armful of succulent jamun fruit. 
I should really have stopped, for now I was chasing: 
‘Take them all. Suno! Ruko!’ 
She gave me one last terror-tricken look. 

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