The rock concert

When ‘Kratos,’ the rock

band announced their

first-ever live performance,

the metalheads were

excited, they thronged

the venue with their

‘Cannibal Corpse’ T-shirts

and jeans, having smoked

good weed from the peddler

outside. They lifted

their arms and did

the sign of the horns and

screamed in unison as the

the band came on stage, the 

promotion that led to the

event made them all

believe that the group was

a solid, blackened

death-metal outfit

who would ‘soothe their

spirits’ with burning riffs

and blasphemous growls

or pig squeals. After all

wasn’t Kratos the hardened,

‘God of war’ from the

video games who slew a

a hundred demons and

battled Zeus himself?

The tension was palpable

as the bearded, tattooed,

four-man crew played

the first riff that sounded

a little too melodic and

then launched into a

‘Van Morrison’ song drawing

cries of anguish and boos

from the crowd.

“This is bullshit!” screamed

a metal elitist, before

another said, “Bugger,

I was expecting something

hard, not this sixties,

hippie bullshit! I think

they’ll cover Lady Gaga

next!” With a lopsided,

sceptical grin.

The crowd then

started demanding

their money back,

but that didn’t stop the

band from jamming out

And it stoned me, and

a phoney with black

nail polish and a ponytail

from enjoying every

minute of the song.

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On rainy days and contemplation

I walk on a cobblestone path in the rain, passing construction sites and industrial areas in the grey twilight of the evening. I skirt a puddle or two, but I’m not trying to escape the rain. It’s the only thing I’ve ever known. The sky darkens with each step I take, and an ambulance sings in the distance. The street-lamps barely light the road, and frogs croak in the slushy gutter. The shops close, and the owners get on their mopeds to rush home before the downpour. People run indoors as soon as they hear the thunder.

I walk onto a football field, and the petrichor emanating from the grass intoxicates me. I look up and see the crescent moon indifferently looking down on us. I wish I possessed his insouciance. Life without paroxysms of angst and debilitating paranoia, coupled with an stony heart might be the only answer to every dilemma. I’m distressed and lost in thought, but my depression isn’t circumstantial. It’s a resignation that comes with seeing and knowing too much. Solomon’s tome makes more sense than it ever did now. After all, isn’t everything a whistle in the wind? One can’t be ebullient all summer long; playful whenever Spring’s crescendo reaches its fever pitch; or find the euphonious voice of the creek during Autumn each time they yearn for it.

A fierce wind sweeps away plastic bags, and they swirl around me like fireflies in a jar. The rain descends more rapidly like arrows from slits during a Medieval battle. I look down at the wet grass, and some impulse makes me kneel. If a Romantic captured the moment, he’d say, “He knelt in the rain and prayed until the heavens parted and the songbirds of dawn lilted,” but that’s far from the truth and asinine. Quixotism in this age is perilous. The rain stings my eyes, and I start shivering because of the cold. If a photographer captured this moment and then made it a greyscale image and posted it on Instagram, they’ll say, “Beautiful. It embodies clutching onto hope despite trials,” but I ask them what hope is. It certainly isn’t something quantifiable. It’s an abstraction like purpose.

Philosophers have wrestled with the fabric of existence since the beginning of time; trying hard to tear it or let it envelop them. But what if there’s no web of life? What if there’s only silence that we foolishly interpret as music or noise? The women I’ve known have drifted away from me. The faith I once grasped now seems incomprehensible. The goals I set for myself drowned like fishing boats during a storm. The love that held me doesn’t empower me anymore. There’s only rain. Ashen water from the heavens soaking my shirt, my skin and my hair.

I rise and look at the fence that circumscribes the field. It’s broken in places and has no luster. There’s something real about the rain pelting it. I could go off on a tangent and talk about how it symbolises misery constantly bombarding stale existence, and ruining it more, but I’ll refrain. I walk to the fence and run my fingers across it; feeling the wet wood. I then pause and hold it for a few minutes while I mutter something. If a passerby saw me now, he’d think that I’m an angry man blowing off steam, but that isn’t true. I’m beyond anger today. There was a time when I raged at the world, but fury becomes disappointment which is eventually consumed by the black waters of apathy.

I walk back home, guided by impulse more than reason. My eyes stare at nothing and everything. I see everyone and no one. I pass a neon billboard announcing the name of some new expensive bar in the city. Locomotives flit about like mosquitoes, and their glaring headlights coupled with the smog make me want to lie down on the sidewalk and dematerialise. I would if I could because non-existence is preferable to the potpourri of sorrow life brings. I’d rather be one with the air or the water. I’d rather be inanimate and insentient like a cupboard or a painting than feel, perceive and experience because feelings mislead you; perception often fails miserably, and experience only scalds the heart.

I see my apartment complex and enter. The lights from the other apartments add a surreal touch to my stroll. There’s something about them that makes me nostalgic. They are like little stars on earth; glowing with melancholia. I approach my flat and stand in front of the door, lost in contemplation.

Reason and paranoia

The environment is critical,
so be attentive,
it sets the tone for the
story to come.
A hazy room with a
greenish light,
convex and concave walls,
threadbare carpets
and a dirty couch.
The doctor sits on a
steel chair, says:
“But nothing is unique!
Everything borrows from
something else!”
The patient on the couch,
perturbed and slightly
discombobulated:
“My themes are unique!
Damn it! Time travel,
unrequited love, death,
lust. They are mine!”
The doctor, amused
with a lopsided grin:
“These themes have
been explored in detail
before. Trust me; no
one plagiarises your work.
Every artist is a
thief in some sense!
It’s all about
creating a world where
you explore
the same motifs
in unique ways.”
The patient, now
enraged:
“Go to hell! I hope
karma gets you! You
are a thief yourself!
Everyone steals from me!
Sometimes they steal words!”
The doctor, now a little
concerned:
“Words? You mean
invented ones?”
The patient, vexed:
“No big ones.
I write that I’m cognisant
of being called paranoid
because I’m a trainspotter,
and they write that they are
cognisant of the trials
of dealing with someone
with OCD. Don’t you
see the connection! The
parallels! They are bloody
word burglars!”
The doctor, jotting down
his diagnosis:
“No one is a ‘word burglar.’
I’m sorry, but you are
unnecessarily worried
and projecting your
insecurities on people.”
The room grows red,
a pulsating, ear-splitting
screech echoes,
the doctor becomes bones,
the patient stands up,
a monstrosity
swallowing up the doctors
entrails. “Word burglar!”
He screams, between
mastication and grunting,
“That’s my term! I coined that!
How dare you use that!”

Starry-eyed Lothario

A smoky room with blue lighting,

a brunette with bobbed hair

and a sleeve tattoo

singing in contralto,

a drummer with a light touch

tapping the hi-hat and snare,

Led Zeppelin posters and flaming

martinis like cocktails from hell,

the saxophonist takes over and

lets the jazz slowly envelop the

bar like the mist covering pines –

waves and waves of the

Paul Desmondesque alto

silhouetting the patrons against

a mellow mauve background

of dotted minims and crochets,

an odd time signature like

snippets of sweet conversation

gambolling from table to table,

I see her sitting alone,

smoking a slender cigarette,

side swept strawberry blonde hair,

hazel eyes which drowned

a hundred moons,

a faint smile betraying both

the mischievousness and benevolence

of a vixen,

rosy lips with a hint of wistfulness,

and a thousand scenarios flit about

in my mind like cards spinning on

a desk before being

sucked into a vortex,

each one jostles for attention,

holds up a sign, saying, “Pick me!”

And I wonder if I must choose the

enigmatic prophet in the wild,

speaking words of wisdom and caution

and soothing the damsel in distress,

or if I must pick the musician

replete with confidence and

burning his riffs

in the hearts of his audience

until the femme fatale

eyes him with a lopsided grin,

or if I should choose the poet

talking about the living greats:

Seshadri with his lyrical prose

about living in a trawler and braving

the storms, Smith with her Bowie

obsession, Olds with her raw,

uncompromising take on the taboo.

I look at her and reckon she’s

the quintessential Lorelei

with her piercing melody

that will make this boatman crash

against the rocks,

but don’t nights of passion

demand the blood

of the poète maudit?

I hear the sound of soft rain

in the distance and picture

ringlets of water around

the cobblestones and droplets

dropping down windows,

I imagine a city of lights

with its neon and Eeyorish charm,

stars set in concrete crying out

to their distant brethren in galaxies

far way for freedom,

scintillating little masterpieces

trapped in brick, beseeching

their elders for liberty so they

too can dance to the rhythm of

the heavens.

All this infuses me with

romanticism and not knowing

if I’m playing a role or being

myself, I walk up to her.

Superheroes

Every movie these days
is a superhero film and
I’m so tired of it all.
Spiderman, Mothman,
Slothman, Karaokeman,
the Red Crusader and
Kung Fu Chong of the
Seventh Ancient Temple
who battles the ataviks
in the Godzillaverse which
Disney wants to merge
with the Marvel Cinematic
Universe. Every TV Show
these days has some
lunatic flying around
like a dingbat, lifting
locomotives and fighting
off the alien race of
Xara, who happen to
have a telekinetic,
collective consciousness.
Men dressed up like bats
prowling around clandestinely
and talking in gruff
undertones about a city
lost to depravity and
in the seventh stage
of Tophet,
women wearing steel
carrying nooses and glowing
daggers and speaking in
weird accents,
sex scenes filmed while
two cape-wearing madcaps
are suspended by ropes
and computer graphics
making the said heroes
shoot laser beams
or freeze rays from their
eyes and mouth.
Such inanity! Utter
insanity! When will it end?
Movies set in the same
universe as some obscure
animated show, and video
games expanding on those
said multiverses where
a character dies, but
lives in a parallel reality
where time flows backwards
or sideways (I’m pretty sure
they’ve come up with that!)
Barbarians with dragons
fighting King Kong until
some mechanical dinosaur
intervenes. Please give me a
psychological portrait
like Persona by Bergman or
a burlesque of an epic poem
like O Brother, where art thou?
And keep the circus with
its psychopathic clowns,
murderous mimes, flying
monkeys and gallant,
caped crusaders on donkeys!

Eventide

As I lie dying on this brownish moor,
the auburn twilight caressing my ragged contours,
my mind’s eye glances at epoch after epoch,
the shades of the forgotten past now lucid again
beckoning me with penetrating nostalgia’s allure,
taking me through heart-wrenching, painful tours
along the cul-de-sacs of this story’s epic
through the valleys shrouded by misty morning rain.

I remember mother who consoled me,
I remember father and the peace we made,
I remember when I knelt and prayed,
an earnest petition and sincere plea
for mercy for our broken family.

But can I complain?
Can I say my piece
in indignation, or even lament?
Because if I saw through the pain,
past the thorny weeds of caprice,
I’ll find an increase
of drizzles of grace, and compassion’s scent
flavouring each era with a roseate tint
like the eventide now kissing each dying breath,
easing the trepidation as I speak to death
in this final hour, this closing sprint,
so, I’ll stop looking at what came before
as I lie dying on this brownish moor.

The old places

Don’t haunt those old places
with brown lawns polluted with
withered asters, and an old
lodging with smashed skylight,
mangled letterbox, crooked
windowsill and cracked gable,
you’ll find nothing though you
wade through the ashes and
the dust while an unnatural,
yellow twilight looks down
on it all.

Though those old places
reach with blood-red tentacles,
and try to yank you back,
swim swiftly,
against the undertow
if need be and crash into
the surface and let the
roseate light bathe you
with the glow of vindication.

But know this,
ultimately, it isn’t about
somewhere behind or
some point yonder, it’s
here that clasps eternity’s
arm, despite the debris,
the funeral processions
or a longing for quietude.

The fatalist

You hear the crickets chirping in the downcast moor, 

a rusty track with chipped off edges weaves its way 

through arid land without enigma or allure, 

the meek shan’t pray, or pain and sickness go away 

but still, you stay, beneath the darkening pale grey 

because ‘dishonourable fate’ won’t let you stray 

from this sordid path, he’s put you on, 

there is no blue star to wish upon 

and the aurora is as sickly as the twilight 

with gaudy, pinkish splotches masking the dim daylight. 

“Oh, brother, where art thou?” you’d have once cried aloud 

but now you wear a patchy, threadbare, muddy shroud 

and stare with bloodshot eyes as dry as hardened bread, 

you maintain that you’ve spoken what needs to be said 

and state with an unspeaking tongue, I never roll the dice 

it’s kismet, and he determines what it will show 

so, by and by, it’s pointless hoping for vivacious spring 

or euphonic sweet thrush or churchbell’s booming ring 

because there’s only wintry landscape and cascading snow 

and corpses, gutters, ditches, plague, disease and mice. 

A little about me

My real name isn’t Vishal Dominic. It’s a pseudonym I use. I’ve had an on-again, off-again relationship with blogging for almost ten years. When I first started blogging, I had never written a poem in my life, and so, my poetry lacked structure and darted all over the place. It was obscure and dealt with quasi-spiritual and pop-philosophical themes! I found the blogosphere to be a nicer place then, but looking back, I think it was my naïveté. I expected little and was surprised at how much I got, which included your then ‘Freshly Pressed’ award, thousands of followers, and myriad comments from people all over the globe.

But, honestly, I was never comfortable with writing. I still share a love-hate relationship with it. Back then, I was young and had dreams of becoming a published writer and yada yada. But all I’ve managed is one published poem in a minor magazine in New York, which you’ll find if you knew my real name! Today, I’m still young (in my early thirties) and look at writing as a kind of hobby. It’s an outlet when ennui consumes, or depression sinks its claws into my poor throbbing heart! It’s something I do because I need to. I don’t expect blogging to be remunerative, and honestly, I don’t even expect it to be fulfilling. There isn’t any catharsis in drawing from painful experience and bleeding on a page. Neither is there joy in weaving threads of thought into a fictional whole. As I said, it’s something I do.

I read a lot of books. It keeps me going much more than writing does. I happen to have elitist tastes and usually read poetry books and novels published by the big five publishing houses! Hey, you can call me a faux-intellectual if you want to! I don’t mind. My influences are wide-ranging, from Philip Levine to Thomas Hardy to Sharon Olds. My friends tell me that I must read more Indian authors and ground my writing in Indian culture, and though I agree with them, I find it hard to do so. The problem is that I feel alienated from my culture and dissociated from this thing we call an identity. I come from a Christian background, although my father is a Hindu, and I don’t find people sharing my eclectic taste in music, my food habits, my cultural background or my love for literature in this lonely city I live in with its capricious climate! Either that or I’ve met the wrong people! Or I’m a moody prick, and nobody wants to associate with me! I always find this invisible barrier (as cliched as that might sound) between me and ‘friends.’ Either they’re too liberal while paradoxically holding to dogmas, or they’re fascist, or they have different interests.

Having said all this, I do read some Indian writers. I’ve read Jeet Thayil’s drug-fuelled odes to Bombay. I’ve read some non-residential Indian poets like Vijay Seshadri and Bhanu Kapil. So yeah, I guess I am trying to find some identity through art and expression. I enjoy philosophy, too, although there are times when I find its abstractions getting to me. The philosophers I understand the most are Kierkegaard and Pascal. Strangely, I also get the nihilistic ones like Ligotti. I’m not particularly eager to talk about what my philosophical stance is anymore, and though I have religious opinions and my works explore religious themes sometimes, I’ve decided to keep this blog secular.

I often flirt with ideas, and that probably makes me a great hypocrite. I don’t take those ideas to heart, but you might find me expounding an abstraction without really believing in it. I guess that makes me a liar. But isn’t all fiction falsehood trying to convey experience? I dislike haters, paranoid mad people who target you for no reason whatsoever, and ramblers who rant with a vengeance. That sort of thing triggers me and makes me one of the people mentioned above. I love blogs that don’t spew retributive fury and instead explore the human condition using whatever lens the writer sees fit (satire, comedy, lyricism, evocative writing, etc.)

I’ve had my share of negative experiences on this platform over the years, including people posting nasty comments on my blogs, commenting about me on other blogs, threatening me, and stalking me. I have often resorted to hate and anger in retaliation. But I don’t intend to do so anymore. If anyone happens to know who I am and has been offended by what I’ve once said, I sincerely apologise. Let bygones be bygones. Writing shouldn’t be an obsession and definitely shouldn’t be about feuds.

All said and done; I’m not a perfect person. I’ve made my mistakes, and I chose to forgive the people who’ve hurt me and only want the forgiveness of the ones I’ve offended. There is so much more to life than grudges, and the path to inner opulence or at least a little happiness is forgiveness, love and leaving the past behind. This I’ve learnt after years of soul-searching.

But don’t get me wrong, I’m no inspirational poet or prophet of wellbeing. My writing often deals with sorrow, self-pity, regret, innate depravity and doesn’t always end on a psalmist’s note of triumph. I have my struggles with depression and physical ailments, and so I can’t project a veneer of bliss. I’ll leave that to the people on Facebook with their picture-perfect lounge bar shots with flaming martinis in hand! All said and done, writing is a dirty business, especially if you want to convey experience without sugar-coating it, and I hope I succeed at it.

As darkness consumes me

If you were an alley cat in Bangalore looking for scraps to eat and oblivious to the indifference of the city (in a metaphysical sense), then you’re blessed. You’re an animal who lives entirely in the temporal realm without perspicacity, and once you die, you pass into limbo. But suppose you’re a person – overcome by lassitude – unable to find his place in this city of dim street lamps and the stench of masala-ridden food, you’ll notice that the city becomes a symbol of unattainability.

You await an auspicious day when the inhabitants, the stalls, and the shops all beckon you with angelic grandeur, urging you to sit at the table of the great feast where whisky flows freely, and men in livery bring you speciality foods ranging from biryani to crispy dosas to akki rotis. But as the days pass, people grow less friendly. Cupidity taints everything. The poor in the slums are brash and reckless because they detest the man in the Benz who passes by on the street. The rich men on their sports bikes love it when a gorgeous girl in a tank top looks at them but detest the children from the slum, pointing at them.

And here you are, trying to bring the city to your level. Sure, the city will eventually fall, and you will die, but why not picture it for a second as a New Jerusalem: A city of fluorescence and jewelled walls. You want to bring it all to your frugal reasoning and triumph over it and rule it. You don’t realise that doing that has deleterious effects and will toss you in such spiritual penury and madness that the cupboard in your room will start looking like a menacing gargoyle.

This is indubitably your fatal flaw, my friend, and mine too. My Achilles heel is to bring everything down to my level of understanding and then try to possess it. I have tried fitting Bangalore, my mother, my exes, my surroundings, friends, and my father into a paradigm. When I was younger and lived in a fairyland with its magical forests and sparkling stardust, I expected people to accept me no matter what. Now that that utopia has become an arid place with brown, withered weeds and gore and ice, I place everybody in that place and can’t see them as anything but distortions in my ruined world. If they don’t adhere to the greasy surfaces I’ve created, I blame them. I say, “You do not see things from my vantage point. You don’t understand,” but I don’t let them go because some impulse to control them or prove that I’m right remains in me.

I’m the resigned fatalist – broken and despicable – raging at the world and its inhabitants for not getting me. But I can’t change. When every dream blackens, and all hope vanishes; when madness culls your spirit, and there is no transfiguration possible; when you’re chained forever in the dungeons of gloom and all ambition – innocent or perfidious – dies; when even nature fails to invigorate, and you’re melting inside while everything around you is burning, no metamorphoses can happen.

I’m a rancourous man whose investments in life and change didn’t prove remunerative. I’m stone, and Bangalore, the heavens and the earth all look at me with Medusa’s gaze. So, I’m inert, and though I howl, nobody hears me. The darkness stifles my cry. I’m judgemental, querulous and supercilious, but these qualities are pale reflections of the stony heart within me.

Sometimes, I wish in despair that an eagle would cover me with its wings, or that an ox would fight my battles, or that a lion would chase my enemies away, but I stand on the railway platform at night underneath a pitch-black canopy devoid of cosmic dust and watch as a thuggish locomotive muscles brightly lit carriages with the power of a bodybuilder dragging a skinny man. The machine churns and spits smoke like the Leviathan. And as its headlights light up everything around me, I feel as unobtrusive as a mosquito in the corner of a bedroom. The people in the carriages are going somewhere. They carry their aspirations with them. But I stay as the sparks fly and the conductor shouts, “All aboard!” I look ahead with a thousand-yard stare of a weary soldier as the brute moves away with his luggage, and his howl becomes a whimper, and then a whisper before the darkness engulfs it like the whale swallowing Jonah. I stay in that very place for years and slowly find my skin becoming obsidian. Then my eyes sink back into my skull, and I take the form of a pillar, embellishing the station. This is my legacy – for men to gaze and not even think of Shelley’s ‘Ozymandias.’ For women to stare but not notice because they’re all in a rush to catch the next beast.