Friday, November 23, 2007

ghazal -- winning & losing (work in progress)


How can I   keep track any more   of winning & losing?
when the ocean's lacking a shore   where's winning & losing?

I will scrawl   a placard imploring   people to tell me
how to love   the knack I abhor   of winning & losing?

I've prepared   a sack where I store   the things I believe in
but I fear   your tack may have torn   my winning & losing

I will pile   a stack to the sky   of praise & lamenting
just to glimpse your back   can unmoor   my winning & losing

is the world   a tenebrous tapestry   that enchants us?
it unfurls   the decorative lore   of winning & losing

as we tour   the sandy mirage   we're fancifully dreaming
it keeps conjuring   castles' allure   through winning & losing

every child's astute   in the game's   primordial grammar
the prime minister   like the whore   speaks winning & losing

babes are schooled in how to behave   at Maya's lyceum
toddlers learn to march   in the corps of winning & losing

every drum   will tell you a tale   of beatings & thrashings
where's the flute   not apt to out-pour   its winning & losing?

every cloud   if peaceful today   is weeping tomorrow
every tree   has sap at its core   of winning & losing


every morn   the market's a'buzz with heartbreak & commerce
every evening   packs in yet more   the winning & losing

every form   contains the directions   for its undoing
in a hidden strand   where they store our winning & losing

gentle rose! when dreaming of springtime   had you forgotten
jealous autumn   factors in thorns of winning & losing?

in the thorn   the rose shows her pique   belovèds are lethal
on this nipple   breasts have been torn   for winning & losing

if it's true   love's spring is a gift   please lavish your theory
in the lying practice of war   who's winning or losing?

you'll allow   love's premised on giving?   grant me an answer
what's a quest worth arguing for?   mere winning & losing?

huw suspicious!   poets obliquely claim   they're creative
not so slyly   tapping the store   of winning & losing

what sustains   the penchant to prate about   one's uniqueness?
tap one vein   we splat the same gore   of winning & losing

every song drives some nuanced angle   on her dark beauty
she's got droves of facets & more   for winning & losing

playful breeze!   how far can you reach?   deliver my missive
soon we'll each   get back to the chore   of winning & losing


I went out   to purchase this cloth of silk   she was absent
I'm returning   back from her store   both winning & losing

by her lake   she traffics in trinkets   fine & exotic
you can buy the wrap   not the core of winning & losing

lambent lips though sporting a smile   dark is her iris
polite pupils blandly ignore   the winning & losing

kindly lips! your smile invites   but dark is the darshan
beauty's petals practice the lure   of winning & losing

while the lips speak peace   there's a war   the eyes are engaged in
lips & eyes disarm me!   I'm poor   I'm winning & losing

the abstemious tutor their senses   studying your ocean
nescient wastrels   bask on a shore   of winning & losing

when the poets   heeded their ears   absorbing the birdcry
her lamenting   tacitly tore up   winning & losing

both the koel & bulbul express   antiquity's flavor
both the date & tamarind store   sweet winnings & losings

settling back in India   after traversing China
where's the point one's travelling for?   more winning & losing?

the moon-slender sweetheart afar   you might send an apple
by what train's click-clack could she core   your winning & losing?


one could tip one's cap at the door   with courtly decorum
while the window wafts in the score   of winning & losing

when the brawn of gold-mining spans the mountain of winter
vernal caravans   smelt the ore of winning & losing

while returning home from the war   Odysseus tarried
ten long years   he swam for a shore past winning & losing

callow souls contend for a goal-post   ritually touted
some who've roamed a lakh & a crore   still winning & losing

one need not redact all the lore   antiquity witnessed
for the realm of fact   has what core   save winning & losing?

artful friends   enacted your glorious tale   I smiled
as my tears reflected   I swore   nor winning nor losing

when the light's refracted   from glare flow multiple colors
bright artistes   exactly adore   the winning & losing

does the pool look placid?   decor is   green & deceptive
hidden mud   amassing the spores of   winning & losing

should you drop the map in the drawer   resigning to slumber
could the mirror nap?   might it snore through winning & losing?

where the palms all clap   reconnoiter textures of clamor
prithee mind the gap!   to explore what's winning & losing


to dissolve the packet   just pour its contents in water
instant coffee's packed at the store   of winning & losing

do the tennis rackets confirm   philosophy's quandary?
lend the ball a whack!   it conforms   by winning or losing

there's a cup of chai that I favor   when in Baroda
fresh with adarak   deft the pour   no winning no losing

in Beijing   it's pu'er we drink   a costlier custom
eighty years it's aged   for the noir of winning & losing

with the train on track   comfy sleepers drowsed through their dreaming
junctions back-on-back   made me sore   with winning & losing!

there was not one window nor door intact   in the building
every portal cracked   in a war of winning & losing

when the mouse of theory squeaked "I'm   the king of the forest!"
all its sentence lacked   was the roar   of winning & losing

the initial scene lends the story   sharp definition
by the final act   every moron's winning or losing

in the marketplace of existence   freedom's enshrouded
while each price-tag tattles   "we're born for winning or losing"

"you could add more nettles!" quipped Milarepa   serenely
he'd in end   subtracted a storm   of winning & losing


should we try to placate the ghoul   who mortaly plagues us?
could one scratch its back   and ignore   the winning & losing?

love's verandah might not look hard   when first you apprise it
one soft wall   could easily floor   your winnings & losings

late in life   I'm practicing raag   distilling its potion
till I drown   in alap & jor   my winnings & losings

from the hotel's balcony   honking cars proclaim   "India!
has she drawn you back?   come adore   her winnings & losings"

all are born stark naked   attire's our cultural wrapping
with the tie & jacket   we wore our winnings & losings

you but glimpsed the dream of her blush   anon you departed?
parting's thorn   awakens the sore   of winning & losing

the Tibetan beauty   desires to practice her English!
virtual addresses   consort with winning & losing

in the dark   the minaret's call   awakens Baroda
in a trice   bird-clamour's imploring   winning & losing

you're intoning kharaj   the bass note pitched at the bottom
like a stealth attack   in a war of winning & losing

every string we strum   frames a sentence we am receiving
long confinement   thwacks at the chord   of winning & losing


every line I cast   seeks a fish   from aqueous darkness
this lagoon   in fact   is a door   of winning & losing!

does each verse I croon   limn my dreaming of the belovèd
lost in slumber's rapture   untorn by winning & losing?

every horn that honks in the city   blares an agenda
every wing that flaps by the shore   is winning & losing

every word we're floating in silence   whispers our longing
every leaf that crackles   reports our winning & losing

every sound from creature or object   renders a message
every teacup harbors a storm   of winning & losing

every jot philosophers pen   is probing for treasure
aren't miner's mad   for the ore of winning & losing?

every whiff of bread   draws a map   describing our hunger
every pinch of chat   charts a score   of winning & losing

every course   refits a design   perforce we discover
every horse   was saddled before   the winning & losing

in the hearse   is cradled the man   born crying tomorrow
in the playpen   waddles his form   of winning & losing

down the street   there lumbers a bullock   nibbling at grasses
in the lake   there settles a corpse   still winning & losing


lost in dusk   I puff my cheroot   whose ash falls haphazard
deep in earth   there wriggles the worm   of winning & losing

in the skillet   sizzles a meal   the hungry require
in the bucket   echoes the norm   of winning & losing

in the circus of the surreal   the barker extolls you
though the mirror badly distorts   the winning & losing

in this sojourn   fictional stops   assemble & vanish
there's no train nor track!   still a horn sounds winning & losing

for the healing herb   you (in time's nick) toted the mountain!
love reveals such capable charm   in winning & losing

fruits be drowned in you!   does your peal of laughter restore them?
can the ocean's   cackling   shore up   winning & losing?

when we've lost our way   will your feet remember our forehead?
from my solo shack   hear the choir of winning & losing

it appeared so gentle!   a hobby   blithe & amusing
then the poem   hacked through the door of winning & losing!

the distinctions jurists insist on   love must relinquish
richly journey back   to be poor in winnings & losings

in your name they're lost   your nazaar they find as their winning
kindly wait a sec!   I'm a'blur with winnings & losings


every morn   we're turning a page   that opens a window
every night   we're back at the door   of winning & losing

having fetched an instrument   why not linger & play it
like a serious hack?   we adores such winnings & losings

don't be silent!   we must hear everything from the beginning
won't love woo one back   with its lore of winnings & losings?

it may take a week   just to read   the name on the wrapping!
did your genius   package a tour   of winnings & losings?

when the craftsman saws through the board   the wood hardly cavils
it observes what practice is for   through winning & losing

lovers freely dream of the day   their loves will entwine them
blind as night   they're shackled   forlorn for winning & losing

in her tickertape   reeling out   for measureless aeons
Mahamaya acts   through informing winning & losing

in her grand charade   she depicts veach creature completely
every hair's intact   every curl of winning & losing

colors all emerge from your waves   O ocean of mercy!
and from you   all fragrances pour   no winning no losing

those who seek your aid   receive grace   O infinite mother!
every road   winds back to your door   past winning & losing


every morn   the city awakens   ready for showtime
every twirl in kathak   disarms   our winning & losing

choreography of the cars   can't fail to astonish
a ballet so madly performed   sans winning or losing

where the juggler catches each ball   without apprehension
we perceive   a savvy one   scorning winning & losing

all are skilled! all love you sincerely   all are deluded
thus we heed   the tap of karun   in winning & losing

where the days have limit & nights are numbered   we move in
parting's play   whose practice affords   no winning sans losing

who adore the rose   must embrace her tragic condition
every Jill loves Jack   through the thorn where winning means losing

in a sea of infinite time   what boat eludes drowning?
every nano-act   drills a bore   from winning to losing

does the dripping faucet drop hints   of clandestine homelands?
may the ocean   smash through the door of winning & losing!

is the ocean   somewhere we're not?   or is it our story?
do its waves   weave strands of rapport   with winning & losing?

life enlists us into her sport   we dance at her bidding
no one makes some rabid uproar   though winning or losing


in the heart of night   still the cricket   utters its poem
is its crying   vapid decor   of winning & losing?

should one fetch him mountains of lucre   would he feel triumph?
where his verse   some flat ear abhors   who's winning or losing?

grieving cricket!   if you're the dream   then who is the dreamer?
though a bug   you're manly   what glorious winning & losing!

in the ring where bulls are encountered   caution's essential
every spring   a may may get gored   for winning & losing

in the news   don't figures we read   amount to diversions?
can their sharpness cancel the blur   of winning & losing?

when I glimpsed   again Raphael   at ease with his poem
I grew troubled   "is there still more   to winning & losing?

answer this   don't flowers want terseness?   stem the profusion!
in your spree of asking   you've worn out winning & losing!"

Raphael!   suppose one attends   these turgid effusions?
is their gist   you cannot endure   the winning & losing?

amid rain   you pine for the sun   in sun you want water!
it grows plain   you're whacked to the core by winning & losing

where the word has gone to the heart   revert to the silence
it's insane   to chant evermore   of winning & losing


when the Buddha offered   his view of pain   & its ending
was the formless   wrapped in the form of winning & losing?

when Lord Krishna sounded his flute   in pastoral moonlight
did you dream a castle   whose charm slew winning & losing?

after Christ came down from the cross   & drowsed in a cavern
he awoke   & passed through the door of winning & losing

in the dust at roadside   one reads anonymous traces
in the books   they ratch up the score of winning & losing

here's a comely garden   they clip & water all seasons
butterfly!   you're flitting before such winnings & losings

"spider's web"   the signage for internet   in these boondocks
I'm the fly you catch   in the flower of winning & losing

village maidens hasten   I know not where   in a dreamscape
perfect foothils flap   as you snore through winning & losing

to control the senses   the wise encourage detachment
one becalms   through practice   the storm of winning & losing

when life thwarts the urge to create   what faces extinction?
one traverses chastity's door   both winning & losing?

aren't needling needs   lost in space   when pining to find you?
does the earth retract   if we soar past   winning & losing?


every day   one open a window   on separation
every night   we fasten the door   on winning & losing

certain hours   we gaze in the mirror   placid & clueless
and betimes   we're back in the storm of winning & losing

when the shoe has reached the road's end   a roadway continues
at its drop   the hat is reborn   for winning & losing

vernal thoughts accost you   amid the gardens of autumn
who can claim to lack a rapport   with winning & losing?

when you prize a distant belovèd   sorrow grows friendly
batting eyes   "come back to my floor of winning & losing"

please elucidate   why do dreams   appears but to vanish?
oceanspray   will splach on the shore of winning & losing

for a time in youth   with guitar you'd dabble while singing
did no song you happened to strum   touch winning & losing?

you were young   anon you grew older   season by season
you were innocent of the war   of winning & losing

in those days   you marched in dissent   for carnage in Asia
on these nights   you brawl for the score of winning & losing!

in this sorry world   happy hands still hasten to help you
don't neglect inshallah   ignore the winning & losing


things are always shifting around   no plan is quite settled
yet no change   has shaken the core   of winning & losing

every map you draw   gets redrawn   each maundering morrow
by fresh froth   that's slapping the shore   of winning & losing

there's some paradox   at the crux of every conception!
none's the thought   not tapping the door   of winning & losing

aren't histories in the books   mere hints of an echo?
social fabrics   swathe the decor   of winning & losing

what we do & think   what we read & write   trace out gestures
of the mute shade cast   in rapport with   winning & losing

when inspired   we soar to the rooftop   lost in elation
then we drop   to flap on a floor of winning & losing

what we are   amounts to a rumor   glimpsed in a mirror
what we're not   adds grace to the score of winning & losing

having tendered summertime berries   or autumn teardrops
may the heart awaken   laved pure of winning & losing

on a bridge of infinite longing   inches mean miles
every second's packed with an hour   of winning & losing

when you quiz your soul   "what's the point   of being or doing?"
its reply   paints black the white floor   of winning & losing


every task perchance is a pretext   who can but fathom
from what timeless flask   you out-pour the winnings & losings?

like a shell-game   deft move your hands   concealing the secret!
you reveal   we're daft to adore such winnings & losings

must the thread of spiritual search   wax melodramatic?
grows the pearl   organically shorn   of winning & losing?

for long years   I dithered with poetry   to scant purpose
I've become impractical!   worn-out   winning & losing

in a land of giants   the normal man is a midget
when the gods go gambling   it dwarfs our winning & losing

with the squash & pumpkin   the natives welcome the pilgrims
by your will   they gather the corn   of winning & losing

on this swing   we float through the morn   & sweep into evening
everything   I hanker to learn   through winning & losing

when you pass the tomb of Hafez   invoke heaven's mercy
that love's pilgrimage be reborn   sans winning or losing

"I have lost again!" cries Jelaluddin   at the chessboard
but this time in fact   he is shorn of winning & losing

in the Mahabharat   where Arjun tarries in trouble
there's a view you grant   of a form past winning & losing


the mirage resembles a pool   the pool seems a mirror
but the looking-glass proves a door   of winning & losing

now the door equivocates   closed   will open our longing
you can purchase that   at the store of winning & losing

when the willow peered in the pool   she wept for such beauty
like Narcissus   trapped by the lure of winning & losing

every heartbeat carries two notions   now & tomorrow
we're sustained by what will endure all winning & losing

all the words are dead in the book   until you revive them
they exist   as chalk on the floor of winning & losing

by your gaze   you grant my words life   they live in your breathing
all the birds fly back   at the hour of winning & losing

when they cried "a trisket! a trasket!"   nobody listened
green & yellow laugh   in the form of winning & losing

every fairytale holds terrors   wedded with wonders
don't you wonder   what will be born from winning & losing?

my belovèd's hair   is as long as night's longest tale
head to tail it spans   like the lore of winning & losing

Raphael! I plainly beseech you   love without question
like his wife   Jack Spratt won the war of winning & losing


when the hand you seek is afar   the feet seem pathetic
can't they find a path to her door   through winning or losing?

when the heart enjoys her rapport   are feet apathetic?
they create the path   on a floor of winning & losing

neither hands nor feet know the score   & hearts can be broken
we are tanned & blackened & worn out   winning & losing

life is fiction   fiction achieves the feeling of living
there's no juice in fact   till it's torn by winning & losing

do you look to poetry   hoping to find   safe harbor?
refugees drift back   with the lore of winning & losing

at last night's recital   guitar-sitar jugalbandi
from the gypsies' track   the conour of winning & losing

it's the candid cry of the bulbul   that the heart hearkens
shady lies   but quack on the shore of winning & losing

the exquisite note   isn't one   that sounds at full volume
as its play's enacted   it soars   while winning & losing

the santoor   with a hundred strings   tells the softest tale
the ektar's   deep twang   feels the score of winning & losing

in each shape of beauty   she pours some glimpse of her secret
with each swar   Saraswati performs her winnings & losings


seeking truth   gets billed as a craze   & not incorrectly
it's a frame   to shatter all norms of winning & losing

the Madhyamika   views both self & world as but   empty
emptiness   as the basic core   of winning & losing

empty mind   empty the physique   empty the emotions
there's an   emptiness reservoir   in winning & losing

in the lamp of union   they found   no wick & no candle
whiffs of smoke   recalled the lost score of winning & losing

the full voice   arises & falls   regardless of meaning
empty meanings stand   on a shore of winning & losing

with the needle of your perception   pierce this dark language
darkling night   black cat   thought obscure   that winning & losing

though one beat this theme to a pulp   its death isn't witnessed
we've the doom of Kafka   exploring   winning & losing

where the comic   fringes the tragic   merits fine study
the comedo-tragic   is shown   by winning & losing

winning-LOSing!   winning-losING   winning-losing-WINning!
in the Arctic   & Ecuador   they're winning & losing!

Raphael!   stop egging me on!   you scramble my brain!   why
must time's whip   have cracking in store   both winning & losing?


what the stones desire   the flowers describe more completely
language blooms   from fragments & bones of winning & losing

what the stars are seeking   the earth explains in translation
you can read spectacular tomes   of winning & losing

what the night reported   the day forgot until evening
what the dawn suspected   we learn from winning & losing

I've arrived in Dilli   my heart perhaps resides elsewhere
what is dil?   a taxi   for touring winning & losing

in a dargah   where the belovèd's fused with the framework
of the world   I prattle no more of winning & losing

to forget the world   means remembering that which creates it
puppets feel the hand   while they sport feigned winning & losing

those who reach your feet are so few!   who seek you are legion
let these join   the stats we ignore   like winning & losing

in the heart   the Lord has his home   the head is for whimsy
many motleys   sat at the door of winning & losing

those who know don't speak   those who speak are lacking in knowing
Lao Tzu's puzzle   raps at the door   of winning & losing

all our lines   were rattles we wore   the tide fetches silence
Meher Baba   shatters the floor   of winning & losing


on the verge of nothing   there shimmer   feeling & thinking
in the twilight margin   transforming winning & losing

all the colors bloom in the mind   when music recalls them
from the deep   there dance all the forms of winning & losing

what's a song?   it hovers in space   a delicate flower
it enjoys   the transient storm   of winning & losing

you've arrived   perhaps   at a land you're able to live in
passing trains enchant   as you forget   winning & losing

I desired   to freshly recast   the cards of my fortune
can the shuffling hand   reconform   the winning & losing?

common certitudes are in flux   as evening settles
having left my land   and its terms of winning & losing

in this emptiness   all that hovers is   recollection
plus some abstract plan   with its dormant winning & losing

vagrom narrative!   does the chessboard shift while we're dreaming?
every stage   redacts the report   of winning & losing

rikshaw-wallah!   why do the numbers twirl with such fervor?
a rigged meter madly covorts!   like winning & losing

Raphael!   you've changed your address   who'll forward love's letter?
bring me postage stamps   from the store of   winning & losing


when we find a corner obscure enough   we sit pretty
artforms grow ecstatic   unlearning winning & losing

all the glints   that glimmer in books   are trying to teach us
from this mirror-palace   we garner winning & losing

in the bifurcation   the binary   is oppressive
gain & loss   can act to deform   like winning & losing

all is increase!   all is kindness!   everything deepens
every loss has gain yet in store   strange winning & losing!

at the start of time   the belovèd whispered a secret
"I'm the ending that you look for   in winning & losing"

every saint & master   scoops out a cup   from your ocean
there's a stellar cast   on the shore of winning & losing

we're encouraged   & we're discoruaged   at the same instant!
in the habitat   of the door   of winning & losing

we exist   and do not exist!   this equivocation
ties a knot   one cannot ignore   in winning & losing


[8 verses needed]

in the train to Haridwar station   happiness joins me
all the world's a stage (as it were)   of winning & losing

nice hotel   though lacking hot water (brisk in the morning)
take a bracing bath   then we'll tour the winnings & losings


nimbu pani   mixed with masala salt   effervescent
afternoon   the passing amour   of winning & losing

friends are distant   still my notebook heeds my affection
love conduces happiness   more than winning & losing

love resolves the tangled dilemma   literature poses
poems scatter flakes (nothing more)   of winning & losing

you'll return to cities you left   what gift will you proffer?
in your pockets   rattle some poor gyps   winning & losing

in my solitude   I've composed   a weighty amusement
tell this ear that hearkens for your lips   "winning & losing"

when you speak his name   Raphael already grows happy
does he need a basket of more quips?   winning & losing

I'll confess impossible dreams   improbable projects
though I guess you'd rather have cornchips   winning & losing

he's become a babbling figment   on the street corner!
Raphael can't capture the core   of winning & losing

now a laughingstock   in salons of Paris & Delhi
chanting out   in rapturous worship   "winning & losing!"

someone put him out of his misery!   bring him solace
Raphael   laid flat as a doorstop   winning & losing

(xxiv)   CODA

Haridwar has weddings each day this month   festive music
with ensembled brass   out-of-doors   sweet winnings & losings

down the road you stroll   clutching typescript   seeking an ending
there's no end!   you're lost on a moor   of winning & losing

every thought produces a new thought!   long is the story
mind itself   enacts & performs   the winning & losing

there's a junction studded with cyber-cafes   shall we go there?
to revise   at Ranipur More   the winnings & losings?

Raphael!   all oceans are ink   all trees might be pens   but
I'm ashamed   to paper earth's floor   with winnings & losings

like the guttering candle   whose curl of smoke   spells extinction
what late flourish   cancels the story   winning & losing?

there's no close   so long as the breath continues to bellow!
like a billowing flag's   open form   of winning & losing

can an English ghazaleer pierce   your ocean's iota?
can't you show Raphael   the door   from winning & losing?

at the end of ink   I've an inkling   journeys continue
paper boats a'splash   on the shore of winning & losing

you desired   to paint all the world in little cartoons   but
Raphael!   no tint limns the noor   of winning & losing

(xxv)   FINALE

honking cars   eternal these days   have poets ignored you?
every honk distracts   or retorts   like winning & losing

I'll head north   the start of the Ganges   if I complete this!
Siva's hangout   capping remorse   for winning & losing

Rudra means to howl   Allen Ginsberg could have discovered
yet there's joy   each stage of his course   what's winning or losing?

all the poetries of the world   perhaps are a sandbox
children play in   dancing a turn   while winning & losing

if I dash out thousands of verses   who does this humor?
grows this persiflage a grand bore   like winning & losing

even gibberish   can be art   as monkeys have proven
every fool   has sat at the door of winning & losing

whether fool or monkey   I float this craft toward your lakeside
if it brings a laugh   I'm less poor   for winning & losing

let me tell you this   Raphael   I like your whole poem
I just wish it hadn't got torn   by winning & losing

Raphael!   here ends the production!   quit the rehearsal
with a smile   be happy once more   stop winning & losing

if you shoot him   Raphael's blood continues to babble
all the more untrammeled   still mourning winning & losing


possibly close to completed -- still in progress.

ghazal (winning & losing)

Begun in Delhi 26 October 2007, completed in Haridwar 23 November
(with some intermediate portions written in Baroda)


latest correction done at 7:55 pm in Haridwar