...and then

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Let me string flowers and other poems.

Let me string flowers,
a wreath of regret and light
for your foolish head,
and make a crown of thorns
that hold promises on their points.
let me place them upon your head.
The flowers of trying again,
and again and again,
the thorns to remind you
of the things you left behind.
Let me lay you down
on a pasture of faith,
let me water you 
with shining understanding,
let me dig around you 
a moat of assumptions
and let me drown you
in the thing we call

Will you survive, then,
as you watch the endless blue,
as the sun burns your irises,
and you lie still
being watered, 
cared for
made sacrifices for, 
sacrifices you never
asked for
to begin with? 
Will you, after the moat is filled,
after the watering is done,
become a single, dying rose
of joy?

In a dream last night, 
awash with watercolour purple
a fading blue and the firm hand of gold spots, 
a face I love, a name I do not know
Asked me if I would make him my muse. 
Long hair the colour of a tinted evening, 
Straight as the lies he was made of, 
Hands that found a thousand ways to smoke me, 
To show me a mirror.
He asked again. 
Can I be your muse?

What good is a muse, I ask.
And I tell him a story from long ago where
I was singed by a muse,
a shimmering muse
with wings of eternity, a firefly spirit, 
and a sailing ship for a totem,
that he left on my shoulder. 
A shoulder he claimed as his.

Then, my silver-fingered one, I ask,
As poetry fills me tonight, 
how shall I carry the burden of you
on the one shoulder I have left?

Dawns don't stay.

Dawns go away
Dawns play
As a mere interlude 
Before unleashing the harsh light of day, 
Where the sun leaps over everything 
Where daylight is harsh, real, flat
Because dawns don't stay.

Dawns don't stay
How can they? 
The day brings with it
Light and movement, predator and prey
Where music drowns, and art fades. 
Because eyes don't don't have time to watch the sky be perfect.
Dawns don't stay.

Monday, 11 January 2016

For David Bowie. I write because...

David Bowie has died. And with that, it feels like a star system with a fair amount of presence in the universe has collapsed. I rarely mourn the loss of an artiste. But to me, this feels like a personal loss. Apart from the incredibly cool persona, and I suppose personality, he had -- and I hate to use the word cool here but how else do you describe a man who explored extremes of the gender borders we set for ourselves, who travelled to the stars and beyond and wrote about them in a language that would proceed to move your spirit -- his music and lyricism spoke to me. Hell, even his name stood out for me. But, more than anything else, his acceptance of weird not being weird, of strange only being an idea in the head of those who lived outside of him, those who weren't on his side, is what spoke to me from the start. And, for me, the most splendid thing was that his entire life reflected the quality of his music. Or maybe his music reflected his life. And that kind of oneness, that kind lack of dissonance in his creative and public life is, for me, the mark of a true artiste. Don't you think? When how you are creative is how you live, when your choices and loves show in the depth of your art, when your limits and your lack of them reflect in the work you do -- and all of it happens unconsciously. 

And so I feel Bowie's death isn't just a loss to music, or lovers of music, but a huge loss to all those who sought creative authenticity and integrity. It is a massive hole in the universe where those who don't fit in our given moulds seek to express ourselves in the way we know. It is the death of that place in the sun that' s made of brave, nonchalant loners who allowed the rest of us -- who were weird in our quiet way -- to explore and understand and wear our uniqueness. There's a Bowie-size hole in that place, now. And it's a huge fucking hole. It is funny that the death of a man and an artiste I love so much that I write to you about him is making me reflect on not death and life but on what creativity means. What creative integrity means, what it means to be authentic in your art and what it means to allow your life to reflect in your work. Those roads that this is taking me down are beautiful and perilous. I can see why insanity would ensue in the pursuit of creative integrity. But what's one more step further down the insanity path, I say. :)

What happens to these places that these giants among us -- in this case, this god among us -- leave behind? Are there enough eulogies, enough YouTube plays, enough quoting, enough tweets and enough newspaper obit space to fill the exact shape of David Bowie? How does one fill the crook of his finger, what do you put in the space of his imperturbable face? How do you fill his eyes that saw, and his throat that went around the world and came back? How do you fill spaces that dead giants leave? And if you don't fit them, what happens to those spaces? Do we walk around them, gingerly sidestepping their blazing, iridescent, too-fucking-bright-that-i-need-shades outlines? Do we walk in fear of being burnt by that iridescence if we walk too close and claim to even be inspired by these giants? What is being truly inspired, then? That something you're good at follows in the style, tone and timbre of these giants? Or is it to completely become one with your giant and have nothing of you left, but then, when you make your art, you're producing something that is entirely new, like alchemy? Are we willing to be that swallowed up by this brilliant, star-bright space that our giants leave us in order to produce true art? Or are we willing to sit far away from their glow and be a moon? 

I am sorry for rambling. But I write from grief. In as much one can feel for someone one has loved from far away. But also from the closeness of sleep where you fall asleep to Starman, Rebel Rebel and Oh! You Pretty Thing taking you across to a dream where you are much more than you are. 

I will stop now or I'll never be done. I feel better now. I would never have had the courage to say this to the world in general,  but for you. Because, hey, in the face of all those experts on Bowie's music, I am just going to sound stupid, because I say nothing about his music. 

(For Surekha Pillai)

Friday, 8 January 2016

On Sleep

A dear friend recently mentioned she had been blogging 10 years. I checked my own blog and there it was: 2006, two posts. Ten years of writing whatever it is that I wanted to and find kind people to read it. This year, then, I feel should be the year I revive my blog. What better way to battle this sleepless night I am having, currently.

Speaking of, sleep and I have had a very contentious relationship for years. I've considered a sleep complete waste of time (as opposed to spending time on Twitter or whatsapp) and sleep has considered me unworthy of bestowing the restorative blessing that she seems to grant many others with. I have struggled with sleep since I can remember, which is about nine years old. Gloomy, terrifying sunny afternoons where the household would be asleep and I would dread being the only one in the house who couldn't claim a break in time like that.

As I grew older, nights became a complete waste of time because there was so much to be done, so much time spent reading, writing, thinking of boyfriends; just so much to be done and night had a way of putting an end to those plans. Most my 20s were sleepless, unless I was so exhausted that nothing could keep me away. Phone conversations till late in the night, books I couldn't put down, friends who stayed over. I rejected sleep.

It's payback time. I barely get four hours of sleep every night. Which is better than one hour of sleep that I used to get about three years ago. I wake up in four hours, do something I like doing and in an hour I am back in bed. It truly isn't ideal because the next day I am scarcely rested. Upside though, I get to do all the things I wouldn't have gotten to do if I had normal sleeping patterns. So, if I want to make an entry in my art journal, I can do that. Or write a letter for my #100letters. Or read the books I keep buying endlessly. Or write this blog post, even. So much to do when you can't sleep.

And yet, that's exactly the problem. When a bipolar person is in the manic phase, sleep is the first thing to take a hit. (Depressive phase in me induces excessive sleeping but that can differ from person to person.) I've been trying to sleep since 10 p.m. tonight. It's 1.45 a,m now. I've had a big day. And it tired me out. And yet, my mind is alive and my body, awake. I thought it was just tonight but I looked back the last four nights and I realised all those nights, I had slept little or very badly.

You'd think I'd be used to this now and would be catching signs of mania early. But I still haven't. I still think my body will behave, so will my mind. It's well into mania that I realise I'm there and then the irritability, the immense confidence, the rash driving, the snapping and losing of temper and the general invincibility I feel starts to make sense. And so does the sleep. Waking up every two hours, or not sleeping at all some nights.

Why sleep is important: This might seem like a stupid thing to bring into focus but it's as necessary for me in terms of reiteration as it is for those who might be seeking personal experience with lack of sleep and bipolar disorder. Lack of sleep makes me moody: You might think it does that to everyone but it's a challenge to me because I am then governed by my moods for the next few days. I make decisions based on how I feel and not by calm, rational thought.

Lack of sleep  makes me continuously irritable. This is tragic because everyone from a complete nincompoop on the road to my little kids bear the brunt of it. I snap regularly and I snap at complete non-issues.

Lack of sleep also perpetuates a no-sleep cycle where I cannot sleep for a few more days. It starts with one and suddenly, I've found so much extra time that the excitement of doing the things I love is so great that I forget to sleep. Suddenly, my mind is abuzz with ideas of all the things I can do if I don't sleep. This adds to the frenzied activity already in my mind and then I head to a complete collapse, at the end of which I am tired, mildly disoriented, irritable, unable to work or have a fair, pleasant day, and most of all, unable to make decisions: this goes for instant decisions when I drive, more deliberate ones when I am at work and even more important ones when I have to decide for the children.

This really crisp and informative article tells you more about sleep and bipolar. It also tells you why you need to sleep, how to get adequate sleep and how you need to address the problem of bad sleeping. I found it very helpful.

What I do when I am manic and don't sleep:
I wake up early even if I don't want to. 
I try and eat little for dinner. 
I listen to music on headphones.
I read Anna Karenina. Or Crime and Punishment. (Sorry Tolstoy, Dostoyevski) 
Some nights, I take evil glee in the extra time and do the things I love doing. 

The last one is a bad idea because while sleep is important to everyone's well being, it is particularly crucial to those who are bipolar. They are triggers for a very bad manic (or even depressive) episode and if you've been there, or know anyone who has, you know you don't want to go there.

It's far too late now and I have made one sketch, written two poems and one more blog post from a prompt that I will post tomorrow. For now, sheer exhaustion and sleep are claiming me for themselves, finally. And I go with the disappearing stars of dawn.

Be well. 

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