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Poetry By
  Ajay Vishwanathan

Published on: 3/23/2010
Death Before Time

The fortune-teller didn't blink, her splashy bangles
didn't chime when she told me I would die at 32.
I will be 32 in a week and haven't forgotten her perfume,
crushed jasmine in coconut oil she said,
portent eyes, dense mascara smudged
like drops of water on painted canvass.

Shards of panic prod like tiny stones
that find their way into boots.
This is no way to live,
wary of limbs
that stretch from bent trees,
of birds that fly low;

I see my end in mundane corners -
the woman in black sitting on the park bench,
her toes dug into sand,
fingers showing fists,
as if she waits to pluck bare souls
peeled from spent shells.

I want the verve back in my step,
the freedom
of wind-blown leaves,
not waste away full of promise
like roses that bloom
and wither on their own stems.

Wish I could retract that fateful evening
when desires ran amok
to look beyond the invisible.
Wish I could go back
to where she sat
and let another parrot pick a card.

Published on: 3/23/2010
That Bark Somewhere

willed by night,
they will come again
and again,
not men I know, creatures of dusk
that slither along dark earth behind my house

then, those barks - far away,
like distant gun shots,
spot shifts in air.
I hear them now as I lie staring
at rolling blades of shadow;

barks from somewhere familiar -
voices within?
remind me of places memory didn't keep,
of hands I held, the many faces of summer,
now lorn palms in clenched fists.

do you bark at moths that weave invisible yarn
around dusty bulbs down unknown streets?
do ebony shapes of fear draw silhouettes,
rustle among trees,
ride on slow winds that graze skin?

she comes and dies in my mind -
that lady who knits by the fireplace
humming a tune as she calls out to me,
dinner's ready;

their gnawing solitude,
those barks bare regrets,
scrape past -
dreamy eyes wide open
find those I hurt;

now, waiting to slip away
I wonder -
do you bark because you sense
shallow breaths
on a rickety bed?

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