Lives Before


Letting Go

Today, for the first time since I have come here, I am letting myself go, letting myself loose into the wind and the rain, the way I used to in my days back in the bay, when my heart was never on the ground, it always up and around, in the trees with the birds, murmuring words from poems I had never heard.

Every day, driving around this small part of town that is now home, I see a gate open into a grove, a grove with a narrow orange earth and trees bursting, strewing the path with late spring.

Today I walked through it as if one were stepping into another world and it was another world, for in the distance there was sound of the drums beating to the rhythm of kathakali​ artists performing the slaying of a demon king; inside I saw a tree whose wide branches almost touched the ground before arcing up towards the sky.

This slowness in which the heart barely beats, and time crumbles like wet chalk between the fingers, bleeds like indigo from a sky in rain, this slowness has been felt before, has been felt by many – by some in the intimate, brown, afterglow of love and by others when resting against a brown bark bearing the heavens above.

The only way to be, is to be a lover and while the world will grant it for awhile, it will not be forever, for eventually one has to build banks around the river, let it flow but not let it flood the door, for eventually one has to find a form to contain one’s verse, find
the meter to one’s universe

The skin of the past

It has to start with the
white marble-top tables –
cold & flecked & smooth;
the brown of the wood everywhere –

the high-ceilinged beams, the
deep chests, the four-post beds, the
backs of chairs with bottoms of woven cane; the grandfather clocks restored

to their comforting sway; history
frozen on walls in frames of black & white;
the various things adorning the nooks and the crannies – a bronze dog sitting sorrowfully on a wooden corner post,

glass swans, framed technicolor posters,
giant analog telephones, dead typewriters —
each and every thing chosen with so much care
to recreate an old-world charm that is now everywhere,

every cafe, every B&B, every getaway an unending procession of objects
that are not really used but stand mute like this amputee god in front of me –

no sanctum sanctorum, just
a gravel pathway and put out
in the open, under an incessant sun and insect hum a stone not to adore

but just to go with the decor — the skin of the past
put together from flea markets and curio stores.

Tony Xavier is a writer and poet based in Bombay. “Songs from a calling” is an ongoing series, which he has been working on for over a decade. He can be found at