Monday, December 29, 2014

the skull on the mantlepiece . . .

dark rooms
shattered, cobwebbed, window panes
a blood-red sky beyond
with the sun embedded 
like a lost pearl
in a lava sea.

claustrophobic mountains

screaming at the clouds,
"get away, get away"
and all around the souls of lovers
crucified like scarecrows 
on the withered branches 
of dead trees.

my world 

where the only truth 
is loneliness
the only warmth, the fever
of intoxicated
and the only eyes
the detached eyeballs in the fishtank
like sluggish spirits
among the weeds.

i ventured out

a couple of times before
i still do
but each time return to find
the dracula teeth a little sharper
the head
a little more
like the skull on the mantlepiece
my friend's
ogling at life with a grin.

the time is drawing near

when you fill find another skull
on the mantlepiece
at life
with a grin.

will you then

dust the cobwebs
from the sockets of my eyes . . . . . ?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

sunshine . . . .

i had closed the doors
of the chambers of my world
to sunshine, long ago
and the blood
had frozen in my veins.
but this morning
i sat with you in the sunshine
and watched together,
the glimmer of pine needles
in the nearby woods
an the glare of mountain snows
in the distance.
and gently
i felt it thaw -
my blood . . . .
and in the darkness of silence
i heard
a flickering

Friday, November 28, 2014

the dinner . . .

she was very fond of fishing
this girl that i loved
so one day i bought a couple of fishing rods
hired a boat
and took her fishing in the lake.

it was a beautiful day
and i was so moved
by the water and the sky
and the distant shore, that
wrenching out my heart
i gave it to her.

she took it
and said, "thanks"
dropped it into the tin
containing the bait.

when the worms were all finished
and no fish had been caught
she stuck my heart
to her hook
and threw the line, saying,
"this is better bait than

and sure enough
she caught a great big fish.

we returned.

she cooked the fish
and invited me to dinner.

i went
but unfortunately
i did not have the heart
to dine with her.

people . . . .

i watch them go by
in cars and on scooters.


i have no need
of cars and scooters
for i
am not people.

am the chant of faceless lamas
in malodorous monasteries
the music
of smoke rising from
discarded cigarette butts
the howl of a haunted wolf
on a windblown night
the whisper
of an unseen waterfall
in the hills, and at times
the fury of earthquakes
and tornadoes and tidal waves
all combined.

i can never be
i tried once
and the girl in my arms withered
and became
dust, in my embrace.

i picked up the remnants of her bones
and built a room
and hung her skull
on the doorframe.

they pass me by.
they know the story of the skull
on my doorframe.
they read it in my eyes
and recoil.

i cannot blame them.

who would stand
in the path of a volcano ?

Monday, September 22, 2014

i was there . . . .

there are many visions 
within me
as i turn inwards and find
in all its awesome harmony
the universe
the seething oceans under a lightning ridden sky
and the unbelievable applause
that resounds from the corners of emptiness
eternal music, 
each galaxy playing a different tune
a different theme
as the first cell 'happens'
in a frozen moment 
of time.

i was there at that moment.

i see within me
in the forest valleys, animals
that would one day become man
learning their lessons of love
and hate
and the abstraction
of dreams.

i was there again
when animal man
put his finger to his breast
and eyes wide with the discovery of self, said,
and "am", and "me".

i was there when
he made us understand.
we fell on our knees, 
all of us,
even the toughest, roughest ones,
weeping with the joy and the challenge 
of "i".

all this i would sing to you now.
you who have forgotten the magic of being
and know only
the drudgery of survival.

you have shut your mind
to the memories within you.
i tried.
but cannot feign death
any more.

........................................................................... paul

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Bhopal - To a Father and His Child

On the bhopal gas tragedy
(inspired by a photograph of a man’s hand trying to brush away a fly that has settled on the face of his dead child while she is being buried.  this was published as the cover of India Today, in the issue covering the tragedy)

your child cannot feel anymore
that fly upon her eye
so fret not, dear father
don’t drive it away.
can’t you see her eyes are lifeless?
can’t you hear the rhythm of death
in her silent pulse?

weep not, oh father
she needs no longer
the solace of your tears.

the form buried
under the graves of progress
is your child no more.
just a corpse.
she has no name anymore.
just a number.
the newspaper headlines are her

over the years
lawyers will debate
judges pronounce
and chairmen air their opinions at cocktail parties.
they will not mention the name of the child
that only last night
played in your lap
climbed over you
and giggled
and gurgled
and filled your world with the music
of her laughter
and her tears.

they will not remember
how she ran from her mother’s arms
at the sound of your motor-cycle down the road
or that cuddly warmth
the joyful, all giving embrace
of those tiny arms
as you lifted her up
and held her, and loved her
and dreamt your dreams of her
and the years ahead –
from toddler
to schoolgirl
to bride
to wife
to mother
to daughter forever
at your bedside.

in the darkness of her cradle
her toys lie untouched
with the mark of her grubby fingers
still on them
twisting your heart into a rock of numbness
a pain
that will never fade
never go away.

weep not, dear father
the world goes laughing by
and shouting and screaming
and clanging by.
the machinery has been overhauled
the motors hum –
mankind advances
to TV sets and VCRs
and super pesticides.
your daughter was just
another pest
in the path of progress.

walk away now, father.
her body is covered with earth.
let it shroud her face too.
walk away without memories
without pain
numbers can be reproduced
any computer will tell you that.

when tomorrow dawns
and you do not hear her stir
and cry for her milk
when you see her empty bed
when you feel your vacant arms
when you hear your empty heartbeats
you will know
that your daughter 
is dead.

never mind, though.
will live on
forever . . . . .

................................................................. paul mathew

Sunday, April 12, 2009

the sculptor

the sculptor

once upon a time
a mad sculptor
(great artist, though),
created a masterpiece.

from a block of anonymous marble
he carved a form
of infinite beauty
and all who looked upon it
felt great joy in their hearts.

there was a certain
vibrance, in this form
that the sculptor could not explain
something beyond stone
and chisel
and an artist’s dream.

for days and nights he pondered
sleepless and disturbed
at nights
with a lamp in his hand
he would steal into the studio
to gaze
upon his creation.

he felt the tension in the air
as if something alive
were locked into the confines of
immobile stone.

and then, he understood.
the discovery broke
his last link
with sanity.

in a rare moment
he had stumbled upon the ultimate -
his creation throbbed
with a life of its own.

he blew out the lamp.
in the starlit darkness
he climbed upon the pedestal
embraced his handiwork
his face streaming with tears
heart breaking
with the pangs of separation
and breathing upon the marble face, he said,
“i give thee life.
go forth in freedom
fulfill in freedom
the beauty and the joy
that is yours.”

he stepped down
and trembling in anguished expectation
waited for the first marble breath
the first twitch of the marble finger
the first flicker in the marble eye.

the sculpture stirred
then spoke,
is my destiny”, it said,
“not freedom,
for freedom is too scary.
here i am secure
and timeless
and there is no pain.
these are the last words i will ever speak
so listen well,
i am but your handiwork
i am but a sculpture
i am only

“speak to me again”
the sculptor cried.
there was no response.
he took up the hammer
and struck off an arm
there was no pain
he took up the chisel
and pierced the breast
there was no blood.
just silence
and the immobility
of cold, frozen

broken in heart and mind
the sculptor fell
and lay dead upon the studio floor.

his creation stirred not.
it was unaware
like stone.
as dead
as the other blocks of marble
stacked lifeless
in the corner.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . paul mathew