It is the evening of the first day
Of a new year, a new decade:
The water sparkling, green as jade
The waves lash at rocks and spray
Tiny drops my eyes can’t see.
My boys run down, leaving me.
Alone, staring at the ocean
Where land ends, and the nation,
And the continent, reaching limit,
Recedes, aware of the loss of time,
Of space, an era, the youth’s prime,
Ten years gone, in a minute.
The light will fade, the sun will set,
The Vietnamese kids are laying bets.
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They think that we have brought
Being Indians, on a picnic,
But we’ve left old habits in some attic,
It’ll lift: A fog-shrouded view of San Francisco’s Golden Gate bridge.
We’ll have wine, the company’s good,
As we walk to a quaint sushi bar
Determined to leave the car
Even when we are in California:
Teenagers, kids, men, mama mia.
But that is later; it is certain
We are getting ahead of the tale
Of those weeks with friends in the vale,
In the shadow of the mountains
Of Ansel Adams, the High Sierra:
His lens makes icicles into a tiara.
The beach is now shrouded in mist:
It is hidden so well, says the woman
Who carries a thick printout of a list
Of sights to see, as she touches her bun
So that her boyfriend with the wide-angle lens
Can picture her, in front of the fence.
She smiles but has to squint her eyes
The sun still warm, the moon to rise.
We live in a digital age, so she can see
What she looks like in the photos he took.
She is angry, you can tell from her look
She needs good shots. She turns to me
Asks if I’d do a better job
Of snapping her smile. Yes, but with Bob.
I say I want both in the shot
Together, with smiles, because their friends
Will expect them happy, whether or not
They will be together as their journey ends.
We part, they walk their hands clasped tight
I hope there’s a gap before they fight
Again, as she will complain and scowl
Because she does not like the wind’s howl.
I enjoy their absence, walk on the rocks,
Listening to the birds’ conversation
About people, and their observation
Of our folly, its humour, pain, and knocks.
“Where are you?” I hear my friends ask,
Finding me has become their task.
I wave, they laugh, their voices rise
The valley resounds with their laughter
They ask if I’d like some rice
At the sushi bar: I want to go after
I’ve seen the sun disintegrate
Like scattered seeds of pomegranate,
Trembling like millions of fireflies,
Meanwhile, the waves fall and rise.
The pointillist image before my eye
Like a landscape on a canvas
Of Seurat, with dots shaping a mass
Of water, rocks, the sea, and the sky.
The wind turns icy, the light fades.
The unseen dominates, as in Hades.
The trees sway gently, their leaves rustle.
The squall thunders, the sea roars
I find today’s San Francisco Chronicle
Whose edit page is written by bores.
The state is torn and divided—can two men
Marry each other? Or two women?
If that comes to pass, is it not the end,
Of civilization, and who can mend?
Kim Tarvesh would sign the petition
That respects choice if they want to marry
But Bible thumpers want the proposition
That would force Sally to kiss only Harry
And not Jack with Ennis or Thelma with Louise
They insist they’re right. But in love, who is?
Ah, love: its mysteries unknown
To mere mortals who suffer and pine,
Driving through valleys, often alone,
Looking for warmth, kisses, and wine,
Through windy roads and forests deep,
By the Big Sur, with valleys steep,
The city with a thousand lights
Promising glitter every night.
During the day, when the fog
Decides to come out and play
Its game of hide-and-seek by the Bay,
Brave women step out to jog
Wearing their tight, day-glo leotards,
Pounding the road, quick as leopards.
I find the sushi bar by the smell of wasabi
Where friends have sat and chosen to wait
Before ordering: Empty glasses of sake and Asahi
Remind me what I’ve missed, being late.
I opt for the safe starter: tempura
Washed down with chilled Sakura
Vishal is bold, wants a roll called Avatar:
A trendy innovation in the sushi bar.
The food is fresh, you feel the nice
And crisp batter around the shrimp:
The waitress pops up, like an imp
With hot sauce, certain we’d love the spice.
The salmon delicate, fine and pink
And Jiten says he will not drink.
For he will drive through a curvy road
Listening to NPR, Monterey to San Jose
Shreeya has Chipmunks on her iPod,
Fine, all things considered. Tomorrow: idli-dose.
Then, Alicia says, Vietnamese pho
Which isn’t as mild as Japanese miso
But nor spicy like Mexican gazpacho
The soup to have, if you are macho.
The symmetrical fields bristle with variety,
Of fruit and garlic and oranges and wine,
Such a joy it is with friends to dine,
With clinking glasses, moments of gaiety.
Dawn—fog returns. The Golden Gate disappears.
Moments later it lifts; the icon reappears.
I think back to another time
At Half-Moon Bay, another sunset:
The pale sky gleams, yellow as lime,
My friends have just seen
Jab We Met
The beach looks serene in that twilight
My sons decide to walk to the edge
Of the water, near the rocky ledge
The silhouette they form, a divine sight.
I find leaving that evening hard
Others walk. I wait and stare.
Waves crumble, I despair,
Over things unsaid, and memories’ shards.
The foam all white, the rocks are dark
I pine for what’s not: the skylark.
Write to Salil at firstname.lastname@example.org