Hipshot on the zebra by amber light,
Bum cocked, knees spread for room, a little bent,
He picks away at his crotch in plain sight,
With unhurried, scientific detachment.
This isn’t a preliminary to sooing
So what’s he doing?
‘They’, actually. Men. Fingers in their flies
At crossings, in offices, while eating;
Are they boy scouts, flashing signs? or spies
Semaphoring cryptic greetings?
Or are they simply trying to stay in touch,
Given they don’t get much,
Or any? Sad cowboys trapped in Easterns?
No mesas, punchers, ranches, spurs or steers;
Never a campfire where the mesquite burns,
No saddled horse to get away from tears
A Vespa sometimes, borrowed from a friend
No girl in the end.
Cold planets of the rim, for whom the sun’s
Hot serial comings are a distant fiction,
Each spins its axis on its lonely runs,
And finds some tepid joy in friction.
But they aren’t all feeling up their forks
For champagne corks:
Often they’re just checking on their there-ness
(That testing question, ‘Am I still around?’)
For that’s the node, the nub of their awareness,
They’re saying ‘I was lost but I am found.’
Or else, as chronic losers should,
They’re touching wood.
This piece first appeared in Outlook Delhi City Limits, 15 November, 2005