The philosophy of the world is predicated on many assumptions. But I don’t want to talk about any of that. I’m checking out as many books as I can before my time on Earth is done. I had the most left ahead of me when I was just a baby with a planetary skull and impressionable skin like putty. I’ll never be that kid in the high chair so I look to the future and imagine being a mother myself. My friend says that salting her food almost feels religious. I get that when I’m eating olive oil and bread. A milky pleasure undulates through me like a silk worm. Or when I’m watching light fall through paper-thin leaves, so you can see the light green veins. Whenever I need to reconnect to God, I put two of my fingers on my neck. There is something about light and shadow that just, does it for me, completely. Kids are graduating from college here in New York and when you walk around, you see them, robed and beaming, with their parents. If you’re depressive, you’ll have the acrid afternotes of, who are the kids without parents, and your imagination will convey the dark side of the moon, and you will fill in the gaps. Is happiness delusion? I used to ask myself that during my stickiest depressive rut. I don’t want to hover on the precipices of thoughts. I am drawn to the conviction that it is worth it to go forward as though there is something to fight for. You’re 20. Your greatest existential problems will be doled out and sorted by the end of your destiny. Under a starry night in the middle of Europe, two soldiers sleep in a church, not knowing if the war is over or not. One soldier is drawn, emotionally moved, by the writing inside of the church. His emotional register is heightened by morphine in his gums. Sometimes I see something beautiful and I think, if only I had the emotional range for this right now. Instead I feel the computational processing of it, and I cannot coax myself into grander feelings. A compilation of grander feelings goes as follows: looking at your friend in a yellow dress marked by a sunset that ushers in the end of time. A dream in which your head is so heavy, it sinks endlessly through the pillow, a cosmic slinky. Footage from the historical era, curated in a museum exhibition, so you hear the inception of jazz, overlay with the soundlessness of Malcom X’s face, the Islamic flag demonstrated behind him. Everything my parents do is highlighted by the awareness that the worst thing could happen to us at any time. A Buddhist book suggests, when Death comes in, invite it for tea. Talk to it. But the sky is blue today and I’m thinking of my parents. I never want to be far from them. It’s funny how you can feel your Earthly attachments as though it is a real string. Thank God I haven’t reached Enlightenment. It used to disturb me that everyone was into philosophy, because that seems to distort the sheer incredulity of it. So all of these faces crammed into classrooms and windows, are questioning their own design? Seven billion of us were designed to question? My prayer for world peace goes as follows: the Earth was created by altercations between gravity and debris. Out of the primordial soup came creatures, bug-eyed ones, ones with tentacles, ones in hot swamps, ones that dart and have ten limbs and alien features. Everything that happens in reality is a cosmic miracle. It will never stand the test of time and yet it is almost infinite. I was designed for this world. Everything is a miracle, it’s the way that light makes shadow, that really does it for me. Makes me weep.
There is a river containing the faces of all the probable circumstances which never found fruition in your own life. Your elementary school teacher bites her tongue and doesn’t stop you to tell you after class, that you remind her of her late daughter. Then your realtor pauses and decides not to say that he is fasting today, even though the emptiness of his stomach is a cave he carries. In the river, everything happens this time. Every loose thread comes undone. There is a tree with limbs so tall that you ache to be a drop of water rolling down its side. When the tree shakes hard enough, all the hidden birds inside are unleashed, and there is an whirlwind of orange and yellow decadence. The tree carries its age in rings the way we do. Someone says they’re agnostic because of two opposing considerations. The consideration of evil and the consideration of beauty. You’re called to the second one. Next time you come across a thing of beauty, you think, this? This is evidence in favor of a Creator? But where do the trees and skies and pools and colors of the world, lie in relation to evil? The words don’t even lie in the same hemisphere. Glasses of water in your mind tremble close to the edge when you say words of evil. If I decide I want to end this poem singing, I can end this poem singing. If I choose to. There was a night that I fell asleep in a moonbeam on my white sheets. The sun spray paints my face golden and the energy thumps in my chest, like the heavy foot of a rabbit. I love my parents the way I would love any other Creator. Any child of the world is a child of mine. That is what makes it so difficult to write sometimes.
A terrible moon rises within my stomach in the shower and a cascade of images floods upon me as I run my hands down my face, feeling the softness of the skin. When I breathe, I try to imagine both of my lungs contracting and expanding in symmetry, the enactment of duplicity. Wherever my mom calls me, I would follow. If I heard her voice, strangled and terrible, from any alley, I would follow it to my death. Whatever it is that loyalty is. Throw a pebble at a window and an angel flies out. There’s a slender boy in front of a painting and his neck is so small and it reminds me what it feels, to want again. There is an imaginative relationship between me and the world of dreams. There is a tether to the edge of the world.
A man with a jagged jaw walks past me on the street and the power curve strike ape like feature of his upper cheekbone or something about the motion of his eyes makes me deeply assured we are living separate lives. It’s a spiritual practice to imagine a deep web of interconnections between us and every other living creature on this planet and yet how precisely this practice fails. When I go down to 51st to drop off a left-handed guitar for a man who responded to my Craigslist advertisement, the first thing I think is, Oh, he is a little bit beautiful. Not the old hobbled creature I imagined, watching my advertisement with beady eyes and hoping to prey off of my naivete. Quite contrary. He greets me with a fist bump, begins strumming it to check the tuning. He says he injured his right arm which is why he’s trying to learn left-handed, he points to his right arm as though I can see the invisible injury that makes it hurt so deeply when he bends it so. His arms are full, they protrude from his white cotton shirt, he’s strong. It’s only in hindsight that I realize I was looking at his arms for much too long, there was no reason to. Our conversation is shy and tepid and marked by little hesitancies and insinuations. If I was a boy, we would be grinning eye to eye but with no air of implication. I told myself I wanted to be celibate because I wanted to channel my sexual energy elsewhere, but I honestly do not even know where it is going anymore. I say that it is going to the guitar, or it is going towards reading, or going towards platonic relationships, or towards my understanding of the world and morality, but I don’t even know anymore. In Central Park, swatting away mosquitoes, I come undone, dissociating the way I sometimes do. I speak aloud to myself, answering the question, What is my name, and I begin sobbing when I respond. When my name sounds foreign in my mouth, is when I feel the disease. I wonder what mental anomalies are hereditary and I wonder what child of mine would ever be proud of me for my epic failure to recognize the self. In Early June, I went to my brother’s MIT graduation ceremony, and my heart visibly lightens like a firefly when I repeat the name of the poet laureate who spoke, Kealoha Wong. He sent a flare out to me and sitting among the audience of thousands, I received it. The message was received. Kealoha recounts for us, the evolution of man-kind from unicellular beings, and uses his hands to express the process. His eyes explode with the recognition of galaxies upon galaxies. He is the cosmos, funneled through a pinhole, to fit into a human being. Kealoha sends me into a trance later in a hotel room, where I begin tearing up and fall asleep in a state of spiritual ecstasy and despair. I don’t have any landmarks in these moments. I am hesitant to call love the ultimate landmark. I am hesitant to compound the entirety of my life’s questioning onto another individual and call that fair. It can’t be fair. And I would still think this, if it weren’t for the night Anusha and I slinked over to the bridge in Central Park. How out of nothing, came something. From the dark current above, emerged a white pearl. How sure we were that it was God’s milky eye beckoning us closer. I was shocked. I was most shocked that Anusha was there to witness it with me. I thought that ultimate loneliness was the reality of the world. But the world made it so. The world played the deepest trick on me. It said: You think you are alone in this world? How wrong you are. Watching sun illuminate the blood veins of the trees in the meadow, I thought I’d like to die in this moment in time so I could be time-stamped there forever. But there’s some tether pulling me further and further out. In the inching twilight, Leslie and I talk about how beautiful it is, to hear someone speak our mother language. How special it is, to remember that we are ancestors in the making. And how all we want to do, is take care of our communities, protect those who need protecting. And I tear up, and I’m like, Oh, this is why I’m doing this. This is why I venture out further into the world, day by day, compromising the happiness of moments past. This is what makes one day rush into the other. Oh, Creator who lets day follow night, day follow night, who rolls dice with my circumstances and has allowed this all to be so, in what form do I find you? Do I distrust the apparitions around me? Or do I dare imagine you are in the lotus-flowered eyes of those who love me?
Overcome by jealousy in the back of a car, I blast music that is toxic for my ears because I want to hear vibrations ring through my ear canals. At the start of yoga class, we all say Om together and one woman’s voice is stronger than the others, and I’m almost resentful of the fact, and then the voices fade away and all you are left with, is the palpable echo of vibration fill the entire room. It makes you consider very seriously, that your throat box is a music maker. A lot of my poems begin in recording studios in LA which I imagine. I’m most envious of music producers because making music is to me, one of the holiest acts. I envy those who are on their musical pilgrimage, and I resent my own upbringing. I resent moments when I feel I have nothing to say anymore, or moments when the trajectory of my life is as uncalculated as the swing of a lazy baseball umpire. I want life to mean something, even if it grabs at my neck with its teeth. Intense cravings lead to intense crashes and I know that, I’m unable to sleep. I’m misbehaving and it shows. I’m divorced from my own soul and it shows. My newest theory of philosophy is that we all start from the same embryonic potential, but life adds clay to us and molds us in ways we couldn’t have seen. What will I be molded into? Could I ever be a beautiful ceramic pot? Coddling the words of Rumi in a museum gift-shop, I tear up, thinking maybe this is the Prophet. Sometimes you come across a voice so threaded and so distinctly pure that it makes you hush all at once. Never mind the infinite cravings, that whole sort of thing. Rumi writes about a lost sheep and acts of tenderness. The shepherd who looks at the sheep who ran away from the flock, and asks the sheep, Why did you do this to yourself? The ultimate act of mercy then, is to see other’s pain before you see your own. The story of life has so many threads that I struggle to follow. The greatest music producer of all time has a wife with no mouth and has a ghost that sits on his shoulder when he’s up late sampling new beats. I don’t even know what it is like to live in his throat or skin. I don’t think about my intense cravings when I look in the eyes of a beloved. Then, every last veil falls away and I get to face the sun blindly. In the hotel room, I’m ransacked by sobs, imagining a world without my parents. When we imagine someone’s death, they die while they are still alive. We enact a sort of death through our imagination. I spend too long intellectualizing and wondering about the meaning of things. What is the point of imagination, I say to Ella, walking through the museum halls, what is the point of creation? The paintings we look at are both real and unreal. The paper thin veil between reality and illusory worlds. My approach to the world is often reminiscent of the jagged ends of rocks. Whereas Rumi is the type to blare through with trumpets and say, never mind it all, this is the substance of life. The smell of rice fields from many hundreds of years ago fills the museum. The smell of young Earth after heavy rain fall fills the halls. The smell of clean laundry can evoke intense joy and intense sadness to some human beings on this Earth. And you would never know, is the thing. There is so much I don’t know about the world and I tell this to Ella, I feel so young, and she says, you are so young, and I say, oh yes. You’re right. When the shepherd looks at the sheep in the eye, he spares it in an act of mercy. Rumi says in that moment, God speaks to the angels and says, This human being is fit to be a prophet.
By Kiran Masroor