She was last seen in the abandoned house on St. Mark’s Road, Floating above the broken syringes and beer bottles, Lotus-legged and arms outstretched, Radiating a swirling white light, Scaring the shit out of stoner trespassers and bandicoots.
They say it was this fear of her inside it, And not the fists of the goons outside, That knocked the old house down. Some know enough to know better Than to know what they know to be true.
The City has moulted Since the old house was broken, Since that nasty, smelly witch — With her judging eyes and shimmery hair — Was last seen floating in it.
We’ve traded that rotted, storied skin For this glorious armour of steel and glass. And good riddance, boss. God only knows What terrible dark magic those sags and wrinkles held. Good fucking riddance.
Were you the nit who decided that north is up, south is down, west is left, and east is right? Are you the hack who rhymed “West” with “the best”, and not “pest” or “infest”? Is yours the East that’s a mythical beast, or, at the very least, a weird sensory feast? And are those things lining your soles a pair of tiny magnetic poles?
In Space, every which way is this-way-that-way. Ignore all imaginary arrows, only go by what your eyes can see, travel far enough in a straight line, and all norths become souths, and all easts turn west. Directions are meaningless for excellent reasons when you’re a cosmic turtle: world-burdens are lightest when down is also up.
In my unoriented map of India, Kanyakumari is its crown, while Kashmir is its spiky, furry, prehensile tail. Dravidanadu is the head and chest, and MP, its queasy belly. Gujarat and Assam are its outstretched hands (or perhaps the hems of its frock), Bengal is a saucy hip, Kerala, a bloodied lip, and the NCR is on its knees.
“Quit messing around,” you sass. “You can’t turn this country on its ass!” “Shall I put the Centre here,” I ask, “in the middle, next to its… uh… daily business? This makes both strategic and semantic sense, yes?” “No, you urban naxal, the Centre always sits on top. Nations can’t be ruled from below the belt! Brains can’t be stored in one’s legs!”
Because you’re such a mussel (shellfish, mass of nerves, snack-in-a-vessel) and not an octopus (eight twisty limbs and nine twisty brains), my omnidirectional atlas remains closed to you and your crusty kind. You may return once you’ve grown an extra heart or two, and ink sacs with the power to blot out every latitude.
His Lordship blinks awake.
“Whuh? Where am I?”
First and final of his ilk,
Right and Honourable,
Peerless peer, master tactician,
“And blind as a bloody mole rat.”
At 3a.m., hungry like the wolf,
He trips and fumbles out of bed,
And launches himself into the void.
“A nice sandwich would hit the spot.
Perhaps a mug of cocoa too…
But where the hell are my glasses?”
Purple-robed, specs-less Cyril
Scurries through the labyrinthine corridors,
A just-resurrected mummy.
“I’m a velveteen mutant ninja rat!
An International Thuggee of Mystery!”
The shadows bend and twist,
Strip away from the walls,
Swirl, wrap, and tighten around his head,
Layering it like a too-large turban.
“Who knows what evil lurks
In the hearts of men? Not me, Bob!”
That big silver blur – “Ah, there’s the fridge.”
Thence, he conscripts his troops:
Cheese and pickled gherkins,
A sliver of roast beef, some lettuce,
And a dash of Wooster.
He deploys them between
Three fat slices of yesterday’s loaf,
And halves the assemblage
With practised ease
(The way he partitioned
Circles and polygons
As a student of geometry;
Or cultures and peoples,
As an occludent of geography):
Sharp, quick, straight down the middle,
Never mind a few errant crumbs.
“Diagonal cuts are for pansies!”
He devours one half,
And throws the other to the dogs.
Nothing ever goes to waste,
Not in this household, no sir.
And this is a resonant philosophy,
For, in another era, in a different mansion,
Time eats its own tail –
A similarly Honourable Prime Minister, On his third and final hour of sleep, Sweats and tosses as he dreams Of choking to death on breadcrumbs. His struggles are watched by an old white man In a turban made of shadow. Lord Cyril (for this is his restless spectre) Offers pithy advice in lieu of first aid: “In hindsight, Mr. M, I’ve learnt To value vision over eyesight.” Even this nightmare can be escaped, Of course, if one simply were to awaken.