When I walk back to this beach
I walk back from years apart, a life away,
Years of growing out of this narrow coast,
Growing into the things and people I now enjoy
Out in the bigger world.
When I walk back to this beach,
I find a beach grown fuller with the world,
Somehow bigger but smaller too,
Not that first little beach, my beach.
I walk myself back only to find
The beach has walked itself forward.

This beach I’ve walked back to
Is not that old bed of stillness and weight,
That blotter for my rage,
The place that taught me fear
The night I saw, washed up on its flank,
A bloat of flesh and bone,
A raft of violence done:
A trussed up, cut-up murder
That was once a living, feeding mind
Who, like me, may have walked to that beach,
Empty, lonely, hoping
For stillness and weight,
Who may have raged like me,
And then feared like me.
No cops marked the scene,
No witnesses, no noise, no moon—
Only the perpetual sea and me.

This beach I’ve walked back to,
Grown out of my narrowness,
Now filled out, filled in,
Enjoys, rather, a bigger world
Of people and things —
People who run to it, run in it,
Who run even in their starched veshtis,
Their burkhas made pregnant by the wind
And delivered by the spray,
Their pink and lemon silks,
Their tie-dyed chin masks,
Part flesh and bone, part kite and feather,
Streaming across the vivid sands
In a joyful blink, a flutter of sunspots,
Unmindful of the changing weather,
Casting their nets, their cares,
While the fishing’s still good.

But fear walks again on this beach,
A living, feeding fear that tumbles in
At moonrise with the Corona cops
In a violent tide of lathis and khakhi,
Truss of bloated curfew rules,
Sostenuto of brass whistles,
Murder in the high Cs,
In with the get-outs and stay-outs,
To cut up and drown the local colour.
As I am pulled away by the receding surf
Of pink, lemon, black and blue
(Running, streaming, silken,
Even in starched veshtis and parasail burkhas),
I turn, for one joyful blink, to see
The beach returned to how I saw it
Years away, a life apart,
Empty, lonely, hoping.

When the beach walks back,
Somehow smaller but bigger too,
It walks back to the self I knew:
That first little beach, my beach,
Bed of stillness and weight,
Old and narrow coast,
Unfilled, unfulfilled,
Blotter of age, of grief,
Binding flesh and cutting bone,
Only seen by me and the perpetual sea,
Raging yet again.

Vinayak Varma, January 2022