C a n v a s

I sat down, massaging the itch in my right palm. The tabletop gleamed white with blank sheets. I gripped my pencil. The light from the lamp shone down on my hand. I began; and scratched thus on the first blank sheet:

“The winter’s passed,
Here comes the spring-“

I snatched it up and kept it aside. The words didn’t quite fit the circumstances, though it made the opening lines for a very nice future-poem, maybe.

I took a fresh sheet and a deep breath. Think, boy, think. Something which you can reach into, deep inside- picking at the very dregs of emotion. Something of that potency is guaranteed to catch thirsty minds off-guard! Think! Think!

I started afresh. This time, half-closing my eyes.

“It was that time, when my friend found himself enrolled and ready to depart for what he had-“

I scratched it out hastily. Something stayed my hand.
This was madness! What was I even thinking? I couldn’t write about this! That too so plainly!…no. Never.
I slapped both my cheeks with hands and started scribbling below the existing mess.

“Leaves fall, branches die,
Yet the trees, they live on and on.
Rocks part and bones break;
Yet my heart shall never-“

This was a wholly new level of low. I crumpled up the paper with all the might I could muster and threw it into the corner of the room. This was proving to be much more difficult than I thought. I was getting impatient too. No. I needed to calm down.

Reach deeper. Reach further in.

I closed my eyes and
I closed my eyes, trying to shut out the light from my dim table-lamp. Gradually, I visualised the deepest crevices of my mind. I knew I was simply skimming the surface. I couldn’t fool myself- I didn’t have enough willpower yet to propel my consciousness that deep. After a while, I blinked them open again. The miserly light seemed to be playing tricks with my vision. I saw shapes frolicking and bounding across the white expanse of the sheets.

“As I peered deep inside,
I viewed the vast forlorn battlefields
Of my subconscious
Strewn with dead and dismembered memories.”

Now I had stooped to prose. I couldn’t hold back my disgust as I tore the sheet in half and rolled them into a paper ball. I tossed it into the darkness. Something wasn’t right. How could it be so?

I wasn’t being able to go further. Somehow, an invisible and indiscernible separation was blocking me from myself. It was, as if there was a barrier I had erected around a certain something which lay deep in the darkest dungeons of my psyche. I simply couldn’t walk past it, let alone run. And I needed speed- I needed flow. There was only sole-dragging snail-like absence of velocity up until now. I couldn’t breach the wall with that.

Oh I know! I thought. I needed music. After all, I had once written a 47 stanza-long poem once listening to nothing but a catchy number. Ha! Finally I’d have my inspiration! – A smile flickered on my shrouded visage before it disappeared into the expressionless façade my face had become. I put on my earphones and played a song. Music flooded my brain, flooding all the chambers of thought with a material akin to fluid. It was viscous. There would be turbulence, surely, but at the right frequency and velocity, nothing was more streamlined than good ol’ music.

I took a fresh page and started yet again.

“The darkness of this silent night
Took shape and danced before my eyes
My vision- filled with shapes and slivers-“

I scratched it out. This was nonsense. And it wasn’t even working. What was the problem? Deeper, boy! Deeper! What do you feel in your bones? What do you move to? The very rhythm of your being!

What was I affected by? Something that was moving me forward. If I wanted to commit suicide here and now, what would be the ONE reason I needed to live? What would stay my hand? I scribbled:

“As she lay in pain-
Though disabled, she was
Strangely relieved.
Awkwardly lifted from out of the sea
Of endless responsibilities and duties”

– I was beginning to feel a flow there. Yes! I kept on writing –

“A strange cloud hung over her,
Even he couldn’t see it yet-
As he hustled about trying to help her cause:
She looked up to see the Angel of-“

I roared in agony and anger as I threw away the paper, striking my thumb on the tabletop in the backlash. That didn’t hurt as much as what the words I’d written did.
Was this my fear? No.. This was no good. I needed to go deeper– not across into other spaces and room!.. This needed more effort. Think, think past the barrier, you fool! What did I actually feel?? What did I despise? Why was I even so frustrated?

I picked up my pencil, this time as carefully as picking up a scalpel.

“He’s gone far away
His light-waves just a sway-“

I crossed it out neatly (or so I presumed in comparison to the savage scrawls I had been attempting previously). It would be stupid to re-use lines from my previous poems.

“His mind is now a thing of ice.
Indifferent, or different still?”

Nah. This wasn’t even close to being accurate. I couldn’t be groaning on like this! I needed solid stuff I could relate with, not the inverse of what was true; but only written poetically. Yes! I needed poesy! Some drama! Pathos!

“How could he do this? Vile metamorphosis!
A dearest brother now estranged?
There was something to his face, something had changed.
There was something to his words-
Something erroneous and sick.
Something gnawed me from within,
Whenever I watched him grin-
This wasn’t the light’s trick.”

I struck it out completely with a single line, running the pencil-point over each letter, and then repeated it starting from the beginning. A double strike-through. No, I clearly hadn’t meant to portray a vampire or a ghoul. Then why on earth did it seem to sound like that? Was that the face I had found myself looking at? My thoughts were all jumbled up. I ran my fingers through my hair and closed my eyes as I tried to regroup.
Yes! There was the face! But what’s this …?

I shuddered.
I was so close to the barrier. Now, I was resting my palm on it’s surface as I tried to reach out. Suddenly, someone was on the other side. It was him– staring back at me with a grin that could swallow worlds whole.
And just as suddenly he disappeared. The barrier was no more.

The vision faded. A sense of purpose took over me. I was sad. Irrepressibly sad. But the urge to write had gotten stronger. I picked up my pencil yet again and bore down upon the next sheet as I crumpled up the previous one and threw it away. The corner of the room swallowed it with a gulp.

My writing did not get any better, but slowly I sensed something as I kept on writing, scratching, crossing-out and discarding.
My toes seemed to have gotten numb. A chill was climbing up my feet every passing second. Or was it after every word I wrote? However, I paid no attention to it whatsoever, as I furiously kept at scribbling down whatever came to my mind. Now I was seven sheets short from what I started with.

“Why do they talk? Why do they pretend?
Why now, when all is but a passing trend?”

Shake head, scratch-out, crumple, throw away, repeat.
Now, I couldn’t feel my legs anymore. I felt dizzy. My head swayed this way and that, but I hung on. Must be getting drowsy, I thought to myself, must complete this before I sleep. Scribble scribble..

“They have so much to say
So much to show the world
To them, people are but a canvas.”

I couldn’t budge. My torso was fixed in space. But who cared about such petty trifles? I was finally in flow! Nothing could stop me from reaching further and further, and extending my left hand across the pool of pitch-black anti-light as I kept writing.

“And I? I am but one of them.
A pawn, like Mare’s traveller-
Who withstood the test presented
by the host of phantom Listeners.
‘Tis for me to speak, but not to hear.
‘Tis for me to see, but not to show.
‘Tis for me to feel, but not be rewarded
with the treasures of compassion and understanding.”

My left hand was slipping through empty space. It couldn’t seem to grip whatever it was groping for in the dark. There was nothing but blackness before my eyes now. Yet the words, as if rolling greased upon the frictionless temporal surface of the paper-sheet, spew forth effortlessly now, whether I ordered my hand to write or not.

“Of penance and of tragic whatnot
Is this life’s mettle of sturdy make.
I am but a bobbing buoy
On the oceans of frivolous
Horrors of Uncertainty.
Upon the perennial winds do I nod!
My bell’s a guide for lost ships deserted;
My lights accompany mariners adrift.

But none that views
The light from the House
Lingers on beside me.
I bob on, on waters of Unreason
No light do I see to guide me.”

Tears rolled down my still and frozen cheeks. My hand creaked in awkward tones, yet managed to etch this upon whatever surface I was writing then:

“A statue carved in living stone
Is still dead, it’s spirit’s gone
Mourned by none, for deep within
There lies only pitch-black sin.
As none other dare to hitch a share
Of the soul’s journey to Purgatory.”

My jaw froze in the grimace I had imprisoned long long ago in one of the darkest prisons of my being.

“The shade shall someday
Steal from me
All those of whom I truly love.
But Father! Tell me, if you will-
Tell me, is it really enough
To give up each minute
Every miniscule moment of life
Expecting damnation to strike me down
As soon as I but glance the-“

My hands sprang into action. I snatched the sheet and tore at it, crumpling it beyond visible recognition. My arm arced above me as it threw the bolus to where its predecessors lay. There was a thud in the darkness. My head had dropped on the tabletop, temple-first.

Nothing stirred for a moment or two. And then, in the gloom, I heard someone call.

‘ Is there something wrong? ‘

I looked up, painfully parting my eyelids.
My eyes hazily focused somewhere beyond the walls. Almost a whisper, I gasped with my last bit of breath-

“Help me, please…”

The light of a new morning dawned upon the deserted desk, through an open window. The glass was cracked, and broken at the top right corner. There was a light breeze that gently billowed the phantom curtains, and played through the sheets of blank paper strewn on the table. The nascent solar glow lit up one of them, which lay nearer to the window than the rest of them, upon which could be made out these words, written in faded graphite- almost as if shaded into existence. They were clearly centuries old, quite suitably in sync with the atmosphere of the empty abandoned room. It read,

“The winter’s passed,
Here comes the spring-“


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