My friend

NB: The title of my WordPress blog ‘After the truth shower’ originates in this poem, which was written one evening in 2010. I posted it on Blogger on October 12, 2012, after unsuccessfully attempting to publish it. It was written for my close friend Rabindra Ray (Lalloo), who passed away in January 2019.

Here it is again Lalloo! Enjoy yourself, comrade, wherever you are Dilip

my friend

my friend was mad once
and he said what have they done
to my painting, this
is not mine anymore, why
do you want to poison me and my painting
you will murder me, I know
where is the night, I want to sit by the shore
eat one last meal, and walk into the sea

then when he was no longer mad
he told me it’s not pretty,
whatever you think about mad reason and sane madness
whenever you speak heroically of insane poets
holding aloft tattered flags of rebellion
when you celebrate the gutter in which
we lunatics find ourselves
remember this, the howling silence
the shadow at full noon
the stalker in an old friend’s eye
the knife in the kitchen
the stone in the head
the abyss of sleep
the bend in the road
the question inside, always breaking into
shattered glass, a mirror melting
as you look
walking backward in a tunnel with no end
remember me then
it’s not pretty

where is the night, I know
it travels with the day
as I walk out of a tunnel, backwards
and see beauty in the lines I drew in the starlight, standing on your terrace
in a black blanket one cold winter,
with no meaning to inhale
from my stalking shadows, no
grandeur sensed
from the hole in which you stood
sinking, and smiling and speaking of your heroic insane poets

we were there once, together, you and I
neither more mad than the time that made us so
neither less capable of speech or sight
and yet you stood in the marsh without sinking
where are you now,
has the mire taken your soul?
that you should mistake my shattered mirror
to be a clean slate
for our hopeless dreams?

wake up my friend,
embrace time’s light, you have it
we have it, you and I
in us, to see a painting appear the same
or even different, but with the same eyes in our skulls
to wash our faces in the fragrance
of every new day
to take the bend in the road and yet walk
without lament
for the shriveling season we left behind

take my heart in your hands, hold it
whilst you may
for this much else will have ended
for us to remain friends, laughing as we did then
enjoying the glint of recognition as we did
that no-one understood, the poor things
when we were maddened
not by heroic poetry nor the moustaches of greatness
but by life and laughter,
dreams of soft arms and warm lips
and absurd things

take my hand, my friend
upon your heart, speak to me again
of colour and light
despite the shadows,
speak of love
after the truth-shower
speak of life, blissful union
after broken bodies
share sweet strains of music, kiss my cheeks, there’s still time

so said my friend who went mad once,
taking me with him into a tunnel, backwards
holding my hand as I lost my mind
and spoke of insane poets in a long lost future
so said he


I know no melancholy 
but that of friends 
gone mad and I 

R Ray


In Naxalbari, 48 years later

Remembering Rabindra