I wrapped my sense of self and meaning around my identity as the big brother. It’s shaped who I am since I was five years old. It has been my north star and my guiding principle. It’s the outline around which I attempted to maintain my colourings.

Obviously I will always be a big brother. Obviously. But still, I’ve always kept one eye on the closing target of all my siblings reaching adulthood. When they should no longer need me. Part of me relished it; the reluctant leader who could finally relinquish control. Who had in fact been purposely loosening the reigns for years. Inviting discourse, discord, discovery.

And now I stand largely free of those old responsibilities. These young women and this young man sit around me as my peers. I offer counsel, not command.

So what next?

The slow creeping realisation that I’ve conceded the only land I’ve ever known. It’s me standing on the far shore of three comings of age, feeling washed up and suddenly finding in this some common ground with my parents.

I’ve been outshed. As I naturally should be. I feel better for it all now. Truly. But that isn’t to say it’s been easy. I opened the door to their personal truths and uncovered ugly mirrored reflections of myself. Glimpsed distortions that shouldnt be seen, perhaps. To find out you haven’t entirely been to them (for them?) who you thought you were.

What was it all for then?

I thought I did the things I did for them(!), for myself. To struggle against type and swim upstream for decades, just to see it was as likely as not to have made any discernible difference on them. I suppose it did make me a better man in the end. So there’s always that.

It’s a curious feeling to find myself in the position of fostering selfishness. Enforcing solitude. Unpeeling the co-dependency that hid in all my noble sacrifice. To realise in some ways I’ve been holding them and myself in a stranglehold, stifling our growth. Does that betray some lack of faith? I’d never considered the possibility before.

I stand haggardly on the far shore now, with these thoughts and questions to keep me company and little else. In due time they may want my assistance again in also crossing over to this side. Should I help then? Perhaps not. Is that the lesson here? To stop nudging things and instead to stay visibly afar, leading from a distance henceforth: knowledge of my safe passage ought to be enough.

I’ve learned this much at least
That you spend the entirety of your life becoming, perhaps – if you’re lucky, that is
But even so, with this particular period, or that one, clearly demarcated from the others, some of the growth is simply more than the rest; stands apart

Those moments or days, weeks, years
when you’re the molten steel in the crucible
the angry hot, liquid empty rage
and at the same time, the refashioning hammer

It takes time and craft and mastery
Self-mastery:
failures and failings both
and those fears faced openly

Chasing it all just to see if any of the new pieces fit
and when some do, you begin to beat away at the clumpen thing again
Patiently, lovingly, with dogged determination

And a thing takes shape.
A re-purposed thing.

As you can track the winds in the flight of birds, so too do I trace the hand of god in your movements
A maddeningly pure grace, simple and honest – made all the more enchanting by your very ignorance of it
Your total commitment to the task at hand, the dedication
as you go about your daily works,
springs forth vitality in your wake
Life, even, as obvious as that which shoots up
from watered soil
Radiant. Glowing.

Perhaps more men have stirred to honest prayer
by the likes of your kind
than by priest or sermon or the knowledge of certain death
whose words are dimmed in your light

Honest prayer:
supplications, enduring affirmations of joy

Disney don’t takedown the image pls

I don’t know if dissociation is the right word
but in recent years I’ve found myself 
revisiting old memories
and seeing my younger self
not as myself, oddly,
but more often as a child stranger
or a younger sibling

Old wounds then unfold and tear again in surprising ways,
catch me unawares in the most unsuspecting moments
A line from some old film seen countless times before takes on new life and cuts me fresh,
leaves me struggling not to weep for little me
Some inoffensive tweet or rediscovered forgotten detail looses old thoughts

And then the big brother in me wants to ball up his fists
and fight something, someone
How could they do that to him? To that trusting child? To me
How could she say that to him?
How could he let that boy think that?

Arman once ran out with a cricket bat to fight a neighbour
who too loudly argued with our mum on the street
and I had to pull him away
even as I, myself the hypocrite, kept a keen ear through the crowding aunties

I on the other hand once mused that the deaths of my parents would be sore days I could easily move on from
– a hurtful truth to admit –
but I would certainly have to die before all my siblings
or God help the world that dared remain in their absence

And that same familial, brotherly instinct
kicks in
when I see small me
Us with our wholly shared genetics 
and him without a big brother to protect him

And if only I could punch a hole through time
just to whisper none of those things were his fault

danse macabre

the ghosts of my forebears hide in my bones,
make them dense, live on in them
they steel me with their collective will
inherited

a hundred stern faces
of strangers
cold women, hard men of small stature and sharp features
some dark, some milk. blue and green eyes amid them.
horse men, mountain men, ganges men.
conquerors, kings and princes. titled lords and judges.

esteemed people of character and repute

the hundred – no, thousand – faces flicker in disgust
as they mount with every passing generation
their cumulated weight ever increasing, as did their machinations
agendas criss-crossing, too many voices at once vying for attention
each straitjacketing another and grinding the whole almost to a halt
frenzied static: a net movement of zero

inert but for their shared disappointments in how things turned out

I wrote over a hundred mediocre bits before my grandfather died just over three years ago. I wasn’t particularly close to him, but I think the piece I wrote in his memory in the days that followed his passing was my hands down best.

And since then I’ve managed to sputter out a meagre six.

It’s hard to shake the feeling that attempting any more poetry somehow trivialises him or his life and/or death. Or that I can encompass any topic as wholly or honestly as I felt I did with that piece. Or that any other topic will ever compare to such a man, who was – in his own way – a giant in his day. I find myself thinking about him more than I assumed I would, post-demise.

It’s strange. I wouldn’t have considered this greaving. But what else can it be? The man has complicated an entire artform for me in his wake.