This volume features 73 short pieces, mainly poems, that touch on relationships and perceptive moments.
In his debut collection—which includes essays, a poem in Hindi, and a song with chord progressions—Gulati contemplates imagination, unfulfilled dreams, loss, and love, among other subjects. Most of the works are in free verse, but some are rhymed; for example, “Denial”: “Looking through the window; / Pacing around the room. / Sifting through the sun; / Gazing at the moon.” Gulati takes a wide point of view, drawing on both Indian and European cultural sources, and imagining himself as or identifying with, for example, women (“Standing Proud and Tall”), widows (“Land Beneath M+y Feet”), or the poor (“King’s Chariot,” “Salvation”). While some poems speak of happy relationships, more often the poet seems isolated. For example, in “Pondering over Dark Streets, a Cut Moon, and Smoke,” the speaker smokes a cigarette beneath a streetlamp, thinking of a lost love—or trying not to think about her. His focus is on the dissipating smoke, the stars and moon, or a stranger going by who “nods somewhat blankly, / Tries to connect, / And then walks past.” The numbered pieces don’t appear to be arranged in any particular order. Number 8, “Cryptic Colors,” for example, treats similar themes to number 71, “Empty Canvas.” More judicious arrangement would bring the collection into better focus. Some works lose force through being too self-consciously poetic: “Oh! Enchantress of a land unknown, / Shall visions of you remain visions alone?” But Gulati’s more muscular juxtapositions really work: “marks left on the floor, / From perfectly dead leather stilettos.” In that line, perfectly dead is perfectly right. One of the most successful poems is “Mirrored Image,” where reflection, like love, only appears to be true. Rather, the mirror is made from conflict and is hollow within: “Minerals, silica and sand dredged from deep, / Burned through and forced together, / Reflecting images but holding nothing inside.” It’s a powerful metaphor for the hidden anguish beneath a smooth surface.
Sensitive, thoughtful poems that examine life, love, and stilettos.