Delhiwale: Poet of the road

American poet Michael Creighton reckons he gets plenty of inspiration just ambling around the city.

delhi Updated: Feb 05, 2018 11:58 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi
Mayank Austen Soofi
Hindustan Times
Delhiwale,Dilliwale,Michael Creighton
Michael Creighton strolls idly along side lanes in unfamiliar territories — until it’s time to figure out how to get home.(Mayank Austen Soofi / HT Photo)

This American poet has lived in our midst for more than a decade, doing what most of us never do. Taking long walks — sometimes for hours at a time.

Michael Creighton reckons he gets plenty of inspiration just ambling around the city. And particularly in a teeming corner of Delhi near a smelly drain — not far from his home in Panchsheel Park.

He actually picks a place rooting with pigs and cows and as a sort of heartland for poems he has written over the years. It’s indeed a fetid locale where “in today’s grimy sky/the evening sun glows/like an electric tangerine…”

Mr Creighton and his partner often take those long walks in the evening after their children are settled for the night; sometimes straying to as far as Connaught Place, “which takes quite a few hours”.

Normally they’re just strolling idly along side lanes in unfamiliar territories — until it’s time to figure out how to get home. “We’ll try retracing our route or if that’s too complicated we’ll just hail an auto!”

The intrepid poet doesn’t even rule out the brazenly busy and dangerous Outer Ring Road. He figures that “watching out for potholes and unruly traffic becomes second nature over time.” Last month, his first collection of poems was published: New Delhi Love Songs. Mr Creighton shares a poem with us.

Meeting

What feeds this long ribbon:
clean rain,
crooked rows of brick and tarp,
the ancient, unruled quarters—
Chiragh Dilli, Kotla Gaon,
Shahpur Jat.
A thin flow at Sainik Farms,
by Sheikh Sarai,
it is fat and ripe.

Before dawn, shapes squat
on these banks; by noon, pigs
splash and root in the shallows.
Above, boys sort trash
and throw stones at dogs;
downstream, strong men
strip off their shirts
and bathe in a leaky
main’s spray.

In today’s grimy sky,
the evening sun glows
like an electric tangerine,
and wood smoke from campfires
covers the scent
of swamp gas and sewer.
Sometime tonight,
this slow current will join
something larger, somewhere
an old woman will sing an old song:
After so long, the moonlit night has come,
after so long, this meeting.

First Published: Feb 05, 2018 10:27 IST