Poem| Aditya Mani Jha

The 27 Club

The hop, skip and jump
from a pimply seventeen
to a less-than-pleasant twenty-six
has been replaced
by a free fall
a blindfold bungee
a hands-free ride
through a wormhole
of weakening and doubt
and wisdom that bores.

Scrambled eggs will do the trick
Banana smoothies, too
if you make them right.
Rajma-chawal is still the boss, though.
I am now a tireless repertory,
a veritable shaman of hangover cures.

I have a little box full of hate mail
Bigots who wrote to me,
protesting insults imagined and real,
imagining diseases venereal
swallowing me whole.
I keep it next to the box
full of unopened wedding cards.

“Who’s that on the left? He looks old”
“Don’t be silly, he’s only 30.”
“And your point is?”

Two? You’re a prude.
Four? You’re a prude
who met Molly
and her friends.
Seven? You’re a prude
who just happened to
backpack through Europe once.
Thirteen? You’re a whore.
In the algebra of promiscuity
there are exes but no whys.

At 28, Ginsberg met the love of his life.
At 28, Dickinson began writing in real earnest.
At 28, BolaƱo moved to the house
where he would breathe his last.
In another year, I hope to make
a perfect cheese omelette,
an omelette that’s punchy
and word-perfect like a poem.
This is no laughing matter.

I knocked on the doors of The 27 Club. Winehouse welcomed me
with a greasy drawl. Cobain offered me a flower and a floral shirt.
Hendrix offered me a guitar, a lighter and some napalm. The bouncer stamped me on the wrist, a death-head with the word “Freedom”
scribbled at the bottom. I smuggled some fries in my handkerchief
and fled for my life. Jim Mo’ stopped me at the door. He winked at me and said: You’re bright but not bright enough. I suggest you use Jimi’s lighter. You can’t shine unless you burn burn burn.  

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