Branches and leaves hunch
over the river, her brittle dirges in the blooms of nila vembu
a mere whisper from the pale throat of the flower;
during the music practice sitting by the canal
unbeknownst  the gates open pushing
her into the thicket,
the hyacinths tug the skirt she wears to mirror
chandelier of steepled bamboo weighed in  the hook
of her breath,
the skin a sunset of rashes from the hive of bees
in the backyard; a winding path of slush
the family saw her leave her hair coiled with oil
steeped in yellow  flowerheads of false daisies
heated on the mud stove and the iron
pan is still warm when they go for her
green from the moss in Kollidam.

A Window

I look through the window of the house:
Rooms, the semi-lit passageway, flakes of paint
Spent with moisture, the crack the length of a wall.

I walk down a street, stare at a house that
Could have been mine with the smell of wood smoke
In the yard, from the lopped gooseberry tree. 

The tart fruits combust, the roasted fenugreek seeds
Are warts on the swarthy skin of the pickle. The family trades
Dishes across the table: rice in return for lentils.

It is commonly held that cassia trees are meant
For avenues, so is the tamarind though the pulp simmers
In the stone pot at the kitchen long after the fire is put off.

What is it that peeps from the book at the shelf?
A slip of the sky to mark the page: a day in early
November, winter dormant between sepia covers.

Vision is crammed through frames of a window
As brain cells are compressed in slabs of memories;
Clothes she eased out of the wasted body, now

Bundled up. From a certain angle, you can look out
Without being seen. A window – any portal – aids  
Transitioning: a human body is one such.

The Sea

The waves without prying steal
           into the morning, leaving unmoved the uncovered feet
           sticking out of the boat

Like finches caught in wild grass, the sand
            in his hair and the countless salt crystals in particles
            of air chisel the shifting wind

The blanket of grief is tucked under the chin,
         untouched by the cyclonic squall stirred in the Indian ocean:
         what else can splinter him more?

The horizon is taut in an unplugged circuit.
         The light of the red-hot copper brush the wings of geese, curl
         between looped fingers—his son’s

The mother, unable to toss loss in crates
          that men haul to fishmarkets, pictures the sea in squares:
          a picture card of sunset—her son’s

The Maxim Drawn from Clearing-nut Tree

जल कतक रेणु न्यायः

The light on the window sums it up:
This is the year of drought in the city—

Days are endless as the land endures the heat.
Buildings bare sockets, hardly dent the glare
Of the sun harsh on stumps of shrubs, moving

The river of lives dry and ache of thirst.  

At noon after hours of rest, the spring gurgles a diamond stud
Of water. My mother covers her head with the mulmul
Saree, scrapes
The bottom of the well,
Soundless so
The rocks don’t hear the pot,
Relent a spoonful, cloudy and honey-stained.
The palms ridged by industry
Fills with the resin
From clearing nuts. The paste mixed in the muddy water:
A lesson in the amalgamation of science & spiritualism.  


This world does not exist
Likewise, it cannot be dismissed as non-existent

– Extracted from Dakshinamurti Stotram

I cannot tell anymore if the walls are blue
Or the petals of a rose. Patterns on the grill
Sharpen at noon when the milkman rattles
The gate. The smell of coffee, the dark
Decoction drowns the whirl of cream
Before the vapor engulfs the face, smudges
The kohl into a raincloud. The icy fingers
Rip the coat, notwithstanding buttons of bones.
Opposed to my silent bearing, the walls
Wheeze squalls of exhalations, the tiled roof
Breathes the storm brewing over the bay.
These are ways maps are drawn, routes
The city bus takes in the grooves of the brain
Filled with buckets of tar: everything real
Duplicates by dubious recurrence— déjà vu. 


The builder showed
around the house, the backyard
she visualized a garden.

Her eyes rose
                      the stone wall to the crown
of banyan trees skirting
the property next door.

When she came to know what lay
on the other side,
the pearl loosened
                                      from clasp as the chest
                                      heaved from smoke,
lungs dry—
contrary to the belief the body is all water.

When he said: your child looks like my dead son, she held

hers in the hollow of the chest.
The milk seeped through the lilac mulmul kurta.

He said that was a good death
— as if the loss is a fruit, tender with the taste of earth—
a good yield of Banganapalli.

There could be rotten ones, secretions pooled in cavities.

He carried a small body
and then the next
outside the village,
shoulder ripped by pain, a part of brain telling:
a cage of warm bones
now dead wood,
noisy, defying the lashing flames
like little boys who dart out of a mother’s attention.

She kneaded mashed yam after rubbing her finger crevices with oil.
Rolling balls with spikes of chili,
her eyes watchful as sweat beaded the upper lip.

He thought he could travel
beyond seas, build
a home, grow a maple tree, tend azaleas.

He did not notice she cracked like summer earth,
skin clogged with garlic flakes, the mango sucked dry,
                      pith scooped by pyre.

His home with sunroom was soon rendered a graveyard.

Uncoupling II

As if fumigation can wipe away
years of Samsara—
an ochre scarf around his nose,
              he stretches under the springs
of the sofa

Nothing has changed – he need not
live in a cave
contorting the limbs
in an attitude of surrender

Everything is changed too:
he eats a bowl of nothing at forenoon,
                    at sunset slices in quarters
                    hunger pangs,
peeling away the skin to watch the fruit

Not knowing how to celebrate or mourn
weakens the scalp of thoughts:
assign patterns, draw maps,
break time into chants
as counter-narrative

the morning light wash
mossy tree bark, the bird cries
in looping urgency
             mistaking radiance for heat

The dimple of yellow enfolds
the false daisy in the backyard
when she asks:
at what point did you stop looking?

Uncoupling I

The clutter chokes as she offers coffee. Her hands shake:
flowers in the rain from the previous night, the soft petal face.
She pauses on giving the cup, dips her fingers in the salt jar,
sprinkles textures from her mottled skin on cooked okra. When
knuckles clink on porcelain, the materiality of his waiting ends.

It is known he must not wear a tailored garment: robed
in self-imposed seclusion, not a stitch on the body. Breathing
deep he moves across the small space, picking one rice grain
after another for the silverfish burrowed in the old book crusted
in time and dust, seed and sod, breath and saliva.

She holds against him for wanting all she desires. That is a sting,
the razor snips his curls, the silver mined in dense forest—
white horses on a moonless night. There is no space for two.
She cooks, slices moonstones of baby radish
in the tamarind broth of muddy thoughts as he takes the path.

He recants forms, the shape and texture of her throat once
translucent as a lotus stem, an old woman’s pouch now. When
she lifts her feet to cross the threshold, he turns away to burrow
in the pastel core of silence, looking intently at the emptiness
as the air decants with the freedom of uncoupling.

how to drink loss

Home is the place I can think from— carapace of dust
from milling crowd outside the window.

The street lights go off one after another, the ring of mist
diffuses like the dispersal of a cloud of bees.

I sit in this tight circle eying how far others throw their nets:
some come back to stuff dirt of the earth in their mouths,

most uprooted listen to the tree fall in the distant forest
in a soft thud of grief as they hold their warm mug of coffee

and look out at the snow-covered driveway. How do I hold
her in tenderness— one way of tending a life is to stand in a queue

at the shop as beans get roasted. It takes time to prepare
a tumbler of frothy coffee— a lifetime if it is the final gulp.

You in your chair overlooking the deck and I in my terrace where
the hibiscus shrub is eaten by mealybugs, hold the cup of absence.

The Journey

You ask, can music do that – curl the tongue around the stitch of ache –
when the note touches the ceiling of the hospital room as you take
your walk and the night sky rotting green burns at edges with city lights.

You wear black, rest like fractured old wood on the migraine flare
that flames your body. I gather your feet to trace the rings of age, sluices
of calcium whorled in volcanic blooms. I cannot peel away your dreams:

they march one after another down the jungle path to snake across my feet.
You and I pack grief in Samsonite, as I haul the suitcase into the car
I cannot say what weighs more – all that you carry or that you leave behind.