Sisters That Bet

The sisters moved away from the valley –
Kadru didn’t want anything of the forests and hills
marshes and darkness that left her depressed;
they moved to a low cliff close to the sea,
she sunned on the rocks waiting for her thousand eggs to hatch.

Vinata collected stones and twigs, built a nest
with wind-swept feathers, dry leaves,
cradled her golden egg in cosyness of care,
bordered the nest with a  levee of  sharp stones.
Waited warily for the serpents her sister would birth.

Kadru was fatigued cracking the eggs,
reaching for her thousand serpent babies,
throwing away the shells that built like a small hill of foam.
The children looked through slits of glass eyes
reached for the warm crevices of rocks. 

Not one given to parenting she fed her babies
for  a day or two rats and fledglings, 
then she went to her  favourite rock
lay there looking at the clouds above the sea
that changed shapes ever so often.

Kadru  was disgruntled  with her brood – she
had asked Kashyapa for a thousand sons, but  Vinata
as always outdid her, asked for one son to surpass Kadru’s thousand.
Jealousy stirred like a python when Kadru saw Vinata’s  golden egg
as it lay on the rock to collect sunshine for five hundred years .

Vinata kept busy having the egg warm at night time  
protected it from the cold sheets of wind that blew from the sea –
she built a clay oven where she placed the egg ;
through the day she watched the knotted coils of serpents
as they moved  on rocks, foraging for prey.

Kadru annoyed with the clamour her hungry sons made,
busyness of her sister clambering the rocks,
moved close to the sea, walked on the cool strand of sand .
She thought she saw an apparition in the horizon –
just a family of clouds gathering into a thunder storm?

That is Indra’s horse, Vinata  pointed to the horizon.
Kadru scowled. The seven headed white horse. Uchaishravas.  
Vinata’s lips rounded around the name
the way it did sensuously when Kashyapa told her the story:
distracted he had stooped and taken hers in his.

Not all white Kadru said, let’s fly close to the horse,
if it’s not all white I become your mistress.
Running her fingers  over the veins on the shell Vinata smiled.
Spent with lovemaking  as they awaited pink dawn
Kashyapa narrated the story that she listened lying on her stomach.

The sisters flew like wisps of breath emerging disappearing in the blue,
the fish looked at the sprites waving thin arms, propelling as they flew,
like little girls they giggled rolled over as their skirts tossed ,
like translucent marble their thighs shone in the morning light.
Uchaishravas looked at the two beautiful women skimming the ocean,

unaware of the serpents, the ugly sons of Kadru, on his tail
that crawled like lices, black shot trough silver – making him not all white.

This is the end part (beginning?) of the three poems that I have written on Garuda.

Following time order becomes problematic when there is no linear narration of events. Time in Hindu belief system moves through cycles of creation and destruction, end and beginning become synonymous : Pralaya wipes away the world only for the creation to replicate the world that has been destroyed. Srimad Baghavatham begins with someone’s end, reading the puranas presupposes moving through narratives, going back to read a story that began at the end. The motif of a snake swallowing itself with its tail in the mouth explains the non linear, cyclic  nature of story telling.

‘Sisters That Bet’ is written to the prompt from Poetic Asides where we are asked to respond to a poem that’s already been written. Yes, I am responding to Vyasa who is claimed to be the author of  Srimad Baghavatham.  But Vyasa allowed his son Suka to narrate the stories to Parikshit the grandson of Arjuna. And the stories get their existence as a body of work only in this retelling. So who is the author?

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