Journey

“There are no sons to give shelter,
no father, no family
for the one seized by Death,
no shelter among kin”
                — Dhammapada

The shadow lengthens, breaks on the sugarcane fields
as the day advances. There is very little that I can do
before darkness settles at the corners of my eyes,
the cold stiffens the bones as indigo dusk deepens.

The footwear has worn thin doing chores, my palms
are a complex fold of lines, scales of skin and age. 
I have picked a lifetime litter of dry leaves from almond trees,
collected oranges fruits that hung like rice paper lanterns.

This is the last winter,  I stand before a hearth stoked by
strange hands and drink my tepid tea alone in a hotel room
that still holds warmth of bodies wrapped in swathes of  
Kashmere shawl as the moon froze  like a saucer of milk.

I remember the lives that started journey from my loins –
paths since covered in dust. My life map is a crisscross of transits;
at every departure a new passenger sat on the seat next,
telling not the stones I gathered on the way, but the ones I dropped.

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo : Pete McGregor

 

Meditation

I climb on my breath, gossamer thread
twines in branches secreted from sight
in the dark heights of consciousness.

Words hover in stasis, fall all over a little later
like knotted hair of an emaciated monk:
silence after the raging wind renders havoc.

The footfalls are covered by a fine dust,
the dull thud dislodges shell from the back of snail,
quietness like fabric covers the proboscis of senses.

Colors implode behind eyes, crests of mountains
get indistinct as viscous river of lava flows thick,
glues the lids and creates a rich firework inside.

The wakefulness remains unbroken, loud bur of images
like plague of gnats embed in the cornea of thought,
purple heart of candle lost in the glare of radiance.

Pinpoint of diamond where million paths of light converge,
cuts through the sheet of glass noiselessly, layers
like wafers are shed and what remains is emptiness.

Artist From Srikalahasti

“Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills —  to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts.” (Exodus.35) 

One measure cane jaggery, half measure palm jaggery,
a jute bag of iron fillings. Add these into water taken in an
earthen pot, stir with staff from mango tree every two days.
Craft a bamboo reed into a pen, wind it with rags of wool,
read stories of gods for inspiration. Bathe in Swarnamuki,

make an offering in the temple before holding the pen
to dip in ink (settling at the pot like dark thundercloud)
and trace the arms and limbs of gods. First stroke is a messy line
 – it’s meant to be that way, a lesson in humility:
bamboo reed is only a simple tool, an artist is not the Creator.

I brighten my backyard with pots of dyes, fashion linens
with pen craft, make panels, tapestries with tales of Gods,
incarnations of Vishnu in indigo, madder and turmeric
that I let soak into cloth. Layers of colours breathe life –
red, yellow, blue – as the Lord’s eyes open and fix on me.

(Srikalahasti, in Andhra Pradesh, is famed for Kalamkari art)

Almond Flowers

“And on the lampstand were four cups shaped like
  almond flowers with buds and blossoms.” ( Exodus 37:21 )

Even tamarind trees
have significant blossoms,

but not dusty almond trees
on roadside in my town.

The pale-pinched flowers
like viscous milky secretion,

are white dusts 
that carpet footpaths,

cling to shoes. The flowers,
were they buds at any time?

Mix-up

Coffee turns bitter with spoons of chicory,
tastes rancid; the drink leaves traces in the cup –
muddy streams where I comb for contours of memory:

a protruding bone on the neck, mole under the nose,
lines around lips like paranthesis. Memories bear scars
like river beds where crisscross channels of desire.

The copper glint on skin exposed to sun, hair behind ears
licked by sweat are seen on things wholly unrelated –
born from a mind that has lost count of time,

when present slides into past. I hear a voice in the mall,
I search in the crowded elevator, in the billing counter,
in someone who slants her head in a particular manner.

Presence

The Lord said, “When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”  Exodus 33 )

She stands with her hand on the door,
the lines on her skin scaled with flour dust
in patterns of hard toil. I plead with her to come,
sit across the table, chat as she kneads the dough.
She walks past me without locking eyes,
a trail of jasmine flowers on scrubbed floor
from her hair styled with fragrant oil. Space
between us is hallowed by her silence. I feel her
in the smell of freshly baked bread sitting on
my counter warm and crumbly in my fingers.

Blessing

Esau said to his father, “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!” Then Esau wept aloud.
(Genesis 27)

As he feels the mole above my lip
his senile mind wanders to the escarpment
he sat me to give my first fishing lesson.

He cannot halve the blessing the way
he sliced mangoes further, even further
till he believed he was fair to me.

I stand watching him die, he gives me nothing;
not taking my hand that I hold out for him,
where he had traced lines to places they did not go.

I ask him, don’t you have anything to bless?
His head slides, eyes half open hold me in glance.
When they die even fathers are mortals. Know that.