When the gods dance
on the street the first day of Panguni
she rolls the mat
spreads her legs
nestles in the warmth between
a stone from Kollidam
serrated with age and kinship of earth.
She carves a pestle
the hollow indent of navel cradles the empty sack
where seeds rattle –
the pods hard and bristled like her tonsured head.
They say she was barely nineteen
when she was widowed
soaked her body in kashayam made with liquorice root
embalmed the face in neem paste.
There is a type of plant that serves as fences
even goats do not eat the leaves
breeze does not pass between the branches
whorls of leaves
masquerade as flowers.
Panguni is a Tamil month, from mid March to mid April
Kollidam is a river in southern India
Kashayam, a Tamil word for decoction
A butterfly dusted in sunset orange dips into a flower
like a diver who tears into the silky fabric of the sea.
The honeyed bees are encrusted and scaled with pollen
as the laced wings whir, toss the flowers.
I feel most elated on a day when sun licks the earth in thirst
the notes tumble from the dried twig, set fire a song.
I think the poem hid in a flower, in the wings of a butterfly
in the pollen on a drunken bee, in the song of a thirsty earth.
I raked the ground, sifted through the crumble of browned leaves
watched the earth yield a plant and offer a flower to find this.
I will blame the blueness in the sky
the berries fallen and crushed under feet, seeds carried away by wind
the plain breasted bird on a dying tree.
Sun soaks through everything, stitches specialness into the ordinary