The Tale From Mylai

She ran on the cobbled stones.
Her waist-length hair oiled and plaited  
that swung behind, she mistook for the dog
outside Velan paper mart.

At the temple tank, moss webbed jade in her feet
the turmeric from the Karpagambal shop
glistened on her neck as she went
seeking him in the bat-smelling belly of the shrine.

When the moon in the horoscope
moved to the eleventh house
he turned his gaze inward, sat at the temple prakaram
with the odhuvaar and trained his voice.

In the dark entrails of thrashing passion
words from the song housed in his sticky palate
she probed with her tongue into the cavity of his soul
smelling of areca nut and country hooch.

A story for the month: Panguni

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

The Cursed Flower

She sits at the edge of the tide, the sky
bleaches the folds of her neck. The flowers in the skirt 

deceptive take colors from the house. She fashions a tunic
tasseled with strands of time when every event takes a step back.

As the weight of emptiness rests on the rosewood chair
her mind drops into the silenced bowl of the day.

The clock hands tremble with particles of constancy: the clover
fragrant in the smoked fish on the counter, the dust in air

fed by flecks of coal hefted from the stove as corn fobs
gyrate in the squall of hunger. The tongue of the Pandanus flower bears

the language of the silenced deity, she slices the rosette of curse
weaves the fragrant strand in her hair to stitch the gash of shame.

A Tale From The Forgotten Land – II

Mountains thunder down their brawny torsos, nose askew elephants in confusion
wade the river that has lost the banks.

I move homes by tricking the bones and lungs, fold into the heights,  curl in
the hollow of the rocks fetal

as even the eagle rolls out larger than me. The air coils in the tension of terror
along the liquid shoulder of the cliff.

Everything is red this morning – the soil, the river, and water draining my throat –
bloody like the spout from the hawk’s neck.

Stars wheel though darkness as in creation-time nameless but with the identity
of my dead mother.

Where are the homes of birds, food for the bees, the sun whose rays must penetrate
the graves of my people?

Gomti and Sarayu

Sarayu

The two rivers meet in the town
where the mountain spreads legs
for the valley that is prone on her back
like a slumberous woman.

Gomti flows into Sarayu
ceases to exist after the convergence.
In a statement of finality the river ends
as individual lives terminate.

The old temple priest would not let me step
into Gomti, pick a pebble from a tumble
of moss. My ashes will be strewn here,
he said pointing to the stony riverbed.

His eyes rested on Sarayu’s mercurial water
that flowed in silver twists between rocks.
He touched my head to bless and said:
Sarayu is for the living, for you.

A Thousand Full moons

full moon

You might salute the sun
weave your fingers to see the first rays of light

stand waist deep in the freezing Ganges
face east waiting for the sunrise.

Surya powers us with the metre of poetry
the words germinate the three universes.

The earth time is marked with reference to the sun
the rising and the setting, the days and the nights.

In another poetic reality the moon slices the sky
halves the month into darkness and light.

Within the lunar rhythm the sea rises in orgasm
the earth is enthralled in a pearly stillness.

You are eighty years old
if you have lived a thousand full moons.

Image courtesy: Huffpost

 

The Full Moon: A Love Poem

thumbai

After he leaves for the airport
the dust from his shoes settles on the floor

The smell of soap lingers in the room
as I fold the warmth of his body in the  blanket

It goes back to the practice from my childhood
when I wandered in the overgrown backyards of people

to collect the thumbai flowers, pinches of moon in my palm
that  I weaved  into a garland, the pale stem of a flower

pressed into the heart of another, into the soft pouches
of nectar for the bees that helicoptered to my face

Brush of wings a whisper so faint like the slight
movement of his chest as he slept

I pay attention to the small things in him that the others miss
so like the thumbai flower that no one cared to gather.