I begin to talk to the moon
I have been wanting to do it from the time
I experienced the phenomenon
that moon is not an astral body
not a satellite that books make it to be
and that was when I was a girl
looking up as the clouds scudded by
the palm fronds eclipsed the sheer whiteness
I walked streets, past buildings
wearied I reached an open ground
the orange lantana was sobered by the spectacle in the sky
the crown flower poisoned a deep purple
the shadows of the leaves sharp on the burnt grass
I did not have to look up to see the moon
earth was a receptacle
the way my skin, eyes, limbs
incandesce with you
love like the moon is a phenomenon
I run untiringly to the open space
to garner you in the orchard of my heart.
It is believed in the town that the sun directs its light into the well
staining pearly radiance at the curvature where she aims the spittle
He mapped the channel of the dribbling silver by holding her body
blue grey like the spent rivulet draining into the dry mouth of delta
A green snake taken in the mouth stirs under the tongue of moon
the cobra ascends from her groin fans out hood of desire in her breast
When pain colors like oleander she knows the blood flows in reverse
from the tip of the finger to the dying throat of the flower rasping for breath
The last time I saw him he was saluting the sun, his head a hive of memories
he did not know she was crouched over the fire as a last act of supplication
One hand on the slab of shoulder, the other cupped over her ear he called
into the empty house, primeval cry razed down the structures of language
Every landmark held a story, for instance the blue house
of the Tamil teacher whose brother was a priest.
They had a small chapel on the terrace of the house
an enclosure built with bamboo poles and asbestos sheets.
Rain pelted on the sheets during monsoons,
lines of anxiety on their faces held the chapel through.
I prayed too in the shrine in my home
among the pantheon of my gods I placed a plastic Christ.
I put a vase of plastic flowers, fake carnations and peonies
whose names I did not know as a girl.
Out of deference to the teacher who sent home cake every Christmas
my grandmother did not dismantle my shrine in her shrine.
The year of First World War grandfather bought a house
draining his savings, with no inkling if the property was war worthy.
There were rehearsals of black outs – blankets draped on windows,
lights turned off, vegetable oil lamps flickered with frayed hopes.
The night Emden rained projectiles, for half hour Madras held its breath –
breeze carried smell of kerosene from Burma ships into my mother’s sleep.
Grandfather packed his family into a train bound to Mayavaram,
thence to his village. No he would not join them, who will guard the house?
In the village grandmother pulled out the aerial, tuned the radio everyday.
A month later the static crackled with noise, filled the room with glad tidings.
She rejoiced, snapping her knuckles in celebratory anger –
finally that son of a bitch ship has sunk in some distant shore.
There is a map in my head
lanes like dark threads
where dust settles, forms pigments
that I slough years later with pumice stone.
Fragments of cells clog the drain
run through the throat of gutter
into subterranean sewers
that crisscross my city
like the map in my head.
Everything falls off
grains of sand from my shoes
picked from the terrains I tread.
The fire you birthed in me
two fingers below my navel
a fist under the skin.
Warm glow like a thread
you pass from your mother
and I to my son.
I want to tell you
I have remained thirsty.
Hundred years of parched earth
furrows crumble into me
raked with darba grass
looped in his finger.
He consigns me to the fire
that I leave in him.
*Agni, in Indian languages, means fire.
Many summers ago my hair flared
brittle, ready to be afire.
Grass singed in the heat of the morning,
snail of sweat below the thigh.
Snipes of gold the eucalyptus leaves drifted
searing an amber hole in retina.
One never goes blind because of light,
I did when he pressed me to the glass.
I saw the sun burst into a howl of colours
on the trees stretching miles along the sea,
branchless hence empty without birds, no song
to offer the tide that strayed as far as my nest.