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.
The last monsoon the black scorpions were restless
we fogged them with steam, brew tea in a mud pot.
The fire in the stove flared from the squall
as the cyclone moved toward the coast and lashed
tall waves on the church. My hair was braided with scented oil
to nest the snakes that came from the well in large numbers:
that was the only way to tease them out. The leaves rested
in the gutter as the algae in nebulous howl went down the pipe.
The door breathed with moisture, expanded in girth
across my chest, as I sat in the firewood room.
In the intimacy of my body, the full moon swelled
through layers of cloud, stitched my sap to the cycle of the earth.
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?
Breasts can hang like a pouch upturned if unencumbered.
The tension of the nerves, the muscles cradle the energy of desire as
he arches his ache upward in an abandon of dance.
The kayak floats over the nautilus in the churn of time when no wind
blows from the other lands. He loops around my legs for a day
in a lazy embrace. When shadows mark the horizon
like a hermit crab that senses tremors in the sand he recoils
into the calcified memory of the earth. The waves
proliferate stories of our origins. As the evening turns amber
like the roots we brew, the bottom of the stone tub swirls in clouds
with the shapes of people we identify: many of them fell to diseases
to save us. The sand is pregnant with the lost ones
the flair of the womb mirrors the dead child I buried
when the tongue of the sun gouged the sea into a tsunami.
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.
All that he owned was a tamarind tree
even the land where the house stood was not his.
So, what is yours, the young wife asked coiling her finger
into his matted hair. His drunken eyes looked from her
to the pods on the tree, her skin the texture of seeds.
Eyes swimming like leaves in the breeze he recounted:
my mother made me a mirror of earth and river.
She laughed, but there is no river for miles around.
Here it is, he held her wrist. The nerve twisted in
sediments of the memory of her people. The river ran
below the skin of cantaloupe, in the musculature of soil
where the roots of the tamarind spread. She saw them
in the spine of her man and the fine branching of blue veins
in the neck as he arched towards her.
The house was built with timber and driftwood
every stone and rock from the ground was tossed out.
Wild rice boiled on the clay stove.
She searched for tomatoes in the bush in the backyard
scraped on a rope of wetness, the green vine snake
darted for her kohled eyes.
Her man fancied crab kozhambu for dinner, walked
through barley grass to the marsh, pincers forked
into the loam at his feet.
He stopped short on the walker’s path in the field.
A nightjar like a mustachioed guard stared through
the purple twilight.
She cupped her mouth and shouted into the darkness
waited and raced the echo of the voice that rattled
like the coins in a tin box.
An oblong stone turned into a bird
skittered over the pond to splinter the black sky
into ripples of moonlight.