The chances are the dust from the hermitage
outside the city
be carried in the bowl of time. When close
to history the hair on the skin
moves to the light from the tunnel of past.
A monk goes to the forest
learns ways to live a hundred years. Covered
in meters of matted hair
he arrives at the large mansion, speaks of
the prince who renounced
kingdom, wife, child. Nails and bones
from his emaciated body
are stripped to cells of hunger and thirst.
Interned urns excavated
from burial site carry the scent of ripe pear
dimples of yellow-green
like sodden leaves during monsoon. I choose
a chamber to sit in silence
the open window and trunks of lined trees
the iridescent sky.
Is there a need to clean the floor, the sharp
whispers of the broom
in the quietness? The beaked Palash flowers
are ready to fall.
Birds with extended necks and throbbing throats
alert for flight.
All lives are connected
trees and plants are one organism
that nurture each other
the weak soldiered by the strong.
There is a warrior in my garden
the Plumeria tree that grows in a large tub
she has not a single leaf and will never
waste energy on producing one all summer.
She breathes deep and holds life
for pink protuberances to burst into blossoms.
In the tub there is a hum of roots, a stray
tomato seed waves pale and spindly shoot
a robust butterfly pea creeper threads
a nosy tendril into the air for support from
the naked branches. Blanched
leaves of honeysuckle vine trail
over the tree as they gulp mouthfuls
of sunlight for chlorophyll.
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 moringa tree wants me to snip its head every time
I run my hand over the shoots.
It rather stays my height so the leaves, flowers and pods
remain within grasp.
I bring every part of the tree to my meal, mulch the soil
with its own waste.
Can I do all these to my memories – nick them so to
garner the light of the sun?
It is easy to catch the smell of despair in the scaled trunk
crumbly like algae in a temple pond.
In secrecy I wrote your name on the bark, watched it grow
into rings of stories.
Each letter faded out, absorbed into the core of the tree
that is ungraspable.
I do not need the aswatha tree to teach me lessons of life.
The moringa does better
by paring me down, shredding clamoring limbs. I shed leaves
to reach for my small voice.