The summer your mother died was the hardest for me.
A hawk circled in my unblinking eye as I scraped the desert
for fragments of you in the disappearing dune.
Grains of sand like topaz dust stirred the warm night –
all because the moon could make love thicken,
slick on nerve edges, smear throats of desert flowers.
The pollen rubbed into the skin, capillaries of desire
splintered the air that throbbed with unbearable longing
of the bird that dipped from sky into my aching song.
My words snuggled warm in your palm like a bird.
The fistful of life that ran down your wrist was my heart.
Wasps drown in tar of darkness
their shiny coat the colour of night.
In the hollowed cave of silence
water laps, crawls up as if on feet
on hands to clamber steps, heave
over walls like some monster in a dream.
Pieces of earth I gathered
breathed into clods of clay
till roots grew from my palm
branches clenched my breast.
Like a mother I lactated
nerves tips loosened with sap.
As flowers burst into colours,
seeds tugged me. But the cycle
terminated when the sky
declared water is earth.
इदमापः प्र वहत यत्किं च दुरितं मयि ।
May the water cleanse me.
(Apah Suktam, Rig Veda)
The gut knots in loops of metal strings,
muscles tighten around my bag of seeds
as rain batters on the glass that trembles
first, then shakes in a shattering threat.
The night is drained of colours, sedimented
like dark silt. I stretch my arms like octopus –
everything falls away from grasp , only
night dust that I carry in the cracks of skin
as the roof over my head blows away and
water rises to my knees, hips, shoulders,
jaws, mouth, nose , eyes that break into
light bright, metallic, psychedelic where
noise includes silence, and darkness light.
*’Apah’ in Sanskrit means water.
Don’t be fooled by what geologists say.
Earth is soft, pulpy, sucking deep snorts, farts.
Retrieve a foot, other sinks deep.
Father explained how saints walked on lakes
squishing water hyacinths, tangling in weeds and messy algae.
Padma pada – lotus footed.
At the Fair half snake-half girl groaned from a tent.
Mother threw half anna paisa to the girl washed ashore Cooum –
a river once, sewer now.
I gave birth to a snake child, adorned her tail with anklets,
tied rope around the waist, dropped her in a well
among a dozen water serpents.
To come under the blue sky
march north to the mountains.
Few steps into the odorous pine forest,
the wind is hushed – silence
is the truth of noise.
Flaming scarf of the sky
enfolds time. Over towering column
of air light slants at a degree that
– green, blue, red –
into ochre. Disrobe
a life time – cleave it away as one would a garment,
a button at a time – the last touch of fabric,
warmth of the palm of the loved one
as breath turns to air.
Someone has to do this,
ferry people across the river.
When I climbed mango trees as a child
I did not know I was the chosen one.
It is about the way my eyes cloud
as I stand near the sea: it happens
because I cannot see the waves, the spray
as water rolls swift on the beach.
There is no shore other than the one here –
a river has no bank other than this. Then,
what is the destination of the wayfarers?
I push open the door, journey ends there –
at the threshold. He took that step, coughed
into that space. I call into the well after him,
mouth cupped. When he turns to see if I keep my
feet on land, I push the boat and sail away.