for the jawans killed in Pulwama
Last evening I drove past the line of crows
realized that at the end of the street stood four hooded men
The burning wood left tears, the lamp post trembled
in the rings of smoke
Anger mislaid brick over brick
From the threshold, I could see the dead
one after another fall into the white crack of light that
poured through the gutter grates
With my palms smeared in ash, I went to complete
what the fire began
The message to the gods coiled through the viscosity of air
hung between the two worlds
The universe is an elongated throat covetous of the farthest constellation
Call it home even when the meteors pulse
implode the cells in the brain.
It was luck
that took me to the first line
that creased the face
when worry constricted
the bones at the chest
The threadbare day
spun yarns from empty tales
when I could not choose
between the sea and the mountain
Both were a gateway to another life
Most times space turned inward
to the remembrance of light on the skin
stretched to the radius
where the sun distilled colors
on the flowers
as the leaves
held the conversation with the tree.
The word in her mouth is a cluster of sharp consonants
she whispers m k and t, compresses her heart in a.
Brown of her iris folds the prism of evening light that splinters
as the birds in her garden escape the slant of the song. She has learned
to pare down the heartbeat of the city to a monochrome of white light
where she sits turning the rosary bead. Her mouth moves in prayer,
her tongue runs along the soft palate, the molars extracted after years
of the root canal: it is a soft mound like the grave at the edge of the village
she saw him dig. Her breasts produced the extra ounce of milk
at every childbirth to be squeezed into the mouth filled with soil.
What would mark the slowness of time
as the daylight spreads like the dust of chalk, moves with the bees
on the terrace?
I hear the sharp call of parakeets
from the branches of the mango tree that grows from the seed she spits
a summer afternoon holding the fruit like a bowl of sex.
She floats near the ceiling the days he keeps away
visiting the dancer who peregrinates the temple
like an exquisite sea animal.
Bluest light pools the craters gutted in the womb
ejecting the uterine wall. She quivers at the interface with earth –
hard mantle collapses and the softness of love leavens his departure.
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?