Anthology of Contemporary Indian Poetry II


The Mad Woman in the Shiva Temple

She is tantric with her young hands
Erect for a grief between her Shiva and her eyes.
For hours she has been standing
On one leg.
Her saffron robe dusts His third eye
In the shape of Agni.

She knows a man who seized her lips,
Who ripped open her breasts like a purse
Digging away its gold.

Now, what is love, Shiva, my Rudra?
Is it all about stealing the body? 
Is it endlessly spearing the cleft
Between my growing moons 
After that hangover
Between parted thighs?
You know it all, Rudra
Then why do you not speak?
Between you and me
There's nothing left to hide.
The one who took away all my gold
What did he gain?
What do we all gain, my Rudra
Except six feet underground?

The priest goes about his way
He doesn't even see her
As he fills Shiva with fresh bael leaves
Covering his third eye.

And Shiva sends her his gift
The small white snake upon his matted hair
Gliding upon the hollow of her cheek 
Taking her six feet beneath,
Into New Moon darkness.

The Passport

The blue cloth hyacinths that father brought home from Bangkok
Stood heady on the carved round table in the black earthen vase.

Father said, 'Bangkok. is heaven'.
It was the only outside place he had been to.
Perhaps he had also been to the blind prostitutes 
Pushing their pubic dark canoes into the night river
In Damnoen Saduak.
But if that, he did not tell mother.

Edge purpled, his kind of heaven,
The hyacinths blossomed in a dream of coloured fireworks,
Khlongs wet as lusty lips, and the great gold leaf Buddha
Lying like a fallen New York skyscraper.
Father had earned all that for himself, at last.

Every night he was at the carved round table
Dreaming of Bangkok.
Smoke-curls from his Player's cigarette chain
Roped the hyacinths in thick mist, till
They reeked entirely of tobacco dust.

Father adored his hyacinths. He watered them
With that longing look in his eyes, until
They closed into coma.

As he lay in the hospital, turning red-yellow,
The blue petals back home began to lose their shine,
Thirsting for the water of his eyes, his tobacco mouth.
They seemed quite prepared for what would be.

The day death encircled father in Easter mist,
Mother glued his best looking photograph
Among the hyacinth petals, and laid his passport below,
In one last signature of love's quietening meridian.

It was as though, mother, she knew it all.

Of purple-edged hyacinths
Perpetual in father's watering eyes,
And of blank pages, sailing lost winds back home
To where the pubic dark canoes pushed upon night rivers
Of the blind girls in Damnoen Saduak.