Anthology of Contemporary Indian Poetry II


The Gurdwara with a Bell

It took me a kneel-down
to know that a garlanded photo frame
can give more joy than
the god tucked within,

that the damp grey dregs
of burnt incense
are laden with a coy
catechism of slow fire,

that a deity can easily
be coaxed into submission
or roped in by the silence
slithering in prayer 
and half-whispers clung to
the throat's drumskin tautness.

It took me supine surrender
to see that a copper bell
fastened to a roof beam can
resonate reveries much before
finger touches clapper
or eyelid kisses sclera,

that the body rejoices
in the quiet which swirls
in the closed-room dusk of
heat-swollen afternoons, when
the primal yearning of flesh
makes the bones quiver

with the fear of vehement
sinning in the very midst
of saints, ever watchful
in their still-life serenity.

Mountain Maker

Did the mountain maker
build the thing up
stone by unhewn stone
from foot to crest

and leave the rocks astray
to heal the hollows of their
supple cavities
with mud marinated
by the turning of seasons?

Or did he knead
a lump of loose brown soil
on flatland
like jaggery gone viscous
in a summer without end

and mould it with the lined
shell of bone and flesh,
his fingers slapping the sides 
like barn slats, 
his palm sheltering the top
like a shrine's cupola

to check
with a potter's precision
the scattering 
of the only knickknacks
rescued from a lifetime of 
teasing a little melody
out of the plastic chaos
of claycraft? 

And then maybe he sprinkled
a neat net of crevices on
the first such malleable mound 
to make the underlying mortar 
immortal with green crepe,

an unmistakable bookmark
to his favourite passages
on the spherical tome he
keeps dipping into,

never tires of.