Selected Poems II


Menka Shivdasani

From Safe House, published by Paperwall Media & Publishing Pvt Ltd (2015)

Earth Mother

Time to stop navel-gazing;
there are forty-five rings
on the palm tree that has grown
out of the full, fat earth inside you,
and look at those leaves,
still swaying, when by now
they should have dried into
flat roofs and woven spaces!

Forty-five years is a long time
to have nourished the birds
and their many-beaked tongues, 
pricking sharp into your
tender coconut seeds, plucking out
the white and liquid flesh,
sweet despite the scaly outer skin.

Forty-five years is a long time,
and the roots go deep,
snaking through the soft and airy
spaces beneath the ground.

Pluck them out. Pluck out the rough
and edgy bark, the trunk
that bites into your flesh,
the roots that rip you 
slowly apart. That tree
has grown inside you for too long,
and thrust its way outside
in obscene ways; let go,
and let the earth inside

rediscover the fresh
new blades 
waiting to grow.


It's time to break the kitchen,
take your fires elsewhere,
watch time and space curl up,
waft out through windows.
Just one last time,
hear the clanging
of the steel, recognise
the drawers no longer fit;
they scrape and drag
along channels tucked inside.
The workmen said these granite slabs
would never splinter; they did not speak
of tilted angles, wooden cracks
that would widen, swell, stay
stubborn on their hinges,
refusing access to the sharp-edged tools inside.
They did not speak of choked-up pipes,
and roach-infested drains.
You wipe the spills off shining stone,
but what's the use?
Stay quiet now,
and watch the hammers fall.

Nursery Rhyme for a Second Childhood

Shut the door,
empty the mind.
It's time to leave
the world behind.
And when this nursery 
rhyme has bled,
find the old woman
in the head.
Strip her down,
claw her toe,
tell her it's time
for her to go,
and when she is
no longer there,
sweep up every
last grey hair.

Then pick yourself
up from the floor,
open the lock
again and run
from the ghostly faces
that have begun
to settle upon
those ageing eyes,
fluttering around 
like pesky flies,
and when you've clawed
that face away,

turn back,
and find me there.