The Earth, A Bride

The chinar leaves are falling on the tombstones of all those interred
yesterdays, turning red and yellow as if desecrating summer, as if

blaspheming spring, as if there is something auspicious about dying
in robes of holy vermilion and turmeric, colours of beginnings, colours

of marriage, the earth a bride, led towards the waiting river in a
funereal march, dressed in the red of sunset and henna, in the yellow

gold of sunlight beaded upon her veil, her lover, the sky, watching from
a distance, his eyes cold and grey. Remembering is a colourless prayer

whispered to a cloud. Every morning the sky changes, the clouds are
replaced and the supplication that leaves my lips begins a new word.

Another leaf falls through the emptiness, held in the palm of the wind
for a moment, before it is buried with the rest. There is no path to return

to the bough. Every morning the tree changes, the birds are replaced
and your name that leaves my lips turns yellow and red as it ends.

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Nowhere Else

Even that god,
fleeing a burning heaven,
clambering down
sheets of fiery air,
paused for a moment,
silent.
The skies he had made
for birds and dreams and
the echo of temple bells
were scarred by the breath
of death laden wings
and the sounds of children falling.
Even that god
looking down at what was left
of truth, of earth,
of life, of the living,
sighed.
He knew
he had nowhere
else to go.

Even that god.

Image by Anthony Intraversato (Picture prompt provided by Visual Verse)

First published on Visual Verse (Vol 05, Chapter 06)

There Are Mirrors Everywhere

Thirty six degrees in the late morning, the sun acrid as mother
squints into the sky, as if expecting Lord Yama* himself to descend

on his black buffalo. Surely, there would be death, already, the hot
air was reeking of burning flesh. Yesterday, a mirror broke, fell from

my hands and multiplied its shiny self. An omen so evil, mother,
while ironing her silken mourning clothes, planned atonement and

appeasement, the priest was summoned and people and bovines,
known and unknown, were fed. Look, I showed her, I did not splinter, I

have eleven heads now and twenty two breasts, I have been reborn
from eleven wombs, my navel unbloodied. Later, breaking bread and

vows and lines, I saw myself reflected in another’s eyes. There are mirrors
everywhere, mother, waiting to blink, mirrors black as a buffalo’s back,

that can shatter your being, mirrors that trade fragments for a truth,
barter eleven promises for one unblemished soul. That night, we

gathered arms and lips and thighs and omens from walls and floors,
making ourselves whole, the hot air already reeking of burning flesh.

 

 

 

*The Lord of Death often depicted with his mount, the buffalo.

Bird Angels

The birds used to come to the square then. No one knew where
they lived, but they arrived by the dozen with the first stripe of

dusk, ate from our hands as we crumbled hours that had turned
brittle with waiting, minutes baked into bread with the salt of tears,

pieces of us, dark, dark from wanting the light. When birds consume
our fears, our memories, when our shadows slip down their throats,

their feet turn white, their wings grow wide, they turn into angels
that deny the night. When pain is scattered like seeds, they flutter

down, impatient moons in rapid descent, eager for stories, that can
never be told. Last night I saw you alone by the fountain, more

silhouette than man, your fist full of broken dreams, the sky above
you empty. I knew that you had heard the silence. Birds fed on angst

and agony and sin, that learn about love and eyes and separation,
birds of our dusk can become white angels but they never sing again.

Absence

Your absence speaks words you cannot, pressing
against my back, as if it was always there, before

the beginning, before you, a starlight ghazal, a
friend , a lover, a thumb print before there was a

name, a mirage before the first sand, a certainty
before wonderment. This is not a void wearing

the mantle of pain, this has the skin of naked sky,
slips between my clothes like fingers of the afternoon

sun, not waiting, not asking, a shadow without
the form, alone, yet connected. This absence was

the prayer before the first moon, the promise of
always, the reverberation before the first summer

rain, this absence that lies in my bed, holds me till
I fall asleep, becomes a dream in the darkest hour,

becomes my oblation, becomes breath and salt and
blood, as if nothing, not even you, can ever be again.

Even For Winter

they sat there in the evening light, cups of tea
and hot bhajiyas on the plastic table, people calling
out from the street as they passed, asking about their
children, their mothers, even as their wives waited
in their kitchens and bedrooms, they sat there and
thought about a pink cheeked girl, how they could
steal her, keep her, break her, destroy her, and they
smiled at the people passing and asked for more tea
and took calls from uncles and brothers and the birds
sang as they came back to their nests and they talked
of a child and how they would kidnap her and sedate
her and who would rape her and who would kill her
even as their wives waited in their kitchens and
bedrooms and their mothers prayed louder so
their sons would live longer and they asked for more
tea and smoked cigarettes till their arousals were
hidden in the dusk under the cheap plastic table and
girls, little girls, bringing goats and horses and cows
home from the hills walked past, not knowing, not
seeing, and they called out to them and asked about
their brothers and fathers and ordered more cups
of tea as their wives waited and mothers prayed
and a lone god silently cried for tomorrow and
a flag fluttered one last time in the distance.

It was cold, bitterly cold, even for a himalyan winter.