Do You See?
Brand new poem on DANSE MACABRE XXXIV‘s all-poetry April issue “Belles-Lettres“.
Wood-Story Before the Millennium and Now
This is a table where we used to keep a glass vase in the nineties
the sun a syruping gooseberry often tumbling out of it reckless
a wooden table, smooth-plank body of a tree dressed for our
weekend dinners. Some clutter as it happens with faces clustered
coats of varnish and heavy-lashed lacquerware, dead-white ceramic
this will still be the same surface where we will spill the gravy
push the sparkling tea across, lick any fallen crumbs with thumbs
Keep the fast, it gives long life
to your husband, those elderly
women will implore and
let the table carry ornate
plates of offerings you won’t easily touch
only after the moon does first
its shadow on the water on your silver tray.
And then the table can sing like a cricket
all that crockery clattering
we will eat everything before
the moon-shadow devours the mind
ignoring what the women say.
In fact, you will know, I only cared
about just crickets because they
love the blackness of soul just as I do.
When I close my eyes I see my aunt lissome and dark with her braid
long like those thick twines for hauling country boats to shore
she smiles and shows a tooth we were told is of the elephant, rare.
I see her on her back on the bed tossing a red plastic ball over her chest
lob and drop and lob and show the gajadanta smile while my uncle
sits two feet away on a table, the one they never dined on, used as a shelf
for things, littered for the most time. He dangling his black-shoed feet as
if he is a kid watching the unbelievable enchantress woman’s trick
of lobbing a red-desire ball high up; the head of the old-fashioned bed
preventing him to leap forward, also because I zip into the room
looking for my cousin as uncle shifts, legs undangle, the table creaks.
The life story of woods
when they come from
forests of greenness
tells of more lines and stars
than found on our palms.
I don’t remember when Habib Tanveer or Gangubai the siren throat died
when was it bringing home wads of cash that quick dirty jobs paid was cool
money for home, food, electronics, but no song or lines; but I do remember
rehearsing one afternoon with Habib for a play we would perform in a street
where racketeers and launderers ran their shops; they watched, we stood
on the dust as if on breadcrumb crusts strewn on a table top, hewn uneven
because no one cleaned; a china cup stayed back, the old tea leaves telling
a tale of the millennium as they should, like all things emancipated and sweetly old.
This work is supported by Sarai-CSDS, New Delhi.
Image from Danse Macabre literary journal