Three poems

The Girl-Child

Where will you hide, my love? There’s no such place,
The body is a traitor, a fool the other, the face;
The eyes, the eyelashes, dreams or tattered sleep,
This man a robber and that man a thief.
Take the water pot to the river –
Is it the summer or do you have fever?
Who stole your heart and left his on a hyacinth leaf?

What was it you hid among the bushes, was it your shame?
A bundle of life not even blessed with a name,
Let it lie there and cry, for the jackal and the vulture, under the burning sky –
A girl-child. Did you whisper in its ear: it is sweeter to die?

Round Things

The sun is round, the moon is round, all round things on earth
Make the bawling man-child dream of the waters of his birth

Blind swimmer on a slender cord, pressed out like a seed
Sprawled legs at deliverance, sprawled legs at the deed

Two round things to feed him, two round things so near
Two round things to tell him there is nothing to fear but fear

Boy-man turns and goes away, there is something wrong
Round things leave him hot, confused, round things make him long

For games that he has never played, nor would if he could
Ask the neighbour’s girl-child? Unsure whether he should

A mystery, a puzzle, a curtain, a shroud blowing in the wind
Father-man with the mother-woman, is it they who have sinned?

An army of apes raids the garden, litters the half-ripe fruit
Rama strides with His axe while Krishna plays the flute

How to keep my share of the loot, coveting another man’s treasure
Girl or child? They grow like grass: how to keep the measure

‘Liberty!’ calls the bird in the bush, ‘Loyalty!’ the bird in the cage –
Tenderly tend and tenderly provide, tenderly slaughter in rage?

What stirs in an old man’s loins? How does a godman die?
The fire that burns and the tears that flow in every newborn’s cry


The sky as empty as a bereaved mother’s eyes
Day’s thick tongue laps at the brackish hours
A nine-teated bitch snaps at the flies
Under the municipal truck, where it cowers

Corrugated tin singes the crows’ feet at noon
Dhani Ram’s cat slinks down the alley
Frogs spawn in puddles, the tadpoles will come too soon
But not the flowers in the Sulupi Valley

Villages fester, fields crack like unoiled skin
Putrefying carcass of a creature in the ditch
Where shall I find odes, jade and jasmine
Greetings from the nine-teated bitch


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