Urvashi Bahuguna \ Spring 2015
Last ride before the monsoon
Spires appear between trees
then in a rush – whole churches
white on the riverfront.
When we return by moon,
candles are ablaze
a million ants scaling to the cross.
We count churches like daughters:
Santa Monica, Basilica, Nossa Senhora do Monte,
Aldona, Brittona: Our Lady of the Rock.
Laterite bulwarks curl the boundaries like lace
on a mantilla veil. Someone has placed champas
their yellow yolks facing sky on the water-washed parapets.
Civilization gives way to mangroves and ferns atop
wooden poles. In the shallow, the boat kicks up schools
of fish in leaping arcs like the opening of folding fans.
We watch the surface for the eyes
of a gator, we lower our hands
into the lilting waves raised by the hull.
In a sky ample with bats, the sun ebbs back
into the river until it rests –
a halting orb in a darkening pool.
The procession of widows sweeps to river height at low tide
to caution: it is time for boats to go home.
We turn the motor off and set adrift like the padma lotus.
The sounds are duplicitous in their numbers,
to tell the call of a Brahminy kite
from an Indian cormorant, one must sift
through the skyborne cries for losses
unnamed in almanacs. Listening
to the weeping on the water, some
piece of us is lost too. And for
being unknown, it slips
silvertailed below the still boat.
we are a few burials overdue.
I think of my father’s mind as fresh
soil over rocky terrain.
He still wakes my mother in the dead
of night screaming – catches her mid-dream.
Suspended between two unreal ports
their rift washes away like anthills in rain.
My father buried one thing every day
for a long time.
I imagine, sometimes, that he will dig
out Dehradun lychees,
and an oak chest full of blue letters
written to my grandfather.
The lines of my childhood have run straight
as he ensured.
He doesn’t understand whom or
what I fear.
He thinks of my mind as a hurricane
in a landlocked country.
He looks at me and sometimes
wants to bury me too.
weights & measures
to weave a basket you need more
than hands and time.
squatting on a rough cement path
for a few hours
braiding one skin over the other
without cutting open a knuckle
to find bone frayed and yellow
in the dry heat of the afternoon
is not enough.
when you have more wickers
to your name
than seeds in a red clementine
you will look into
caves and know they do little
more than hold
ivory comb, someone else’s fruit.
Urvashi Bahuguna is a writer and a feminist who grew up in Goa. The coastal state continues to inform her work in quiet ways. She recently finished her master's in poetry from the University of East Anglia and now works for an NGO that facilitates girls' education. Her poetry has previously appeared in The Four Quarters Magazine, Muse India, The Cadaverine, Flycatcher and elsewhere.