ranjani murali \ winter 2014
Yes, the parrot in the cage is mine,
but he reads fortunes. On rainy days, he
flicks his head toward the ant-hill
on the side of this tree. Famous men come
to see him—the director who recently
celebrated the hundredth-day jubilee,
the local minister, the mayor, and even
the child-star who likes to play with
cheetah cubs in his spare time. The smell
of feline hair on him sends the bird
into a tizzy—he claws at my knuckles,
and then, draws, always, the tarot card
with the goddess riding a lion, as if he
has felt the tearing of a claw under
his silken neck, the sound of a cat
licking itself before the blood comes,
the instant when the cage snaps shut
and the predator, leashed and delirious,
is foaming at the mouth, standing
outside, waiting, to hear his fortune.
“If you’re going to come to Bombay, come at the bottom.”
-- Suketu Mehta, Maximum City
The blue plastic sheet on the auto-rickshaw is flapping as your voice wavers.
There is a rain here, our own, I often say invitingly. Let’s call it--this clouding.
Watch this road— a circular brushing of bay, the pavement—a blur of dust
and rocks cut against the grey colonial façades, the leaping lions.
My arms are visible, but you will not circle my palm, city lover,
or touch the damp denim, the stray thread, my clocked lips.
Glassing of sea, of press clubs, of marine-drive kerosene lamps--
my names are written and written over granite sunk in cobbled street squares.
Flinch my temple, pluck the sound of honey come come and dabal rate for auto ok?
from my throaty syllables, my rust-grasping fingers. I chased a blink of leaning
bodies on the train this afternoon, where the light turned, packed between our hips
into mirror shards, my reflections strewn on pink nails, clicking sandals.
Your eye reaches for my holding, of breath, of these meteoric
flashing seascapes, this cramping of skin, and I must throw my head
out this trundling drone, lest my light scatters, seeping from between
our reflections on the rearview, punctuating this clouding.
Ranjani Murali received her MFA in poetry from George Mason University, where she taught creative writing, English, and composition. Her poetry, nonfiction and translations have appeared in Pratilipi, Phoebe, elimae, Cricket Online Review, Kartika Review and elsewhere. She was the recipient of Vermont Studio Center's Kay Evans Poetry Fellowship and a nonfiction fellowship from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and most recently the 2014 Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize in India. Ranjani lives and writes in Chicago.