She buried her husband at eighty one,
her sight left at ninety five, now at a hundred
and three her hearing's gone
where no one can hear her scream.
It takes two days to adjust. After a century
of propriety, minding a girl’s place,
dark rooms of menstruating,
a wife’s tumescence, in-law’s tolerance,
and a great-great grand that she is
surprised to be finally alone.
She grabs a broom with the fervour
of an iconoclast, and sweeps
away all that she dislikes. From the safe
vantage of her mind, she reopens a story
that drove her awake
a thousand and one nights in terror.
Sweating beside sleeping mother first, then husband
she sees a spotted panther enter her village hut.
Mistaken for a lamb by her father,
who grabs it by the neck just as it licks
her face in anticipation of succulence,
and frog-marches it into the pen
to let it loose among the flock.
Reinventing freely, she relishes it bloodier:
an entire flock flayed instead of just the two,
whose bitten necks make her mother shriek,
and the chicken ovulate out of shock.
Queen of her story, she paints it over
and over with lucid stokes
impeded occasionally by sharp pains
in her arms, the chills of invigorating juices
flowing through her veins, and a desire
to urinate just when she's getting to the best part:
her father lifting her off the coir-cot, enveloping her
in his wide chest as a single tear drops
that stops her mother’s caterwauling in her tracks.
Babu Genu Dagadphode shells peas,
dropping the husk in a radius about his feet.
Unconcerned by stares in the 8.39 to Belapur,
he thinks of his wife and picks another pod.
Babu loves his Sumati, and she him,
or so he hopes, but has never verified.
De-leafing a cauliflower,
pulling strings off French beans,
his homecoming flurries drive the train on.
Which gives him greater pleasure?
The soft Pok! of a pod,
peas exploding on his palm in green orgasm,
or uncovering a misshapen pearl, tiny,
succulent, that he tucks away in his mouth,
with a scarce thought for his Missus.
By the time he is home, Babu Genu
will deplete a third of his load,
ring his doorbell with green fingers,
and greet his wife with emerald teeth.
Sumati sees, but just the same she loves her Mishter
for his trivial traveling kindnesses.
She thinks he loves her too, but has never verified.
by Mustansir Dalvi
Bio: Mustansir Dalvi is Professor of Architecture in Bombay,
is currently Poetry Monitor at the Desert Moon Review. His
poem "Peabody" was awarded 1st Place in the December 2002
InterBoard Poetry Competition (IBPC). "Choosing Trains" won
Prize in the Asian Age Poetry Contest 2001. Mustansir Dalvi's
poems are published in the e-zines Snakeskin, Octavo: Poetry
Quarterly of the Alsop Review, MiPo Digital magazine, the Writer's
Hood, can we have our ball back, Pierian Springs, The Crescent
Moon Journal and Bakery of the Poets and in print in The
Critique, Poetry India: voices of silence, Poiesis: A Journal of
the Poetry Circle Bombay and Poetry India: emerging voices.
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