Poetry at Sangam




(for Leela Samson)

Spaces in the electric air divide themselves
        in circular rhythms, as the slender
grace of your arms and bell-tied ankles
    describe a geometric topography, real, cosmic,
    one that once reverberated continually in
a prescribed courtyard of an ancient temple

in South India. As your eyelids flit and flirt, and
        match the subtle abhinaya in a flutter
of eye-lashes, the pupils create an
    unusual focus, a sight only ciliary muscles
    blessed and cloaked in celestial kaajal
could possibly enact.

The raw brightness of kanjeevaram silk, of
    your breath, and the nobility of antique silver
adorns you and your dance, reminding us of
    the treasure chest that is only
    half-exposed, disclosed just enough, barely —
for art in its purest form never reveals all.

Even after the arc-lights have long faded,
        the audience, now invisible, have stayed over.
Here, I can still see your pirouettes, frozen
    as time-lapse exposures, feel
    the murmuring shadow of an accompanist’s
intricate raag in this theatre of darkness,

a darkness where oblique memories of my
        quiet Kalakshetra days filter,
matching your very own of another time,
    where darkness itself is sleeping light,
    light that merges, reshapes, and ignites,
dancing delicately in the half-light.

But it is this sacred darkness that endures,
        melting light with desire, desire that simmers
and sparks the radiance of your
    quiet femininity, as the female dancer
    now illuminates everything visible: clear,
poetic, passionate, and ice-pure.

Note: The line-end rhyme-scheme — a b a c c a … d b d e e d … f b f g g f … — maps and mirrors the actual classical dance step-pattern and beat — ta dhin ta thaye thaye ta. Left-hand margin indentations match the same scheme and form.