Poetry at Sangam

SangamHouse

 










ON INDIAN ROAD by Meena Alexander

I

I have come drawn to water,
Rooks in trees preparing for winter
A glazed horseshoe dropped a century ago,

Bits of arrowhead
From those who lived on this land,
Who thought the sun and moon beloved companions.

We were young,
Hair the color of crow feathers,
Mine spilling down, yours spiking skyward.

You had a shawl
Flung over your shoulders.
About you, the glamor of the very young poet.

We stood at a stall sipping tea.
A lorry painted with a four-armed goddess scratched to a halt.
The driver waved at us, strolled into the bushes.

Who is the greatest singer in the world?
Breathless, you picked up your own question –
Begum Akhtar. Who else? You must love her too.

My heart is given, I replied, to M.S. Subbalakshmi.
I will not take it back.
On the road where we stood it started to rain,

Under the neem roots
Earthworms wriggled.
I heard a supernal, fleshly music.

II

Shahid – the movie theatre where they showed Fire
Is burnt, rexine seats and all.
At the rim of Dal Lake, boats smoulder.

In your valley I see a girl, her feet so very clean,
Washed in a slipstream.
Her face pale, her kurta jonquil colored

March birth flower,
For the month she died.
On her left breast, the marks of barbed wire.

You said you were at the last ghat of the world,
What did you mean?
A heron, feathers bloodshot, swims to the horizon.

Love is its own compulsion —
In dreams you become a black god,
Our splintered geographies of desire

Sucked into meteors,
Flaming round your head.
Now I hear your voice in the cherry trees

In the thud of lost arrowheads,
In the resolute clip clop of horses,
Manes blown into the sun.

You stroll through clouds: beside you chinars float,
Four of them, making a secret island.
By me, small boats rock, hulls singing.

(In memory of Agha Shahid Ali, 1949-2001)