Poetry at Sangam




We women always know when the Goddess
is preparing for war: those of us who are
bleeding, stop mid-flow and those of us who
are out pursuing mates turn and come back
to the bellies of our homes, to the valour of
our mothers.

When She prepares to battle, we do not smell
the tangy spices warming in our lofts or see
the feisty jasmine twining along our hedges;
we do not want to touch the ripe grain in our
full fields or to arrive into the seasoned loins
of our men.

Whenever the Goddess goes to war, we are her
unfailing stand-by of sharpened blades, should
her bronzed swords ever fail her; and her best
shields are not burnished brass and copper, but
the sturdy bones and weathered muscle of these,
our bodies.

When She stands and practices, we are her count
of strikes; when she rests, we are bearing earth,
when She speaks, we become space, carrying the
syllables on; when She sleeps, we are the resolute
images of target & strategy rising and lodging in
her dream.

When She waits, it is us She relies on to stand as
guards at the gates, the ramparts, the doors and
windows; when She tires, it is our kind bosoms
that rock her, our voices that lullaby. We also do
her accounts and take efficient care of things on
her behalf.

When She has to spar and train & both brother &
husband – the only ones who can stand against her –
are off, one chasing women, the other pursued by
yogis – She turns to the pestles, ladles, brooms &
other things of our kitchen to strike & test against
her sword.

When She says Come my sisters, my daughters,
mothers, children, all you women, stand as eyes
and ears to my doing – we know how to knot our
stomachs tight, to stiffen up the cage of our chests
and hold our breath in, we know just how to keep
our strength.

When She prepares for war, falling sands rise up in
old measures, birds fly ahead and loop their songs
back to their throats. Earth, water, fire, wind, ether
turn inside out, but we women are neither stopped,
nor lessened, we stand & turn into portions & parts
of Her.