Poetry at Sangam




Here, in this room of Bhutanese elders,
I learn to catch my breath again, allow my fingers
to be shaped into lotus-flower offerings
to the sky. And when I can do this 108 times without
guidance, the woman behind me — cataract-beset,
toothless, wrinkled – who’s been picking stray flecks
of fleece off my back, touches me in a way you can’t;
gives me the food she hasn’t eaten all day, the words
she hasn’t spoken. So afterwards, it is almost easy.
To walk outside where the young monks are chewing
gum in the sun, listen to them scatter down stairways
like sparrows, point to the opening of space through
which I mean to escape. I want it to be graceful,
as she was, feather touches on your jacket and a jewel
in your hands. But when the light hits us from behind
the granite cliffs, all I can muster is to lie with you
on the monastery floor, guide your fingers to the door-
ways of my shattered heart, so you can feel it too —
the ocean that travels with me; how it gathers and breaks,
gathers and breaks; like love, how it stills, then parts.


This poem appeared in Everything Begins Elsewhere (HarperCollins India / Bloodaxe UK / Copper Canyon USA)