Poetry at Sangam



FIGURE* by Priya Sarukkai Chabria

What’s the figure in the carpet? This isn’t a Persian
spread in amber, pomegranate and madder

red, it’s no emperor’s dream underfoot of hunting
cheetahs, fishponds and simurghs trailing

vibgyor tails, each relic disbursed by war,
restored and draped on museum walls flung

across the globe nor woven two centuries ago with
rosettes ,millefleurs and christened to bear its lore —

 The Rothschild Polonaise, Paradise Park, Kcurokian
…No this carpet is homely, wearing

the indent of sibling scuffles, chairs and memory.
An edging of charcoal vines encloses a cerise

oval looped to palmettes laid on moss
green ground –which changed through chance

contact with light and family history. Its red
once the shade of blood held fast pales

from tips to its base of knots as if to loosen
from the earth of birth. The carpet’s green — two

toned dye of sweat and sky — when dazzled by light
dissolves; its colour of aged bones, mottled skin, clot

of pus of which we’re made — dies. What remains is blue,
the green turned blue of far hills, the cast of heaven –

as Goethe said ‘the darkness of infinite space seen
through atmospheric vapours ‘. This sole chameleon

smear — 5×3 –is all I have left of home. Rumi, whirling,
sang when the soul lies down in that grass, the world

is too full to talk about. Is this the figure I tread
towards as Ma drifts in the music of dead stars?


*Henry James: ‘the figure in the carpet’– the ungraspable key to a writer’s philosophy