Poetry at Sangam



The Swimming Pool by Ranjit Hoskote

You’re dripping away, shedding water and scales
as you climb

out of the pool, giddy, gills wilting into lungs:
searing balloons

of trapped oxygen. The light and lyrical self
is burning up on re-entry.

Purged, it stumbles from a wet pelt
sloughed off on the floor.


Shavings of sky, sawn by the wind, drop on the water.
You flick away the light of unreported moons.

Never disturb dust, attachments or silences.
The handprint you left on the wall
when you came out of the pool
is drying in the noon-heat:

you’re a thumb and a digit
away from extinction.


Noon-shards: a grey man’s hacking at a block of ice
with a sickle. Leaves shimmer on the water

that flinches like the skin of a sleeping dog
when he trawls the tree-fall with a frayed net.

Your body is a gathering intensity of shadows
broken by a surge of glass.

Regent of vacancy, gather up the folded bathrobe
from the abandoned chair. Settle

under the deck umbrella
whose shadow has migrated across the pool.


He gives in by degrees
to the slurp and sluice of the pool.
Little deaths claim his time.

Now another he enters his mind, tissues, cells:
that he is plunging through the upside-down sky
to catch the diver’s farewell, the lost pearl.

Centaur foundling, surviving twin: they wrote me
on the brittlest pages of the songbook.
I’m wearing this season for the last time:
for the last time this green shawl, these leaves twisted

to form a diadem. Next year he will return
as fire, gulls floating above his head.
His image will trail behind him
in a canal of shouts and whispers.

Thank you, he will say to the lifeguard,
That is not my skull you have there

in the raven’s mask.