Before the Divorce
On their last night together,
he finds her naked on the
bed, his right hand on her chest, the left slowly probing what he is convinced is
the grand canyon
of betrayal. For most, love comes in shape of a flute. Or a birthmark resembling forgiveness. She is a black piano standing beneath a waterfall.
Weary of the futility of grief,
she pulls him close.
A train passes at a distance.
Neither hears the other breathing.
The kitchen drain is choked with leftovers.
Its drain croaking in broken Morse Code.
Did did did da da da did did did.
The train plunges into the dark as he looses
his fingers in her hair. A broken inkpot of black.
It begins to rain.
Dry leaves choke the drain. It is not Fall for nothing.. A stray white shoe
clogs the drain
like a misplaced full stop.
On that cold winters’ morning
I swam in a burr of traffic – teachers, jokes,
old anecdotes, an odd sweetheart, life’s lessons in gratitude
scattered like goldenrods
and those hiding places
where we left and lost
the odd vacancies we would never
recover – a kerchief, foil balls, the first smells of
sweat and melancholy. The thought
of a kiss. Perhaps.
I met the boy, just as I thought I would –
huddled in a corner, looking at his watch,
waiting to go back to his room,
sink into bed and read himself to sleep.
The boy stared at me from memory’s edge,
smiling, content to know I still remembered.
Then there was this old sweetheart – the point
of this poem after all. Having lost none of her charm,
she was still the nightingale flying over wet meadow
into light and sunflowers. She spoke
with the surety of a married woman. Skin
a shade of burnished stone. She and her husband
wanted to start a restaurant
in a quiet Scandinavian town.
‘Please do invite me’, I bantered, ‘I would love to visit,
see you quarter a chicken,
sit at your restaurant
done in burnt ochre and green.’
Stop pulling my leg, I am still only thinking!
I wanted to tell her, because at times the whole
turns out lesser than the sum of its parts,
it is preferable to keep the parts,
and let go of the whole.
Like combing the night of fireflies
and keeping them
in this perforated jar
of a poem.
Unpeeling these oranges takes me
into the wrinkled hand
of a woman who gave my father a name.
It was said of her that she was a shrewd woman, though
benevolent to her servants. I remember their lot
huddled in front of the black and white TV, each
Sunday, watching Mahabharata, much to
Her death was written on the walls of her home. It was
foretold when her children decided to uproot
her garden and make a house bigger than her memories,
her longings, her strength from the time her young self
had made an artificial urinary sphincter
by cutting and joining condoms, for
her dying husband.
And so she withered away and died in mother’s arms, her
stomach a site of memory battling cancer, her absence
a form of poetry I teach myself every day.
Orange is my Madeleine, its smell the vortex
that was her grey, tranquil eyes.