|Jan/Feb 2013 Poetry Special Feature|
In Hazaribagh, people don't hear the sound of a blizzard.
There wasn't any history of it in the tales their grandmothers
told them during nightfall, not a single mention of snow—
what these ladies knew was that this was a sun-burnt town
with a couple of rivers carrying shiny traces of a mineral;
and, if someone did navigate up the stream, like that Englishman,
they might go mad and turn into elephants in the woods.
They told stories of such elephants, like prophets, to the kids,
watching their eyes swell at the thought of crushed bones,
and slept with their husbands without a noise.
Sometimes, they looked toward the forest for tuskers,
horrified and anxious for the harvest; sometimes,
they tucked the corners of their saris between the lips
and gathered in the field to sing to the gods, who,
even after the failed consent of 1947,
did occasionally listen.