|Apr/May 2004 • Poetry|
And have you yet walked past the grimed mill walls?
Or is that your silhouette leaning out,
wick-turned and waiting at the window sill?
But no one sees that sly lean, no one shouts
your name; my sin-drunk cronies in the lane
are busy slurping, lidless, from the spout.
The shutters clap, but gloating eyes remain
on sleek oil pools outside the motor shop.
The dog-cringe to the hollow din of canes
on sidewalk cans, the crawl to that bus stop
where you stood waiting for me as I roamed
the rum-black roads. You turned your white wrist up
to the gaslight, and when the last bus chimed,
you groped the corners and at last walked home.
Some have stood their ground, and some moved west
along these tubelit, coffee-drenched hallways,
suitcase in hand and hoping for the best.
A hostess leans forward and shuts the last
of luggage racks; the maps of runways haze
to men who lose their ground and travel west.
Below, it rains on fallow land and waste,
on pencilled plots of mud-washed browns and grays,
unhurried eyes that close and wish them best.
And sheaves of paddy, waist-deep and twice blessed,
wet pods that burst; forgiveness comes always
for men who stand when others have moved west.
Such men who lived, who drank from shell-pale breasts,
who slept on beds of husk on swollen clay.
Some crossed the lit earth, praying for the best.
The passengers, the cabin-crew, the rest
have left; a little mud of monsoon stays,
unwelcome on prim carpets of the west—
the jasmine earth, the earth that knew them best.