LOVE AND OTHER NEIGHBOURHOODS - Two Poems
Ours was a flowing stream of conversations in
sleep and rising. My father would rest my dangling arm on
his elbow navigating the narrow
in-lanes of the Paltanbazar market where the fish
rose to kiss your nose in their offering of the inert eyes
and chopped heads. Ours was a walk, like a song the Bush
transistor radio played
on early autumn nights bright with the Venus gone astray.
Father was all sandpaper and read-aloud rhymes. He liked
turntable music sifting through weekend afternoons.
My mother, meanwhile, would be telling me practical stories:
Many mothers take things too seriously, but it
was always better to picnic on the grassy slopes of Ward lake;
show off how to spread butter evenly to other rash wives and show
off legs under maxi skirts. Not to forget the vanity
bags she carried to her office visible to lovers' eyes.
The neighborhoods of light and shadow I was allowed to know of.
The stories from my father that made sense to both
of us were the times he got jailed.
Coarse blankets, one mug for both mouth and butt. And gunny bags
to soak monsoon dank, then carry the dead.
There he ate with seers and read with killers
and most often he heard them talk of women who could whistle
and love with ease. Yes, little mother, he became pensive.
For one, I wasn't quite ready to be a father.
The girl with her not-yet-there-breasts cannot
even look back. The crowd is heavy & grimy man
pushes behind the bone-thin 8-year-old molded
into a stunned mess of tears & protest. But they
have to get out first. The younger brother dragged by the right,
she by the left hand. Uncle doesn't like a stampede.
She doesn't like the unkind pinch on her chest as though
wasps were stinging her never to let go. She cries.
She cries years later when the breasts are beautiful and fulfilled
of tender desire inviting loving bites. Her floral frock
discarded she slips into the silk gown an older
woman left in her tin trunk &the youth rustles, smolders
at her own touch and caress. The flesh loves hands, yes,
it does like that the tongue loves fresh mint twigs accidentally
trapped between the teeth. It doesn't behave, say
the learned who don't long anymore.
She now lets her infant daughter's hands linger over the same breasts
the child cries & breasts grow tout with an excitement --
The story of touch sometimes paints flowers through the night.