What’s the figure in the carpet? This isn’t a Persian
spread in amber, pomegranate and madder
red, it’s no emperor’s dream underfoot of hunting
cheetahs, fishponds and simurghs trailing
vibgyor tails, each relic disbursed by war,
restored and draped on museum walls flung
across the globe nor woven two centuries ago with
rosettes, millefleurs and christened to bear its lore --
The Rothschild Polonaise, Paradise Park, Kcurokian
Hyderabad…No this carpet is homely, wearing
the indent of sibling scuffles, chairs and memory.
An edging of charcoal vines encloses a cerise
oval looped to palmettes laid on moss
green ground --which changed through chance
contact with light and family history. Its red
once the shade of blood held fast pales
from tips to its base of knots as if to loosen
from the earth of birth. The carpet’s green -- two
toned dye of sweat and sky -- when dazzled by light
dissolves; its colour of aged bones, mottled skin, clot
of pus of which we’re made -- dies. What remains is blue,
the green turned blue of far hills, the cast of heaven --
as Goethe said ‘the darkness of infinite space seen
through atmospheric vapours ‘. This sole chameleon
smear -- 5x3 --is all I have left of home. Rumi, whirling,
sang when the soul lies down in that grass, the world
is too full to talk about. Is this the figure I tread
towards as Ma drifts in the music of dead stars?
*Henry James: ‘the figure in the carpet’-- the ungraspable key to a writer’s philosophy. This poem is from the sequence monsoon nocturne written for my late mother
Low clouds, mist and fog dissolve to reveal robust views of medieval forts, palaces, temple spires. As if --despite the structures’ brooding breath -- the past is a story suddenly planted in our midst, or a chimera of a mutable, inexhaustible universe that lives alongside us.
Powdery rain. A monkey shelters under
the royal cupola. Scratching, he surveys his fief.
Through sunlit sprinkle two monkeys study
four Japanese tourists sketching the fort.
Something unknown drizzles the face
of a tourist as he gazes past the silhouette.
Are we glyphs in an ancient arras
shot with mica?
Grasses that rim windows
bend under raindrops, each a roll
of crystal and moonstone, halted
from fall. A cloud parts: gleam
ushers gust. Shower. Prismatic
as us on the brink of the everyday
waiting to slip, scout , enthral
while a silvery langur leaps
to perch on the balustrade
where your arms repose --
its face unchanged as its ancestors.
Distant ice judders.
- after a YouTube clip of the Northern Lights
Space ripples and glows and fades and blossoms
that dangle above our crown. Look up
at the celestial jellyfish. Hear it pulse
from horizon to dome, hear it copied
in bloodsong and breath,
as reflection in the retina,
as scent beneath nails.
Tousle hair in its tangle.
Lull in its arms of air
while feet stay stuck in soil.
Weave hymns to its umbrella of suns.