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Maithreyi Karnoor


Maithreyi Karnoor







ALL AT SEA
 
(Short Poems from a Lone Journey)
 
i.
A white Rastafarian says hello
As he passes me by, I smile
And nod back
An Indian man watching
The exchange, wants to take
A selfie with me
I say no
She’s loose only to foreign types
He concludes to his fellow men
In Kannada. I know
I live it everyday.
 
ii.
The sea is salty moisture
In awkward places –
Heavingand tears
And halitosis at close range.
When she sweated, stank
Or cried with my lover
I was also all at sea.
 
iii.
The man who tells me
That a room with a view
Costs six hundred a day
Shows me the hot shower
‘Who needs these?’ I laugh.
‘In Nepal, we do,’ he shrugs.
‘We are warm here,’ I smile.
He gives it to me for five.
 
iv.
Indian men give me dirty looks
Their women, dirtier
Casting sideways glances
At my cleavage as I walk
Alone in my ample body
And simple swimsuit
I shed my caste in a deep hue
In the brine
That morning.

v.
A little girl with curls
Splashing in the puddle
Reminds me of my unborn daughter
Who will remain unborn
So I know it’s a girl.
 
vi.
Gujrati families with daughters
Namedkaamyabi
And Telugu, kraanti
Egg their sons onto the waves
With dar ke aage jeet hai –
The only time they don’t speak
English to their offspring.
And realizing that
‘Summer juice’ is really
Mint chutney in a tall glass,
I wonder why
I didn’t order
Hot Chocolate instead.
 
vii.
From gathering urban moss
Of togetherness
I go wool gathering
And shells at low tide. One
Indian man
Tells me not to get too close
To the rocks where other
Indian men
Smash their beer bottles.
He points me to a spot
Without sharp edges
To seek my conches and cowries
To take back to a beautiful
Indian man
Who will make sweet
Jewelry for me.
 
viii.
Lady who couldn’t hold it
Says desperately
‘I’m fifty!’
I step back for her hoping
Someone will let me
Jump the line when I’m that
And can’t toe it.
 
ix.
All meaning of
Life, the universe, and everything[1]
Was held in that little tile
On the floor of the
Public restroom at the end of
Three beers.
 
x.
A little girl of two, smiles up at me
And grabs my hand with practiced ease.
Her mother in lamaniregalia
And beads in her hands
Looks on expectantly.
I kiss the tips of my fingers,
Press them to the child’s cheeks,
And say, ‘no’.
 
xi.
When looking for oceanic trinkets
Among the rocks
Something long and soft
And orange-brown
Rolls over from the waves
And brushes my ankle
I look down and say
A silent prayer
To the god of carrots.
 
xii.
Long after the techno music dies
On the shore
I squat down in the dark
On the wet sand
Stiffening at Hindi silhouettes
And relaxing at Konkani ones
I draw a long line
Just beyond the surf-mark
The next wave washes it away
I point a finger at the sea and say
‘Bad girl’
 
xiii.
It’s 1 a.m. and hot,
My mind’s frothing mild and bitter
And I cannot sleep.
Russian couple next-door
Is making out loudly
To psychedelic music.
I very politely ask them to
Keep it low,
They very politely
Turn down the music.
 
xiv.
The journey ends with return
To a man
Who is home
For he not just lets me
But makes me
Be.



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