don’t yield up their secrets
easily. Especially after monsoons.
Some of them make it clear
that damp rearrangements
that go on in the moist darkness
take up till winter to finish.
Eventually when I get this drawer open
I find a dark-grey, fungus-ridden
holding old spectacles
with rusted and bent handles, a round, corrugated seed
a small, sharp porcupine quill
a used stamp, depicting two greater adjutant storks
and a brief shred of paper
with words not in my handwriting—
“It’s all openness It’s all gift.
Run up to the Chorla Ghats to a Shouting Point
and scream out from the edge of a precipice:
Each mountain is god!
Each valley is goddess!”
The cat is asleep
his head upside down
and warmed by
the blinking modem
It’s raining outside
I’m open to the world
like a wound
and happy knowing
were shaped by trees
I look out
to the universe
through the window
It’s easy to see
there’s a whole in it.
the cat shifts
to my lap.
It cares nothing
for my abstractions.
part of me
is my heat.
A Name is not a Knowing
A name is not a knowing
You have to hug a tree
Feel its bark,
the texture of its leaves
To understand how it invents tiny capsules of desire
and puts them into seeds
with just enough wisdom
not too much
Enough to know
that the outside is the new inside
That everything that grows is life
that spaces are expanding
that too much of life is but a death
A choking point for a new beginning
and that all beginnings are old, old, old.
My sister is now mostly smoke
and some ashes
A few tiny bones on a river bed
She was gone much before she went
Now she has put the sky below me
and the earth above
On the knoll from where I can see
that peacock, Mandira.
the pink flower bushes, Mandira.
the hidden partridges, Mandira.
the pipit songs, Mandira.
the wind among the grasses, Mandira.
A name is not a knowing
You have to hug a tree.
Bathing at Night near the Jackfruit Tree
We’ll keep it a secret. This moon
three-quarter. Fireflies flickering
in the hedges. Crickets repeating
deep mantras. Water flowing down
our bathing bodies. The iris
pool to let the moon take a closer
look at our nakedness. And this jackfruit
tree that turns every night into a
dark tunnel, opening inside a sleeping
poet’s head. And though everybody
knows that nights are kept in tiny
jars, we’ll stash this one away, way
back among the folds of this dark valley
where it’s dimly visible on moonless nights.
Salil Chaturvedi lives in Goa with his wife, a cat and a dog. He writes short fiction and poetry and has contrived to spend a few years of his life wondering and wandering. He is the Asia region winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Competition (2008) and the Unisun/British Council Short Story Competition (2007).