Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Temple Of Samara

The temple in the valley of Samāra
Is more than a home to me-
I have borne its myths and histories
In the furrowed wrinkles of my brow,
In the folds of my widow’s garb
I have treasured the dust of another time,
For I am old, old like the wind 
That never dies even with ebbing.
Beside my begging bowl,
Where shadows crumple against the wall 
I think about the years- ah! So many years
Behind me.

In the silence of the sanctum sanctorum,
The evening lamps begin to flicker
I see your form in the green darkness
Your shriveled body and your vacant eyes.
Ah my child, my poor cursed child!
My daughter, my bane!
Panting I bore you in my arms
I shook you and coaxed and whispered
And beat my breast, but you never cried
Nor opened your eyes-
My blood in you was cold.

At dawn they wake the sleeping mendicants:
Bangles, fragrance and a feminine haste-
The rush of veils and whispers,
Hennaed hands and silver anklets
That fill my white head with colourful thoughts.
"Old Hag!" the wives grimace and shudder,
Profaned by the sepulchral stench
Of age and exiguity.

With her kohl-rimmed eyes and vermillion,
The new wife is the last to arrive,
Her walk is slow and she falters
Under the weight of her swollen belly.
Gently she stoops to drop a coin
In the hollow of my coconut shell
And as she climbs the temple steps
The others look fondly upon her.
One by one they reach for the bell
And strike its tongue in a loud clear sound.
With gold thalis decked with flowers,
They sing for their Lord in unison.

I wrapped you in velvet and silk,
Soft and limp like your own body-
Cursed child who left me barren!
I buried you with my own hands!

Here in this corner where shadows sleep,
Squatting among the mendicants,
I see you glide like wisps of smoke,
And curl around the temple bell.
The night outside is soft and starry,
And this is my home and my grave-
Beggared of all, all that is dear,
Let me rock you in my arms, my child,
And sing about the years- ah! So many years
Behind me.

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