Poetry / November 2011 (Issue 15)

Two Poems

by Anuradha Vijayakrishnan

My Buddhist Grandmother

We imagine her sitting on the temple steps –
my Buddhist grandmother who is kind to vegetable sellers and kittens
but not to us.

We had seen her come down the road, sneering at curves and cars that do not
pause –  her white sari pulled tight like a nun's – how her legs
must secretly ache now and how she does not
look towards us –

In the furniture shop, we explain the straightness of her back to the under-aged
sales boy, the degree of her very slight stoop.
We take turns sitting on chairs. Pretend to be her shape, pretend
to be like her.

We have seen her ride elephants, hopscotch across airport runways. We have eaten
the earth-shaped melons she grew, memorized the epics she birthed.
We have seen her shoot down comets, practise detachment. And admired
that way she has of kneeling beside beggars on the roadside
as if they were her children.

In the furniture shop, we rehearse the act of gifting her a chair. She who has relinquished
many things but especially the love
she was born with. 

We imagine her; rising from those uneven steps; walking
in abhayamudra towards us; chanting, generously, her blessings
on the world. We imagine her at peace – with this.

What I hold in my palm is thunder, upside
down, all its rattling hanging
out like a sore tongue and ragged
bits of blue fire trailing
skin down to the elbow.

When the blackness at the window crumples
into striped white, in that split
second, the woman beside me
is laughing. She has hard white hair
pointed ears and bones of polished wood.

I kneel before a cup of water. Rain water
gathered drop by cool drop, quarter inches
of cloud glistening within.
There is a churning, waves rising off-centre, crashing
into the porcelain wall. And my teeth chatter
about wishing, for something.  

It is all right to walk through
a storm. All right to stop and watch
the earth dance naked. But with thunder
in one hand and this other clever woman
laughing herself to ashes, I think

of falling dead beneath a tall tree.
With flaming orange hair instead
of white, and talkative teeth that can't ever
keep a secret.Not to save my life.
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