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Uma Gowrishankar


The shadow lengthens, breaks on the sugarcane fields
as the day advances. There is very little that I can do
before darkness settles at the corners of my eyes,
the cold stiffens the bones as indigo dusk deepens.

The footwear has worn thin doing chores, my palms
are a complex fold of lines, scales of skin and age. 
I have picked a lifetime litter of dry leaves from almond trees,
collected orange fruits that hung like rice paper lanterns.

This is the last winter,  I stand before a hearth stoked by
strange hands and drink my tepid tea alone in a hotel room
that still holds warmth of bodies wrapped in swathes of  
Kashmere shawl, as the moon freezes  like a saucer of milk.

I remember the lives that started journey from my loins -
paths since covered in dust. My life map is a crisscross of transits;
at every departure a new passenger sat on the seat next,
telling not the stones I gathered on the way, but the ones I dropped.

The Loop

Dust settles on the line of closure,
a perfect loop knows when to tie its ends.
In the middle of the night two queries -
one that dances in the breath exhaled,
another that is interned in the fire.

The answer slumbers in the dusty book,
at the edges thumbed by fingers now frozen;
voice crumbles as rusty iron in my mouth,
ashen in color with the taste of love
that I hold in my tongue, and refuse to swallow.

The smoke reaches in vain for the branches,
like a dying serpent, prone in supplication.
Thread looks as if snapped, but like a spring
under sandy bed flows, likewise you
throb in silence, in the pauses between lives.
When does a poem become a prayer,
life a river that stretches in the faults of time?
Do you trace intersection of lives with a twig,
sit at the fork of the road arching in ascension
even as you pin a finger on my coil of grief?


I climb on my breath, gossamer thread
twines in branches secreted from sight
in the dark heights of consciousness.

Words hover in stasis, fall all over a little later
like knotted hair of an emaciated monk:
silence after the raging wind renders havoc.

The footfalls are covered by a fine dust,
the dull thud dislodges shell from the back of snail,
quietness like fabric covers the proboscis of senses.

Colours implode behind eyes, crests of mountains
get indistinct as viscous river of lava flows thick,
glues the lids and creates a rich firework inside.

The wakefulness remains unbroken, loud bur of images
like plague of gnats embed in the cornea of thought,
purple heart of candle lost in the glare of radiance.

Pinpoint of diamond where million paths of light converge,
cuts through the sheet of glass noiselessly, layers
like wafers are shed and what remains is emptiness

Uma Gowrishankar is from Chennai, South India. Her poems have appeared in 'Qarrtsiluni', 'Whale Sound' and 'Carcinogenic Poetry'. She blogs at