“Indian Beauty” by Yamini Pathak

Yamini Pathak


My friend visits India for the first time
For the first time he sees a boy
defecating on the street

He is disappointed, he announces 
the beaches were littered with vendors
trying to make a fast buck
cheating foreigners, selling cheap trinkets

This is truth and I am quiet
Indian beauty is like the snow leopard 
in high Himalayan passes
She vanishes in the heat of a direct gaze

In the slant of early sun that rests on ancient stone 
you can find Her

In the dawn of an urchin’s smile
In the timeless shift of prayer beads in wrinkled hands
In the slide of patterned fabric against the slow sway of hips

She rises and falls from vision
In all that is held sacred—and much is held sacred—
books and trees, water and dust from the feet of a teacher
tales heard in the flute of a grandmother’s voice
smoke from a sandalwood fire

Like the curlicues of henna that snake up a bride’s ankles
She is visible only to a lover’s eyes

from Rattle #59, Spring 2018
Tribute to Immigrant Poets


Yamini Pathak: “I am an Indian-American mother, poet, and freelance writer. I moved to the United States almost twenty years ago and became a citizen last year. Many of my poems are an exploration of the cultural no man’s land between my birth and adopted countries, where I often find myself. Some are based on questions that were bothering me at the time the poem was written. Writing helps me clarify, if not resolve questions about home and identity. Mostly, I write because I am irritable and impossible to live with if I don’t.”

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