November 3, 2021

Srinivas Mandavilli

RAIN

We lay together on a charpoy, the thrum on asbestos roofs ending all days. The downpour cantillates like Sanskrit chanting we had heard at Kamakhya temple, the one in the drenched valley of leechee and guava trees. As we gathered by Dikhow’s shore, the river gravid with mud, branches and massive trunks flowed with a ferocity towards a cantilever bridge. Brahmaputra becomes a sea every monsoon, never settling, inundating all the elephant grass which our mahout carefully holds back on our rides. Today we wander into another summer on Lakshman Jhula where the Ganges turns green, tourists run to small motels to escape the drizzle. Some things do not change—the small delight of sitting on a railway platform savoring chana dal fritters by wet train tracks with steaming cardamom tea in clay cups. There is a storm expected, already the smell of rain mouses its way in like the time you cried after your mother’s passing, the sky was splayed by Indra’s bow. There was so much dampness the night your water broke, as we ran from the laundromat with a newspaper over our heads, the car’s floor mats also soaked from a leaking heater core. And this is how I know you, on an outrigger listening to a whale song in a drizzle, breeze coursing on your face, not joyless but not joyous for anything and in its swells  

flood waters pour in 
a thought that the world might change 
once or not at all

from Rattle #73, Fall 2021
Tribute to Indian Poets

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Srinivas Mandavilli: “My first experience of writing poetry in English was during high school years in India and for that I will forever be indebted to Sr. Helen Mary, an English teacher in a small dusty town in Western India. Several years later, in the U.S., I found myself returning to writing and many poems seem to stem from memories of childhood spent with family, or around food and travel. Such memories seem to emerge from revisiting India as an adult and a tourist, but also from the distance created by living in the U.S.”

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