THE LONG SLEEP
She waits there shelling peas,
in green-grass sweetness, sinking-sun forgiveness,
while men with rifles march and mill round her.
The train that brings him home will never come;
she may well know it—silence descends bespoke—
yet she stays, a final evening of moving her hands for him.
Limpid stars have now broken the curfew as
her centuries-old hands peel the cardamom, break the nutmeg
the same way her great-grandmother did, a gauze of cotton flesh—
the house had roared then, booming voices, a wedding in preparation—
now the village was still and dead, a long winter had set in
and he wasn’t here, the spring would never arrive.
There she sat, falling into a doze before the great sleep,
not even hearing the shot fired—was it a stray man, stray dog?—
and she quivered now and then, in cold and dreamt memories.
Soon they held her cold body captive, and
a koel sang—was the spring to come? now they trembled,
and they wondered about the unseen—
but then they looked around and felt reassured—
all quiet save for the innocuous floating cloud,
nothing but an old stove destined for the scrap.
—from Rattle #73, Fall 2021
Tribute to Indian Poets
Ankur: “As an Indian who was also born and raised in India, the sights, sounds, smells, and words of India shape me: I write in English, but it is the English that India has adopted as her own and shaped as her own. Not merely different vocabulary or syntax, but different images etched onto one’s mind. Trees bearing the last mangoes under heavy monsoon rain: that is what the word ‘rain’ evokes in me and lives in my poetry, very different from the drippy, drab, cold autumn rain that I feel here in Norway.”