[To read an introduction to this column, please see the first paragraph of the initial post here]
This week I am featuring the poet Swidala Swami from India. She is a varied writer, also working in fiction and children’s literature. Her work ranges in themes, but seems to have particular focus on love and loss. The two poems I selected to show today use these themes well, and perhaps in unexpected ways.
NOT LOSS BUT RESIDUE
He writes me letters at the back of the bus. A sacred text on a grain of rice. Things he
does not say to me over the phone. Old-fashioned, I call him and laugh at the things he says.
When he speaks he stammers. Ink stains the page. What I have is a sword he has given me willingly.
Just for once I want all the power. To keep you waiting on my words
measure my satisfaction in your loss. Just for once.
I am sitting at the window reading
my eyes slide down the page and everything changes. You reach your hand
past my breast and grab my heart.
Squeeze. It smells of rust & weeds at low tide
your hand a slo-mo pulse. I discover there are no such things
as heart strings.
When you tell me you dream of falling
I find ways to remove everything that could break your fall.
It’s not your fall
I want to break. Just for once
I want to talk to you and give nothing away.
He dreams my hands
are cut off at the wrist
and wakes up crying.
I flex my fingers
make a fist
take his hands and hold them
as a lover might.
His wrists have lines that might be scars.
I place my hand against his, palm to palm
as children and dancers do.
The measure of love is not loss but residue. Vasana.
Leave if you must but leave me a groove
in the mind
down which memory can run
like a cultivated habit.
From you I learnt
to winnow words
give them room to breathe
silence in which to grow
A single flower
at a difficult summer’s end
will bloom fiercely
and for a long time.