G. S. Sharat Chandra

(1938 – 2000 / Nanjangud, Karnatak / India)

Valley of the Crows, India

At the sudden edge
where the hill gapes into the valley,
a gnarled mimosa leans
away from the sky
to shade a heap of pebbles,
a raven sits cleaning its beak,
its eyes ancient as guilt.
Without much sympathy
boyish waiters tell the story:
a paltry priest, his orthodox wife,
and lonely daughter
took care of the temple nearby.
It was a worthless living
between bosoms of crippled gods.
There was famine,
pilgrims went elsewhere
where gods flourished
under influential care.
The daughter grew like a lush vine
through the crevices of poverty,
a rich man took her,
ashamed, the mother led
the pregnant girl to the valley,
jumped together arms spread,
it was windless,
no one heard a cry or prayer.
When the crows were done,
no one could find the scattered bones,
the priest went deranged,
rang the temple bells for days
as if to ask the ravens.
The hill is now a tourist resort
where week-end revellers
sit drinking cold beer,
listening to the past held
in the gyrating postures
of waiters who are also guides
to the temple kept intact
with its tragedies.
I among them,
and the raven which slaps
its groomed wings in memory.
We have everything
telephones, TV, schedules for readings,
addresses, invitations,
but we circle our chairs,
ask aimless questions
who was the angel at the airport
singing names on the intercom
as if she were calling us?
Why are we shouting
our names into mirrors,
awake in a dream
where sirens draw near?
Women sit close
all evening under lamps
to read what we wrote
lost in their country.
Our hands are empty,
our words roam in the city.
Even our rooms are shaped
like boats
to make us buoyant,
yet we drift without docks,
our heads are numbers
bobbing on the streets,
in between the lights,
words are raindrops on our fists.
You can throw anything into the sea,
the sea opens,
the sea zips itself back.
In the strange buildings,
hosted by linguists
we seek walls to hold us steady,
let our ghosts converse.

Submitted: Tuesday, June 19, 2012

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