Tishani Doshi

(9 December 1975 - / Madras / India)

Ode To Drowning - Poem by Tishani Doshi

is it or is it not
the cold monsoon
bearing the shape
of my dark lord,
speaking of his cruelty
his going away?
— Nammalvar


This is an ode
to be sung
in the latest hour of night

when the rain clouds
have gathered
over shingled roofs

and blue-skinned gods
with magical flutes
seduce the virgins to dance

For there is no love
without music
No rain

without peacocks
in branches

of sandalwood trees
with plumes
of angels

and voices of thieves
pleading for their loves
to return


If rain signals
the lover's return
then I am lost

in the desert
like the brain fever bird

looking for images of you
through mesquite
and teak

Because there's no sign
of you
or what I know

to be as you
only clouds adrift
in a vanquished sky

like vines
of throbbing arms
and mouths

drinking at the shore
with the night


There are as many ways
of yearning
as there are ways for rain

to fall

It's that old idea
of drowning
in another to find the self

the compliance
that water gives in form
and depth

to something else
But what if the humming bees
are quiet

and the garlands of jasmine
have been laid out
to dry

How long to wait
for everything to turn
heavy with flower
immodestly green
washed of dirt


It's desire after all
that spins us
Demands to be praised

as though it were new
like the stillness
before the first monsoon

when the hymen
of the earth
is torn into

and the brazen smell
of damp
fills the air

Must there be surprise
after we've thundered
and rolled

and appeased our thirst
when the silence returns

In truth
isn't it a waiting
that never ends

like the chasm between
the cycles of the world
Between separation

and union
longing and abandonment
And somewhere

between the waning
isn't this what
we're left with

the music
of uncertainty
the aftertaste of rain

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Poem Submitted: Saturday, June 23, 2012

Poem Edited: Saturday, June 23, 2012

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