Six hours of chastity Poem by Meena Kandasamy

Six hours of chastity

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The day dies abruptly.

Nalayani, most chaste of womankind,
Carries the basket-case of a husband
To his favorite prostitute's place.

She sits in a veranda of the brothel and
Someone who saunters in mistakes the devout
Wife to be a mistress of guilt, a woman of night.

She plays along, she pretends to this visiting stranger,
This wayfaring man, who suffers and seeks salvation
By day, but wants to buy a willing woman for the night.

The second seems as different, and as indifferent, and
As she acts out a whore, money is a matter of ritual,
Shining, it appears at her side. Enter the third man.

Spice vendor, smelling of sweat on cinnamon bark,
Six-fingered on each hand. A wife for every finger
On the right, a city to stop at, for fingers on the left.

The next is lean as a knife, he wears black. At eighteen
It is a rite of passage. He twists. He turns. He shuts
His eyes as he thinks he soars and spills. Exit the fourth.

To increase the number of his sins against recoiling skin,
To drown his sorrow and his loss, to fight the knaves
Who make him what he is, in walks the gambler.

"After the fifth man, every woman becomes a temple."

In the darkest-hour before dawn, the priest enters there,
Enters her, to make love to her leftovers, fidgeting in his
Guilt and cowardice, like the clinking of holy cymbals.

And the sun is born into the arms of a defiled night. . .

Six men, one for every hour of night.
A waiting angel, she picks up her husband,
(Who lies, clay-like and clumsy in his basket)
Not bothered to serve out spite or spew her hate.

Six men, one for every hour of night.
And on the way home, as his weight cuts her
Shoulder blades, she laughs and cries and laughs
Again, at the lightness of her burden, the end of fate.

Asit Bar 02 October 2020


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Meena Kandasamy

Meena Kandasamy

Chennai / India
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