Solitary Bather (River Maha Oya) - Poem by Sheena Blackhall
After the elephants left, their fans in tow
Ooing and aaing at babies, or bull’s erections
The public bathing session done and dusted,
Tables at the café lost all their trade,
Beggars and hawkers chased their human prey.
Even the chipmunks vanished into the trees
Behind thin-legged mahouts in torn vests.
River and jungle merged again as one
Churned by the monsoon into coils of mud
Waves rolled over hotly in the sun
Like heavy pages in a weighty book.
A girl in a scarlet sari stepped from the palms
Like a butterfly floating up on fragile wings
Waded into the water up to her waist
Laughing at something or nothing.
She tipped her head back to the turning waves
And with a brass bowl scooped the pool like grain
Again and again the bright drops fell on her breasts
A noon-day shining, a shower of golden rain
Alive in her youth like a flame.
The sari bobbing round, a sailing poppy
Such joy she showed in that primordial act
Lifting her lean brown arms to greet the sun
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