Where Father And Daughter Are Seekers
Can you read meaning to my poetry
that father standing beside me cannot?
Father ghost writes, he runs his finger
on the scroll — write of the bees and flowers
in the temple garden he says,
of the cowherd girls who dip their fingers in butter,
write of the cloud hued Krishna… his sentence breaks off…
of the Lotus Eyed One with conch and shell;
pantomiming he blows the conch, looking ludicrous
at that early hour as ruby morning spills the sky.
He is your dark lover he says
eyes burning with passion, words I have heard
since childhood, made me fantasize even as a girl of six.
Father writes poetry too, simple straightforward stuff
meter pruned like the oleander bush in the garden,
no sparse and stark lines like other hymnists
who tease with their obscurity, he disapproves their style.
Write like me he implores: listen to the koel on the kadamba tree,
write of the sapphire throated peacock, moisture laden clouds —
write earthy poetry, he is happy with the terminology.
I struggle, I need to hallucinate to write of kisses stolen
on the banks of the dark Yamuna.
Seek him. I am mixed-up — (I am also sleepy,
writing exercises are always kept to morning and how cold it is!)
how should I worship: take vow, fast,
abstain from milk and ghee, no silk robes, no finery?
Immerse in him. How does his tongue taste?
How sweet is his breath?
In doubt, frustration, as I wrestle
with God, with father,
in aborted efforts, scored off lines,
in unwritten poetry lay my prayer to the Lord.
(For the ninth century Tamil saint poets Periyalvar and Aandaal)
Uma Gowrishankar is a writer and artist. She blogs at umagowrishankar.wordpress.com/.