By Mary Ann Chacko
I come to poetry
Like a woman spurned
Returning to her faithful husband.
I vent myself in poetry
When worlds, words, and people fail me.
Hoshang* says a poet finds poetry in every slice of life,
Like the stone carver
Who finds a spirit in every rock.
Like the safety of a garbage dump to a street dog beaten and left to die,
So is poetry to me;
A place to lick my wounds.
[*Hoshang Merchant is a reputed Indian-English poet and my teacher]
It descends upon me like a vulture
Landing heavily yet swiftly.
I lie impaled to the ground
Tearing my nails as I scratch the dirt,
Struggling to find an escape route.
I have field notes to write
And people to meet,
I need to conjure up
A researcher’s enthusiasm.
But all I feel
Are the vulture’s claws
Tearing at my entrails.
I burst out in screams, into violence
I throw plates and break the microwave
I convulse in anger and he looks at me with frightened eyes
I am a woman possessed.
But if you glance my way
You will only see a woman sitting cross legged on her bed and typing on her computer.
We slide into each others’ curves
Like the pieces
Of a jigsaw puzzle
While your heart beats
on my cheek.
My grandmother, my ammama, as we used to call her, died last fall.
By the time I got home she was only a memory,
A beautiful, heart breaking, memory.
Memory of spontaneous singing and nights of story telling
Of morning walks to pick coconuts
before the neighbors stole them,
Of bitter-sweet stories of marriage to a loving alcoholic
Card games and voracious reading and
So much loving…
Is it the Book of Fate that keeps time for our old?
Or, do they graciously take leave
when they see the lights go off in their loved ones’ eyes?
I will not know now,
Not until I’m old and living in my son’s house by the river.
But what of the living they leave behind?
Did the son see the goodbye in his mother’s eyes?
Did the daughter-in-law hear the quiet thank you she whispered
As she was led to the car that would take her,
to yet another house by the river?
What about the daughters? Did they see it coming?
Or were they too busy playing god-mothers to their grandchildren?
Did anyone see past her short-term memory loss, her high pressure, and her pills?
Her unceasing questions met with a stony silence, her eyes flitting like a bird’s
as she waited for answers that never came.
Why didn’t I answer them?
Why didn’t I hold her wrinkled hand and tell her,
“Ammama, amma was just saying that plumber Sajeevan is here to repair the tap.”
Mary Ann Chacko is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Curriculum and Teaching at Teachers College, Columbia University. She is an Editor at Cafe Dissensus. Read more of her work on her blog, Chintavishta. Twitter: @chintavishta
Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City, USA. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.
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