Two Poems – by Priya Narayanan

by TBLM

Stray

A stray thought enters my head
and ambles across
with the nonchalance of cattle
let loose by their owner
to wreak havoc on the neighbour’s farm.

It tramples all other thoughts,
and bites off some more
that have managed to grow
in the crevices of my skull
– like plants sprouting out of fantastic ruins.

I move to the window
to spit out the unwanted guest
but stop at the sight
of a lady in green:
swinging her hips, singing her ware.

Do they still exchange old clothes for new vessels?

My thoughts are like old clothes:
torn, tattered, faded. Would I barter them
for new ones like the sparkling stainless steel boxes
inside which your fine reflection waits
to snare you, trap you in its embrace for posterity?

I dig out a saree -my wedding attire-
and place it in front of her. She inspects
every inch and smiles. “Perfect . . . no holes!”
she says, handing me a box that reflects
the splendour of her paan-stained lips. I laugh.

The holes are in my heart, not in the six yards of red cloth.

A dog cranes his neck towards me
trying to read my thoughts. I look away.
With an angry growl, he runs into my thoughts
chases away the cattle and wrests control of the field.
“Chal hat!” I yell, my eyes glowering.

The dog drops down my head
and walks out my mouth
but not before sniffing out
my most secret thoughts
and lapping them up with his sordid pink tongue.

Furious, I trap him
in my newly acquired box
and stow it away in the same corner
that had housed my saree
these last thirty years.

*

The House they Sold

Sell it! They chorused
and it was sold. Just like that.
A hundred years of history
-held not by lime and mortar
but by a billion stories-
waits to be erased. The dust

that rises as I step in
is not just any dust; each speck
is steeped in ecstasy, tragedy,
drama and absurdity
or the intricate mundaneness
of everyday living.

I fill a jar with that dust and shut it tight.

A jar full of ghosts: I place it
under the open skies
to see the specks waltz
under the harsh afternoon sun
and float dreamily
under the moonlight.

I pull out two chairs
-one for me, one
for the ghost of my ancestor.
Together, we survey the remains
of a time buried under a heap
of putrid memories.

I ask her the secret of her longevity.

She answers through the fruit-bats
that have made home in the dark attics
and the termites that have eaten through
the teakwood floorboards
and the rats that have secretly copulated
and populated the basement.

What is family?
The blood that runs through my veins
is not my own, it is the DNA of ancestors
blended and pureed into a fine chutney.
Are my thoughts my own thoughts?
Life goes on. Life moves

out of one house, into another,
then another . . . a wandering nomad.
Should a house hold on to you
with puppet strings
or you, the house?

***