In the boudoir of the ecclesiastical, devotion
is not a learned art. The lambent banyan shrubs
the floor and our roots collapse in a hardy wave
I examine its delicate crevices for clues trapped
in wells of light or moss. The origin so close, so vast I can’t feel it
when auroral temple bells permeate the room. But to go deeper
into being Jain is harder: to quell attachment multiplying within tusked wood.
Hewn in sibilant haste, we face our shame in streaming roots.
Attachment is the hardest to kill
The host hides in the center, always elusive, watchful
Attachment, it bends the spirit into mildewed curd
I can’t seem to free myself in air pungent with wistfulness.
I covet the stillness and peace, but I’ve forgotten what they mean.
Under the banyan, our picnic melon exposes a cold spine
Once I bartered pickled lust for honey and figs at the crossroads,
when the allure of domesticity was too great for my loneliness to bear.
To my relief, I found few takers. Nimbus engorged with frying garlic
and turmeric, the shadow of health against an open sky.
Ahimsa, non-violence, to never inflict violence upon others in the intimacy
of one’s own mind. In the twilight, the earth fails and fails as it traps the moon.
How can I expect it to be easy? I recite the Navkar Mantra, just as
my grandmother taught me, morning prayer stubbled with promise.
Arabesque silhouettes halved by the games of delight. The meaning is
somewhere in between the word and its symbol,
a face wrung with lint decadence and poised for flight. To go deeper,
roots birth themselves and I have to let go of my need
for this poem to be good. Ecstatic in the pungent afternoon, we do our duty,
culling bad grain, bad thoughts haptic with sacred songs of delight
Ananya Kanai Shah was born in Boston and raised in Ahmedabad, India. Her essays have appeared on the Ploughshares blog. She was a 2019 Kundiman Mentorship Lab Fellow, and has read original poetry in New York and Washington, D.C. She lives in New York, where she works for a marketing firm.