Durga Vijayakumar – ‘Tiresius’, ‘The Mosque’

Tiresius

 

“Who goes there?”

Tiresius.

“Tiresius, who?”

I, Tiresius, of wrinkled breasts.

“The mother who gave birth to you,
When the water broke and you came sliding
down her thigh,
when you suckled feverishly,
Didn’t she call you her child?”

I do not know.

“The father who held your hand
When fever burnt your brow,
The first morsel of rice
When he fed you on his lap,
Didn’t he give you his name?”

I do not know.

“By the lamp that flickers at the altar,
By the deity clad in turmeric and red silk,
Did you in a moment of horror
Chance on ecstatic serpents?”

I do not know.

I am Tiresius, of wrinkled breasts.

 

***

 

The Mosque

 

Etched in our minds is the silver and grey of the Mosque.

The Mosque up the street, glows like cold fire, quietly.

Muezzin, we have prayed with you, our hearts drenched, pain mounting.

On moonlit nights we wept on the marble floors.

We seek no more the beginning

or the end.

The womb lies in the dust.

 

Yet another night passed, in trepidation, on shaky legs.

Lights-out, torches of fire,

Intent faces-militant new order!

The skies alight with the brutal glow of saffron solidarity.

 

At dawn, we fled down the empty streets of Varanasi,

Curfew hours long gone by.

Doors shut, vendors having left,

Desolate, eerie, Varanasi.

The Ganges sped by, unperturbed!

A lone sadhu sat by a dying fire sipping tea.

With daylight our fears grew-

Where do we belong today?

As the first fumes rose at the Manikarnika,

We trudged a weary path home.

The heart as heavy as the swell on river Ganges

after a night of blood-spill.

 

Daylight faded in great agony.

From the weavers’ homes women went crying into the dark night.

Men nursed wounds, old and new.

Children stared at silk looms soiled with red.

The window creaked open,

Night-air blew in.

Outside – glowing like quiet fire – the Mosque.

 

Born in Thrissur, Durga Vijayakumar has lived all over India; her father’s transfers took her through the nation. Her marriage took her to Africa. She is currently based in Kochi and works in content development. She has a Masters in Literature.

**What warms our heart is her daughter Manaswini’s note: My mother turns 50 and as a gift to her I am submitting her poems to your esteemed journal. She always wanted to write and our lives were so busy she kept hers on hold.