Mandakini, Uttarakhand – Eloise Stevens

 

He runs into the kitchen squealing,

towel clung round shoulders

in cape. He stops at the chula,

drops his clutch, billows body

to the fire like a sail.

Flames dance cross his

pecan belly, steam rises from his

devil-slick hair. His grin lost to the blue

of flame, eyes glazed in

manic delight.

 

We were sitting eating parathas.

With chillies, Ma anaesthetised

her tongue. Her lips burnt scarlet

with the stinging; through an O

of tongue she blew hot air.

 

She is never quite ready for her son who,

naked and steaming as a nut,

squeezes into the cradle of her

lap, the orb from which he feels safe.

He squawks out phrases in parrot;

fails to corner our love.

One girl, childless, touches

cold palm to his soft and shining cheek.

He squeals, and ducks into the crook

of Ma’s elbow, toppled,

for a moment, from his throne.

 

The life he lives,

of women,

is a tightrope he hasn’t

learnt how to tread.

Eloise Stevens is a Brit washed up on the shores of Bombay. She enjoys writing and walking and the resounding dissonance that inspires her to live so far from her birthplace. These two poems are from ‘Excerpts from The Shatabdi Diaries’.