To the temple of Masroor – Eloise Stevens

 

 

From just below the tree line

We descend, past bald

Escarpments, free-wheeling

To the plains. Open padis,

terracotta – topped women

Slice ochre silhouettes into

The green.

 

Hot springs caged in a temple.

Square pool of warmth,

Gurgling jet.

His torso, sleek and sated

As he splays black hair

Beneath fountain.

 

Propped in the corners of the pool,

Men in boxers of cotton,

I, shy, in salwar kameez,

Swoops and seas of fabric.

No spare clothes, I explain,

No swimsuit.

Israelis arrive in bikinis.

Smooth and slightly abashed.

Gazes do not stray long

From gossip between men:

Holiest of human exchanges.

 

Envy dissolves shame and I slide into

Salwar, its billows, its delighted exhale.

Cotton suspended in water

Lighter than thought,

Freedom bound in fine weft.

I spin, feel fabric swirl out

To the rim of the pool

Plunge my head beneath water

Submerge my hair

Release its scent and sun-trapped heat.

I feel their eyes on nipples

Now shining through my kurti

And find that I do not mind.

 

Erupted from the pool,

Cotton clings to my legs

Swathes them in rippled sinew.

Heavy as monsoon, my

Body cool and cloistered

against the heat of the padis

Their impossible green

Home of tigers, swallows, boars.

They are fragment, they are hue,

Glimpsed and imagined

From the rush and breeze of his bike.

 

I will dry, one may assume,

Before we enter Masroor.

 

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’.

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