He always came
when the chrysanthemums bloomed,
not a deliberately timed arrival though.
The staked, serrated white blooms
stark white in the darkening winter dusk
he hardly noticed.
Ushering him in, her bashful glance, trembling fingers, split second confusion
Before he took leave,
in the awkward silence —thirty seconds—
he bought time
fingering the spiky,
ticklish texture of the flowers and asked
in blissful, botanical ignorance
the usual question:
Are these dahlias or marigolds?
Too polite to correct
she’d smile — a wide smile,
her lashes lowered — and
the chrysanthemums paled
stretched to its elastic limits
catapulted into night.
What she didn’t know was
that he had always known
they were chrysanthemums.
As I made tea
on a metallic stove,
he stood chatting,
leaning by the door
catching up on the three years
of exile and silence
through mango-blossom- fragrant summers,
foggy, surrealistic winters.
This time it was tea bags-Tetley-
dipped in frothing, boiling milk
poured into ceramic cups
placed in precision
of his Caribbean cruise
night ride down the Nile
the Black Forest drive
Between us now
the empty cups
and the three years…
The three years
that had drained the lemony hues
off mustard fields in winter bloom;
the indigo blues off summery skies
rent by the cries of roosting parakeets;
the silvery rhymes off slanting rains
rhyming over tiled roofs and banana groves.
LOST AND NOT FOUND
I blame others
for the things I lose.
Pam, for the vanishing
of a dappled silk scarf at Dilly Haat
trawling through hyper, tourist-shoppers
dazed by fashion wheel defying
Promila, for a pied one
on a rainy day, hop scotching puddles
through acute-angled, cow-congested
bylanes of Shapurjut.
Now, this one, a muffler,
a red and green tartan symphony
picked up at Harrods in memory
of Diana and Dodi,
lost on a twilight walk
through your nondescript neighbourhood,
was looped around my neck
as a style statement.
Oh! really, your raised eyebrows asked?
I had gagged on it
what with the seesawing temperatures,
your guided tour profound pronouncements
on your neighborhood landmarks-
the church, the school, the wooded hillock park,
Building-Code violations in Punjabi baroque.
Then I remember
twining it in a trance
around my shoulder bag.
No style statement this…
Was it during the walk?
Your faster than usual walk,
that had me hopping and running
on my chilblained feet
through a roller coaster shady path
to catch up with your whimsical talk
of starting a club – an exclusive one
of just kids and you-
to game through life
defying logic and locale?
The walk, the talk,
the tentacles of a dense winter darkness
slithering through the meshed branches
had enmeshed me in a moment of dread,
of what will be left of this wood and us
ten years from now, oh no, one year from now…
The secret, winding, green-canopied path for two
abruptly ended in incongruity
at a milk booth and grocery.
A futile, frantic rewind-fast forward-search
In the darkening gloom…
And then, cold comfort your words,
Next time around London
maybe I could look in at Harrods…
The Chopping Board — Made in China –
picked up perhaps from the wayside
on exploratory walks through mazy Hauz Khas
portrayed picture perfect mutant women
of Chinese —Japanese descent or vice versa
sporting passion-red flowers, secret smiles.
in this sexist gift.
I can see myself
chopping, chopping, chopping –
patting back in place from my bent face
a teasing spiral strand —
in a gloomy, grimy kitchen
churning out wicked,
South Indian spicecraft
to lie in wait for an onslaught
on your taste buds,
then to waylay
and smother you
with my spiced up ways…
Or after power game weary
trysts at Madras Café, Ganga Dhaba
and chosen-on-the-spot green belts
drive back home for a cathartic kick
chopping, chopping, chopping
making mince meat of you
in a tearing-hair-frenzy
of frustration, despair
Or in demure, smug happiness
prop it up as a picture piece
to be viewed at will
during kitchen weary pauses,
mix drudgery with desire…
All said and done, a great gift,
from someone who went back
in cyclic patterns to Erie Berne
to script and seal my fate
through this eloquently mute gift.
NEERADA SURESH. Is a poet and translator based in New Delhi with many creative pieces to her credit. She has published two collections of her poems Bonsai and Reeds in the Wind.