Village

I come back to you guilty of having slept with distant cities
With eyes carrying signs of urban affairs shamed by the sea breeze
Before me you drop the sunset into the ocean and let it spread
The coast painted by its endemic orange glow sends back
The tides it moments ago tried to contain but could never catch

Old fishermen walk past me with monsoons full of cancelled tears
‘return before you mature into a foreigner’, you said
before slurring an ancestral chant to cleanse my forehead
You released me sagely like the hill releases a sea eagle
But I revisit you with eyes polluted by dark circles
Asexual and cold like a lover who has divorced desire

The coast scarred by my rugged feet is peppered by crab holes
Coconut trees bend over the long line of my preserved sorrow
Eventually at dusk, four hundred years ago, a ship comes in with spices
A man with my surname recites a story about a future city
Where more like me are lonely and without a language

(translated from Marathi)

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Fish Curry

Sprawling coconut groves and sounds
of seagulls from the Caspian
cawing tales of Ottomans and Romans
the occasional perverted story
of the man with a cross

hopscotch – draw in red soil

hint of cumin in the breeze enticing
the want for lunch, overcast
season
the fur of my cat moving ahead

with the boar hunt, the mud pot
soiled and flavoured sits idle
sparked by sizzling onion, revived
the wind blows south

my uncle’s boat reaches us with a heavy net 

St. Basillica

one crosses the church slowly in traffic
building a symphony of sounds in humid weather
cut by the song of a children’s choir

one settles at the creek’s port waiting
for the ferry to arrive and empty itself
refilled by a mixed flock of migrants and locals

a bell stuns the background, you turn
a sea eagle
circles above as the bell travels
echoing the time

Evening Snacks at the Hill Overlooking Your Favourite Scenery

cream cracker heavy
with paprika, herbs and cheese
bursts in your mouth
what a gorgeous evening it is

terns dive in the estuary
wearing the scent of fresh fish
hills dense with orchids and cashews
we order for an extra dish

filled with the essence of the scape
it arrives in mixed portions, eschewing
delicacies and favourites, instead
bringing pieces of meadows and memories
of years lived in isolation, away
from the brackish gems of this home
a dish filled with something we can both share

we divide it into equal parts
call separately for wine and sautéed beef
at sunset breaking it into halves
flinging it over the ancient cliff
in the humid air they dissolve into birds
gliding gracefully to the beach
following the wind as their prophet
settling at the ocean’s mouth
silently discussing the future

Ships at Malvan, circa 1522

A butterfly flaps over the creek and touches the sea
Boats float towards the island attracting gulls who circle wildly
The rows cream the water taking salt that later dries
Years trickle down the forehead of fisherfolk reaching the end of winter
The coconut groves hum a song of shadows
On the horizon dolphins jump occasionally
Distracting us from the ships that are slowly arriving with plague

Setting 

Monsoon. Damp crisps, beer
the smell of undried clothes
the room smudged by
an overcast sky

The floating sea breeze, how
it reached us moistly
and silenced us
while the town yawned bit by bit.
The slanting roofs, fishnets
empty and old, the priest’s slippers, dried over the noon
in the street near the beach
where every window opens to
the setting sun
which sinks

tide by tide
sparkling the waters
as it watches us sit still
letting it go
into our diaries

8.1.17