Poetry | Sumedha Chakravarthy

pc: Brian Michael Barbeito

she had these hands.
you know,
the kind that feel like they've held on for a long, long time;
waged wars,
smoothed furrowed brows,
braided hair,
made ripples in rivers.
i keep saying, "she had these hands.."
no one seems to  remember
How can anyone forget,
what it feels like
for the rainiest Banyan's breeze to caress your tired forehead
on hot, dry summer afternoons?
there would be coffee, as the afternoon crept away.
while she drank hers
i hovered,
waiting to be offered,
a sip, two sips, half the glass,
of mighty rivers,
small temples,
weddings of well etched names and sketchy faces
the rituals of afternoon tiffin,
card games, cycle bells, karigai,
glinting mukkuthis in afternoon verandahs,
hints of sandalwood
(mixed in my mind with the brown of Pears)
wafted through
shores, cities, homes.
she began to forget things and i,
now, every time i smell coffee,
or hear rainfall surge through the banyan's dense foliage
i can't shake off the
sudden familiarity
of my hands.


 When I made puzzles, 
 it was easy
 to take apart
 and know I could remake 
My mother talks to babies in a strange language
I know it, but the lilt
that rolls off her tongue and colours the cooing
is not the one I can taste at the back of my mouth
where all the words I’ve stolen, hide.
My mother’s sister sits framed against a window, sunlight pouring in
And talks to me animatedly of “tenacity”
Her drawn face grows redder,
as she moves her fingers to emphasize
the importance of staying, holding on, remaining
and suddenly tenacity materializes
out of thin air.
Her jaded hands map it with an intimacy that I can't unravel.
I don’t know these contours.
My friend clambers languorously down,
winding, sooty stairs
emerging from rooms that are sometimes
canopied  by musty, high ceilings, and at others by large, sturdy trees.
Ambling down her road
a motley bundle of friends are made,
hellos exchanged.
I manage a smile, an awkwardness born of intrusion
and walk alongside.
All that I can write
seems to be of grandmothers,
Of knowing born of listening, watching and walking,
in moments I wasn't a part of.
Chipped vignettes that are blurred by heat, worn down by dust and re-assembled in the rain;
impermanent, but comforting jigsaws-
saved for languid afternoons. 


little notes of frigid air float in to explode against my skin.
harsh cabin lights grow steadily more painful against an enveloped outside.
Dreaming faces glide beside me.
I pull the warmth tighter and closer,
wrapping myself in the textured tapestry of familiar voices.
Unspooling a secret mix-tape,
I find a riff for every cadence lying uncoiled in my hands.
momentarily how to fix it.
We will arrive, shortly.
·       * * *
I stare out of my window
the sky is streaked with the marginal magic of wispy smoke
left behind by airplanes that glide up and down seven notes
faster than the
the rickety reels of tape i'd left uncoiled.
I try to slip them back into the little holes
marked out for them
on a dusty rectangle
the sounds fill my palm
with a sour familiarity
like warm tamarind.
I hold them in a cupped palm-
the crisscrossed hazy lines
now darken to shallow streams
should I want to set paper boats to sail on them?
Maybe they'll cross the seas and
weary travellers
reaching a waterless shore.
·       * * *
On another day I walk across a park,
the dull, distant rhythm of a machine grinding
draws me in-
the background vocals to a
an early morning,
that now exists as a gif,
hidden away in recesses.
Sudden sunlight falls from the sky
like jasmine buds falling out of a braid woven last night,
the necessary accompaniment to the performance of this
musical ritual,
sleepy mornings.
I stop to feel the familiar blunt edges of the rectangle,
coiled inside layers of paper
fragrant like,
sandalwood and dish washing soap.
I put it away, as I stepped into class:
(a momentary mooring)
the urge to stop and taste the sounds of comfort.
I think those words,
as they appear,
in every unique intersection of space and time
fall down a deep and endless well,
tantalizingly irrecoverable.
Each time I come back
I look deeper,
in search of faint echoes.
·       * * *
As the rectangle ages, the smooth brown tape begins to fray.
it plays but there's a dullness to what I can see.
One day, I fish out:
A crescendo? bits of violin, a handful of words,
a sprinkling of tremors
and all I can taste is:...an udupi restaurant?
i'm left tapeless,
with an incurable synesthesia.

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