Ahila Sambamoorthy: Seven poems

1. Wisdom

i will offer you
a sandalwood casket
for your trinkets

deep mahogany
spiced camphor and rosewood
etched with vintage lore
from the puranas

wisdom in a nutshell

2. Grandmother

When the evening star appears
and the oil-lamp is fed with ghee
my grandmother offers silver plates of betel leaves
and arecanut
to the white-tusked God

wrapt in hypnotic spirals of rose incense
chanting esotericism
from a cloth-bound Bhagavad-Gita

I can hear her thick golden bangles
jingling to the rhythm of   mantras

3. Evening Raga

It is the dark half of the lunar month
a silver gloaming illumes hills of marble
and the amber afterglow of thunder and lightning

There's magic in the veena
singing of an ageless cosmic romance
Krishna and Radha
and the delirious freedom of the nightworld
her head filled with the redolence of coriander blossoms
jasmine and sandalwood

In the mango grove branches groan and creak

Distant sea-waves swept by north winds
reach the stars

        Sobs from the earth's heart

4. The Red Hills

Now begins dawn
smeared with saffron and camphor
sacred ash and vermilion
offering petals of full-blown roses
as you glide
in an open-skied dream
over the red-earthed slopes of Thirupathi
where storks fly high
and black peacocks live

Home to the patron of the mountain lands
the Three-Pronged One with lotus-red feet
and scarlet-leafed gleaming spear

the righteous arrow of warfare

5. Flower of the Algarve

A sunflower, you burst open onto earth with the golden hues
of an eternal summer, sprinkling diamond-sized seeds of mirth
on hot, bare soil sprouting weed-grass.
I see pearled raindrops flowing unbridled from your eyelids,
salty, like tears, and sunbeams become you, on the sand
on which you lie, garlanded, your face marble-textured,
serene in moksha repose. This was your liberating fate.

You made the earth quake with rain of blood
in the sudden aftermath. When you left my heart died with you
flower of the Portuguese soil, amber blossom of dreamclouds,
soaring over the green-ochre Algarve shrublands,
seeking the Monchique's cool and the shade of the sturdy olive tree;
the blue Atlantic perennial in the distance.
I watch you traversing space, from the hot, dusty, gravel road
fenced by the Quinta de la Cruz, to quaint Portimao
and the miles beyond. I read you in hibiscus and roses pink, red
and white; mauve bougainvillea and purple morning-glory.
You are contained in the lemon tree and the magnolia,
and fir-trees with their roots in the sky. I hear your voice
in the husky timbre of warm wind over rugged plains.
Your silhouette, slight, slides under oak doors,
through keyholes and French windows, pleading once more
to be centre of merry-making, perfumed in spirits,
in your white Mediterranean villa.

Now, in dusk's still half-light, a wistful zephyr scatters torn petals
on the dust. Your aquamarine shawl drapes over my dreams
like the peacock's glory. Your bracelet of pearls slumbers
in its bed of silk, and filigreed platinum ring rests, sedately,
on a finger. Like the corona at the sun's circumference
you will continue to sear hearts, diffusing celestial heat.

6. Nightfall

The large-flowered jasmine blooms
in the gathering dusk
The white cotton wick in the oil-lamp
flames scarlet
In the flushed skies
a broken bangle of conch-shells like the crescent moon
floats
A black cuckoo pecks
at the fragrant pollen of the mango branch -
a whetstone covered with silver dust

This forest
its clusters of golden blossoms
of the dark-branched mast-wood trees
moist cool shady as darkness itself
Beside it ivory sands
as dazzling as many moons heaped together
        White flowers of the sea-pine washed by the waves

7. Nada (Sound)

Who dances in the fiery wheel
creator preserver destroyer
skin glazed smooth surfaced of red-coral

Invoke the cosmic rhythm
bells bamboo-flutes cymbals conch-shells drums
the hundred-stringed instrument teased by an ivory plectrum

Vedic legacy of ancient rock carvings
temples
monuments