The Distance of a Temple Bell: Sharanya Manivannan
And again I enter the hour
at which nothing suffices
but the memory of sunset in
the southern heartland
the light sweeping its long wing
across a terrain of brown
scattered and whole
the slow ascent of the
moon’s painted eye from
the corner where the earth
kisses its clouded lid open
the intake of breath
across bridges, a wind
that ruffles the book of longing
scent of night blooming jasmine
volery of green bee-eaters
the great pacific hum of this evening
last arc of dusk in the
the dance and collusion of trees
in every grove,
There is no denouement for a hunger
not guided by any map I can draw for you.
Would it be enough to ask if you would
meet me there – in the shade of the
tamarind tree, or on that bench beleaguered
by the confetti of bougainvillea petals?
There are other places too – by the tank
of the forgotten temple, come to me, find me
by the light of the new moon,
or I can wait, if you like, in the upstairs room
you left unlit, by the rusted swing, on the
eastern shadow of our secret tree.
O meet me at the intersection between
my longing and your leaving, I’m there most
every other night. Meet me beside the river
that wore away its name, by the gilt-edged
boundary of my dream of bleached peacocks.
In your world, the atlases must be precise,
geometric wonders. My coordinates were
Still, there is a sweet afternoon,
somewhere, when we sat on a porch
and spoke as though we were not
merely pilgrims, waiting, at a
moment of accidental confluence.
And time was a circular,
sinous thing, nothing ever lost,
nothing ever left ajar.
The orchestra of the wind and the leaves
and the scent of augured rain.
The echo of the swing of a door:
opening and shutting,
opening and shutting.
THE DISTANCE OF A TEMPLE BELL
How easy to imagine that this is all
that lies between us –
the dirt road and
the distance of a temple bell.
I am sitting on the tiled porch and
waiting to see you stroll up the path at
twilight, your fingers full of flowers
little globe amaranths, the marigolds
in your palms like small crushed sunsets
watching you pause to run your slippered foot
over a spray of mimosa, cross the street
amidst the rumble of cows passing by
the low gate, a laugh in your eyes I can see
from all the way here –
how I love you,
in the simple indigenous way in which
things emerge from this arable daily.
I rise and strike a match. The night has fallen
and with it has come the coda of cicadas. If ever you
want to find your way here, know that in every
window of this house, a lantern burns all night.
And there is a woman wrapped in a shawl
waiting for you at its door, listening to the
roosting owls in the big pepper-vined tree
aching with the thought of when life
was more than the sum of its mirages,
and the memory of rain in an open courtyard,
the tendril of basil at its heart.