Out of a pothole a child pokes her head.
Rocks prance under water,
Sunlight burns a hole in air
Fit for a house to fall through.
Palm trees dive into indigo.
Where is Kochi now?
Out on the deck men raise glasses of cognac,
Women in chiffon saris
Giggle at the atrocious accents of the poor
Trapped in the holds with their tiny cooking stoves
And hunks of burlap to sleep in.
Between sari hems and polished toes,
The child sees flying fish
Vomited by the sea--
Syllables lashed to their rainbow wings,
Tiny bodies twisting in heaps.
Sea salt clings to them.
The sea has no custom, no ceremony.
It makes a theater for poetry,
For a voice that splits into two, three:
Drunken migrations of the soul.
No compass to the sea. The sea is memory.
From BIRTHPLACE WITH BURIED STONES
(Triquarterly Books / Northwestern University Press, 2013)
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