Monsoon Cantata

Rain is tattooing on the roof, tap-tapping
On the tin sunshade of the kitchen window,
Beating an insistent though erratic rhythm,
Deranged by dancing leaves that come in its
Way, like a chorus of mad women that seem to
Say - drench us, O drench us.

Across the barred, shut gate the road is
Gold and silver under the benign glare
Of sodium and fluorescent lamps; crimson
Tail-lights, tyres swish past. Criss-cross
Wires drip. A quiver of quicksilver water
Is rushing toward the gate - the barred, shut gate.

Something is knocking down the gate,
Something in connivance with the rain,
I turn my back to it, stare steadfastly
At the gas burner, at the metal frame of
Its round head with pricked-in holes.
Something has knocked down the gate,
Contralto voices come storming in,
Suicide-squad assassinations, communal
Conflagrations, scams, arms deals, a tribal
Woman gang-raped, mute deaths in custody,
India in the nineteen nineties. Something
Has knocked down a gate.

I turn on the gas,
Flare like the many
Blue, incandescent flames.

From Poetry Review, London, winter 1996/97
copyright Smita Agarwal


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