★ ★ ★ ★




all over the village, the houses, not yet alive

not yet dying — blemished alabaster walls peel,

stories to tell, words to recount

on the outskirts, paddy fields spread —

a checkered handkerchief

he is overcome in a choked profusion

of tamarind pods, banana leaves, palm fronds,

a stray hibiscus flower

his house is a tomb of ghosts, a black box

— wealth is blind — it resonates

with acoustics of betrayal

this land, its crops, this gold, its

craftsmanship, these will outlive their breaths,

outlast the ashes finely dusting them


if the hours could speak, how long would they burn,

be held accountable for this loneliness, this suffering?

their life is a sloshing water pot on her waist, a complete revolution

of her rosary beads, one whole minute of the spigot

left open in his granary, grains spilling, dissolving

he puts away the handmade wooden toys, hides

in the antechamber, tucked away in his own miniature

market; she grinds the coconut and green chilies

in the wet grindstone, then makes the dosa batter

these images settle in his mind, before the property dispute,

a child of five years, suddenly homeless, suddenly an adult


these tales are held in place, with clothespins

in the backyard — tales of a house, a field,

a tube-well, stacked firewood, shaved locks of hair

the old now cannot pinpoint a name, an ownership,

forgotten ages ago, in a decrepit home, now sold


sometimes his thoughts will trespass this house,

intersecting with hers, they will find common

ground — once upon a time, there was a bride and a marriage,

a baby and laughter and sunlit terraces

and boyhood dreams. now all they have are documents,

a penumbral profusion of shadow, light

Anu Mahadev lives in New Jersey and is a 2016 graduate of the MFA in Poetry program at Drew University. She is a part-time editor of Jaggery Lit online and Woman Inc online.  Her work has appeared in Reinventing Myths and Colors of Refuge.