Memsahib

The affair began at Puri

in a cramped cycle-rickshaw.

The evening was stiflingly muggy.

As we crouched under the low hood,

I asked, "Do you want this off?"

The tarpaulin was stretched over bamboo slats

and fastened to the frame with a steel clasp.

"Do you know how to work it?" you asked.

I twisted the clasp, releasing the frame—

the hood folded down gently behind us

and gave us the starlit sky.

You looked at me, smiled: "Are you

always so skilled at undoing things?"

You leaned on me and clasped my hand,

not caring if anyone saw us.

The happiness that bubbled out of you

made me feel strangely quiet:

was this thing starting up again?

 

From Calcutta you wrote:

"You reawakened feelings which

I had thought were dead."

I sent you a Valentine's Day card

with the message “I can’t give you

what already belongs to another,”

but somewhere there may be a place for

just both of us….”

                                      Was it any surprise that later

we couldn’t meet in Bombay though there was a room

reserved?  Or that when you came

to Hyderabad, every time you set out to see me

you had some minor accident or mishap?

What was your unconscious trying to tell you?

 

When you finally came home,

you lost your way

and had to be picked up from an ice-cream parlour

near the women's college.

I found you there buying cards,

(one of which you would later send me).

In a shocking pink dress, matching scarf,

and dark-glasses, you looked like a movie star.

 

That day we almost became husband-and-wife.

Your love-making was unhurried and restful;

you hung over me, your hair covering my face,

your hands stroking my bare chest,

your lips softly brushing against mine.

I’m glad I didn’t ask, "Hey, where did you learn to do that?"

 

When you left, your eyes looked heavy,

almost inebriated.

You smiled, teasing me with proficient ease:

"Will I ever see you again?

Will you write?  Or will you forget me

when I go back,

just as all of you do in the end?”

Back to Selected Poems from Partial Disclosure

 
  Copyright © 2005 - Makarand Paranjape