Universe on a Banana Leaf

There are more stars, you
used to say, than
all the rice in your aluminium
tub. On my banana leaf,
the stars heap and
watery chutney
milky-ways around them,
around clumps of kadle-manoli asteroids.

A lone happala shines chipped in the corner,
sandige moons orbiting that dwarf planet.
Remember how you used to string
them up and offer them to the Bhutas?
Can these gods see the rings of Saturn?
Are they counting the revolutions
that Amma is taking around
their sanctum?

The east wind carries whiffs
of supari you left to dry.
Remember how your teeth were still
strong enough to crack them?
Aane kuli, you said, those elephant teeth
could chomp down the Earth.

I crater the center
of the rice mound, and wait
for my sniffling mother
to fill it with saaru.
I lick-clean the leaf,
fold its corners in for
a payasa meteor shower.
Twirling my hands around the canvas,
I slurp in the getaway stream
running down my arm.

A leaf for no one is being prepared–
a couple of supari nuts in the corner.
Amma washes my face
and hands it to me
to carry to your paddy.
She tells me to place it there and come back in.

A crow will land,
pick up a star that you had
sown and fly away.
I was told to place it here and come back in
but I sit
and I wait.


This poem was first published in The Bombay Literary Magazine and reprinted in Yearbook of Indian Poetry in English: 2020-2021

The Bombay Literary Magazine