V folk riffs

I.
Speak not ill of the sun lest it
Eclipse the rot of moon and
Send you to the corner to rust.

Speak

Not ill of the moon lest it
Eclipse the hot of sun and
Rend you to a lisp of fate.

II.
The tawny gulf of separation
Fades with time; only the snake
Will know when it is time to meet.

III.
next up is the long whistle, the
whoosh of knife and castle and
day; next up is a village fool,

a pertinence that carries you far
and dies a compost death in fair
light and not so fair; next up is

thin, thick, filament of sprite
and a far reaching mistake, the
kind that gets it wrong twice.

IV.
The loud screech of the mauled paw
Creates a vacuous breach of numb,

Of dear river-streams conducting
Parrot chimes, chippings off a goad

-ed throat. Listless can be fruitful.

V.
Listen to the tale that grieves
The pale moon as it recedes and

Sieves remnants of my sleep with
That of yours, only the bits that

Care to talk to each other; try
And bare your teeth to the moon.

pot of knowledge

I.
Anansi outwits the bees, the snake and tiger so that
All the stories are now in his name, but then he drops
The pot of knowledge in a fit of anger; now everyone knows.

Anansi is the spider that growls lack of knowing in his hunger for
Being known; droplets might form an ocean, but that takes a long
Time: it is quicker to outfox the fox and outrun the hare.

Interpreted from:
– How We Got the Name ‘Spider Tales’
– How Wisdom became the Property of the Human Race
West African Folk-Tales

II.
Anansi outwits Nothing and gets many wives; yet envious, he
Kills Nothing; yet greedy, his family goes hungry in spite of
The pot of food from Thunder; he is punished by the stick.

Anansi is turned upside down; his tales may reek of many
Endings, but the prevarications of the spiderous claw
Are no match for Newton’s physics and the math of Gauss.

Interpreted from:
– Crying for Nothing
– Thunder and Anansi
West African Folk-Tales

The fair queen and the not-so-fair

And their fair daughters & sons & not-so-fair
Who in not-so-fair wiles manage to out-comply
The tradition-monger in fits and starts and
Arduous test of wits and warts – O soothsayer’s
Heart, listen in, comply! What claw of the singing
Dragon awaits the uncaring, unafraid? Better the
trying death than a willing tradition-monger be.

It is time now for retelling

The tale which dips its beak on the flight
Of the mynah bellowing a hearty lament
That caresses the storylines of millennia

Resonating the throated silences of an
Antechamber coolly contemplating exit
And return: it is time now for retelling.

The tale which meanders through and arrives again: it is time now for retelling.

The tale which sips in a marrow beyond
This time, beyond the time which latches
On to the steady revelations only rhythm

Is prepared to show, beyond the time that
Alterations of spacetime attempt to account
For but falter: it is time now for retelling.

The loin cloth

A sannyasi had only a loin cloth but the mice were nibbling at it. So he went and got himself a cat. The cat needed milk. So he acquired a cow. Someone had to look after the cow. So he found a woman to look after the cow, who also began to look after him. He married her and threw away his loin cloth.

From A.K. Ramanujan’s “Where Mirrors are Windows: Towards an Anthology of Reflections”

The cat needed milk. So he acquired a cow. Someone had to look after the cow.

Where do you find the time to milk the cow that feeds the cat that eats the mice? It is not time but the woman who tends the cow that feeds the cat that eats the mice. The mice that irk the bull that guards the cave which reeks of henna. The woman again who adorns the henna and mates the bull that gives the world its god.

So he found a woman to look after the cow, who also began to look after him.

The god that begets the word that speaks of her so she springs out leaves. The leaves of henna that fly away and call the wind that seed the forest. The forest that chimes of god that that needs the woman who takes the cloth that guards the loin. The loin that breeds the world with the mice that irk the man of god.

He married her and threw away his loin cloth.

lament of the clay anklet

should the sharded anklet go
home where no names are spoken
or out in the open where sulfurous
kannagi, livid, goes a routin’?

can the caste out voice speak at
all in a room full of tenors
rasping out airs – heirs of plumped
entitlement and closed spaces?

would the sunken claw out and
bark, bereft of sun, unmoored
and short of tooth, of bite?
kannagi, livid, ekes out smoke.

Kannagi is the avenging widow from the Tamil epic Silappatikaram (‘The tale of an anklet’).