Innocent Until Proven Guilty*

‘A mother’s love often fashions a kind of eternity’

– Requiem for a Son, Kamala Das



Tonight, I met the loneliest woman on earth, crossing

the slow moving traffic jam at Kalkaji. Her obsidian body

stood frozen in awareness             of how grievously

her Shiva and Ganesh had wronged her.

Shaking her out of her imploding reverie I knew

I was part of The Helpless Dark.     I knew it wouldn’t spill into

illuminated things.

We shared our incapacity to console,

huddled at the edge of her narrow, weepy Universe. I lugged

her birdlike body, lending my pink kerchief,

looking at cobwebs beneath those eyes

gathering the muck and marrow

of all these fruitless years.


Watching her stand by the kitchen slab,

dabble in flour, make seventy chappatis

for chattering guests, an incandescent

flame licked her brackish elbow.

I sensed a certain something I still can’t name

come alive in her head. Leaping

from the kitchen-slab, running amidst guests

to get ice, I returned to the forgotten wound, now    sacred

only to me, it seemed. I resumed my seat

over the slab watching alphabets float in dull gravy, wondering

if she had such burn-marks all over her body,

accumulated by the forgetfulness of memory.


Rummaging through left-overs she had warmed,

I broke her heart, refusing her hands

from feeding me. The burn mark stared,

still staring at her guilty prince. Insisting casually

that she too have another chappati, I felt

the power of understatements


communicate that which

would have destroyed us

had we understood

their meaning better

than we thought we did.


She knew she

had been wronged. I knew

the part I played.


*Was highly commended during the All India Poetry Prize 2014.


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