Poems by Priya Sarukkai Chabria
TRAVELS IN EARLY SPRING
Weeks in Bhundelkand, Madhya Pradesh. Cold rain most days while on the move: views through watered opal.
Orchha, Datia, Sanchi, Gyarasapur, Gwalior.
Orchha: Low clouds, mist and light fog dissolve to reveal robust views of medieval forts, palaces, temple spires. This enhances the play of the ephemeral: as if --despite the structures’ brooding breath -- the past is a story suddenly planted in our midst, or a chimera of a mutable, inexhaustible universe that lives alongside us.
In powdery rain a monkey shelters under
the royal cupola. Scratching, he surveys his fief.
Through sunlit sprinkle two monkeys study
four Japanese tourists sketching the fort.
Something unknown drizzles the face
of a tourist as he gazes past the silhouette.
Are we glyphs in a monochrome
arras that’s mica-speckled?
Grasses rimming windows bend
under raindrops, each a roll
of crystal and moonstone, halted.
A cloud parts: gleaming ushers
gust. Shower. Prismatic
as us on the brink of the everyday
waiting to slip, explode , enthral
while a silver fur langur leaps
to perch on the balustrade
where your arms repose --
its face unchanged as its ancestors.
Distant ice judders
Drive through scrub & a damp bedraggled town to the hilltop palace, seven stories high. The lower two which housed the prison and barracks are dark, the thick stone walls have few slits. Slippery steps: like walking on congealed blood. The heart sickens.
Climb to air, light, the pleasure quarters, royal guest rooms, king’s audience chamber, watchtowers, views of lake and land. A pavilion three stories high rises from the courtyard, connected by airy walkways to the sides: like walking on a dragonfly’s back. The palace spins.
As in a maze of doubling mirrors
enter corridors of shutterless windows
rows after rows of rooms without doors
colonnades of identical arches
that reflect our abandonment:
we who are
ruin and aching welcome.
Over the palace a hawk screams.
About the poet
Priya Sarukkai Chabria’s publications include speculative fiction Generation 14 (Penguin-Zubaan, 2008) and novel The Other Garden (Rupa&Co, 1995); poetry collections Not Springtime Yet (HarperCollins, 2008) and Dialogue and Other Poems (Indian Academy of Literature, 2005) and cross genre non-fiction, Immersions Bombay/Mumbai with photographer Christopher Taylor (Niyogi Books, 2013). Especially commended for her experimentation with literary forms she also mentors creative writing students. Twice awarded Fellowships for Outstanding Contribution to Literature by the Government of India her work is translated into six languages. Forthcoming are translations (in collaboration with Ravi Shankar) of Tamil mystic Andal’s songs. Her work is published and anthologized in India and abroad including in Adelphiana, Asymptote, Breaking the Bow, Drunken Boat, IQ, The Literary Review (USA), The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry, Southerly, South Asian Review, Caravan , Post Road ( Boston University) , The British Journal of Literary Translation , Pratilipi, Language for a New Century, Another English: Anglophone Poems from Around the World etc. She’s been invited to literary festivals at University of East Anglia, Jaipur, Kala Ghoda, Prakriti , Writers’ Centre etc. , most recently the 2014 Commonwealth Literature Conference in Innsbruck. Sarukkai Chabria has curated two seminars for the Indian Academy of Literature. She edits Poetry at Sangam.