This poem was published in a single poet anthology Four Degrees of Separation (Paperwall;2016), and is available for purchase at
By Rochelle Potkar
“In all honesty we don’t read books,” says my cousin.
“We want the executive summary,” says my sister.
“We’ve no time for description. Just tell us the plot an’ move fast.”
“You know our travel sucks. Our roads are blocked.
We can’t read in the rain or under the leaking roof of a train.”
Bent over my aunt’s cooking, I say,
‘The Indian reader is not as evolved as the Indian movie-goer,
We don’t have air-conditioned books.
We’ve moved to Kindles like multiplex screens
Maybe from books that were single screens?”
“No elbow room to open a Kindle,’ says my sister. ‘A film is fast.”
“We hate parallel cinema,’ says my cousin, ‘There’s work to be done.
I’ve two kids to look after when I reach home at 10.”
“We can’t be dreaming. We’ll miss our train.
We like Sydney Sheldon.”
I throw smiles across the table,
across the net.
“I know when I became a new mother,’ I say,
‘I too gave up on art cinema. Only action movies would do
with interrupted sleep. Maybe the poison of post-partum?”
On both sides of the table
are casseroles of Goan fish curry, rotis, steamed rice,
and glasses of water with two flies
hovering over this food traffic.
Babies cry at our knees,
clinging, sucking, suckling.
One is sick with foot-and-mouth disease.
All this while,
the only window in the room -
near the Last Supper frame -
fills with sun.
It holds the room’s fluidity like a prayer in its palm.
Within its frame, a deep mustard wall stands on soft earth
and a papaya tree,
giving off her shivering leaves like stencils to the sky
in the same patterns my tailor keeps
on his soft board
for women’s necklines.
The yellow is filling to ochre as the hour passes by,
the maize gold to mustard,
the saffron to Mikado.
As the light from the sun bounces off the wall
in footfalls of the nimble hour
the gold moves to sunglow.
“pass me the sorpotel”
It took painters years to get that light right
with such colour, shade
from a Van Gogh to a Rembrandt
to a Picasso
“pass me the caldin”
Centuries to build planes
to reach far in the quickest hour
to expensive hotels,
“pass me the salt”
To vacate one’s life’s savings
to step into museums
seeing those frames through
jet lags, blurred eyes, budgeted motel stays,
“pass me the water”
It took nothing to be here
at this table,
yet we miss Nature in her finishing touches
changing the window colour one more time
from sunglow to a deep afternoon jasmine.