Rasam and Sunil the Brahmin

By Marc Nair


for Grandma (1926–2017)

In her last hours, birdlike,
heaves of brittle breath
flutter like grace notes
in a sodden sonata.
A bursting heart shudders
under this slip of skin. Nothing
made of words drips into evening.

Her mouth a soundless nave,
mind a widened sieve, eyes a dim
room of racing monitors, diodes
that map a flailing terrain held
by the memory of daughters,
women now; strange women
of quibbling hours, who rock her
with distant tears.

She does not know
who she sees; no thing
of memory remains, not in
muscle or breath, not in
the taste of rasam lost
beyond her tongue, thin spices
souring over years of simmering
in a dusty kitchen, morning sun
ageing the linoleum, a ‘For Sale’ sign
growing in the yard.

Sunil the Brahmin

Just keep following the heart-lines on your hand
 			Florence and the Machine

He would read me the truth of words spliced by the lines
on my hand, in fisted heartbeats of callused stories.

His own thumbs will not bend; steeled by a certain
inflexibility to step from the haveli of his fathers

into this pulsing world, sheared by jagged roofs
and backpackers. The valves of his blue-daubed house

open and close their doors with older sight, blood
etched from the lineage on his palm; a history of

Brahmins as soothsayers, the holy lines on their head
clear as the need for a city’s arteries to flow, a sure pump

of wisdom that foiled uprisings. They walked for centuries
in the fault lines of kings, telling of fame and famine,

although Sunil speaks to me in smaller worlds: of my own
love-lines split like Jodhpur’s road winding from the

unconquered fort, as my palm reveals its map of the maker’s
blade, the unfinished road pressed against my heart.

( First published in Vital Possessions, Ethos Books, 2018)

( First published in Postal Code, Red Wheelbarrow Books, 2013)

Marc Nair is a poet who works at the intersection of various art forms. He is currently pursuing projects that involve photography, movement and creative non-fiction. His work revolves around the ironies and idiosyncrasies of everyday life. He has published ten collections of poetry. 

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