To a lone Kalavoor duck


Lone duck in the pond
playing amidst the rippling shadows
White sandy soil and gravel have poured in
causing the last of the mushi and the varaal
to jump out and be eaten
along with two, unclean tumbler- fulls of
of milky- white frothing toddy.

There is a wind in the coconut palms
Whispering to some wandering spirits
Little else moves
Sitting on the moss green stones that pass off as steps
Sending thought rays into the dense foliage
underneath your green waters
as if a kindred spirit would surface
but there is only a neerkoli
peering innocently through the fern borders
Sans any intention
of depriving me of the dinner
which the old woman would soon make.

Limping over the dry, crackling palm fronds
Her sharp eyes never missing any fallen ones
-A coconut this time
To scrape and grind with some tongue -searing,
tiny kanthari chilies and a few slivers of a green mango
that fell in the night gale rattling the red clay roof tiles
to eat off those stainless steel- rimmed plates
which her daughter had brought back
from her days at a steel plant.

Scooping up the earthly comfort of kanji with a jackfruit leaf
curved and pinned into a conical scoop
Fastened with a piece of eerkili,
the slurps continue till bellies proclaim peace
then she spreads a straw mat
turning over her wrinkled thoughts
to the natural stillness of the afternoon
only interrupted by
occasional involuntary sighing invocations
of the goddess’s names in tune
with the groaning of her joints.

While she who sleeps fitfully in the nearby temple Srikovil
after the morning stream of
complaining, confessing, entreating, bribing
occasionally angry or thankful ones have retreated
and the doors closed till the evening batch begins their racket,
has her divine snores interjected by the raucous singing
emanating from the toddy shack
that passed off as the village reading room.
Sleep conquers the Devis
while I loiter around your waters again.

What do you think of such afternoons
Companion of my absent thoughts?
Your water lilies have stagnated within me
I carry the cool waters upon my head
to cascade upon me when the desert sears.

Our silence broken
by the metallic jangle of the Kaadi bucket
overturned by the bored cow again
The tapioca leaves wave their seven fingers
Their long , bare knotted stems sway
Beyond the unseen fence far away
A bicycle bell tinkles as rubber tyres shudder
over the graveled path…..
Earth starts to tear around the sun
And the panorama subtly changes.

I wonder if I am good company
or too loud by my very active absence
perhaps you prefer watching
a younger, long- legged girl in a short frock
discover the fleshy base notes of youthful guiles
and write raw poems upon the absent green surface
under you as you peck and preen
in anatine leisure land
catching your worms like the rest of us do
in our little time by some ponds.

©Reena Prasad

NOTES

For a better idea of Kerala Village life, read on..

Kalavoor… place in Kerala(Alapuzha)
Mushi and Varaal…types of fish
Neerkoli….water snake
Kanthari… type of bird’s eye chilly, small but explosive
Kanji….rice gruel
srikovil…sanctum sanctorum …
devi….goddess
Kaadi..cow feed
Eerkili… stiff mid ribs of coconut leaves

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