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If God is anywhere, He’s in Music


Poems by Arti Jain

Pink Himalayan Salt


Deodars tall. Tall and rock-hard.

Soft, the softest mist on mountains melts

you into me—

hidden half, in full view

those valleys and those peaks.


I sprinkle pink Himalayan salt

on sliced tomatoes, freshly washed rocket leaves.

Our memories.


Daisies must’ve filled the crevices

of all or at least a few promises

of bright sunshine skies

buried deep in the dirt

of my birth-earth.

Softly, like a whisper, the bees must’ve gathered

sweet nectar

from flowers ready, taut.


Dinner’s ready. I call out.

We sit to eat.

The Sufi CD plays incessantly.

If God is anywhere, He’s in Music.

He must be.


Spittle flute. Hot air.

Passion escapes the clarinet.

Notes high, low, whisper soft.

Sighs. Delicious deep, pink—your lips

trace my contours—goosebumps

grains of salt, salty my body

expectant, ready.


What’s bread without salt?

What’s us without the love-making?


We’ve played the waiting game ever since

the surgery. It cured your cancer.

“Lust for life is a good thing.” The surgeon had said.


If God is anywhere, He’s in Music.

He must be.

Perhaps a prayer then

to bring us back—

to how we used to be.


Pretend he's not Real


Plant your gaze on anything but his face.


His face—less than ten

in years lived holding orbs

cave-rimmed

dark, deep.


At the traffic signal.

Your car hums a cool song at 42 degrees Celsius.


Pick up your phone and stare at the screen.


His eyes, masterful handlers, will tug

at your gut: Fasting to fit into a new dress.

His eyes will read you. Quick. Hide. Disappear from his gaze— Kohl

Shade—street hardened arrogance.


Put your hand up to wave him away but DO NOT establish eye contact.


He'll linger at the curb and turn the fan tail

on his bright baseball hat and swing

it so well, you'll want to peek.

Be Warned! DON'T!

If you do, the kohl will hold you hostage.

You'll want to help him.

Offer him change. Since you don't carry small notes, you'll decide a coffee

is money better spent.


Pray the lights turn green soon.


Because


he'll open his shop of kohl and plead "Please Miss—I haven't eaten in three days." and you'll be able to hear him.

Ignore. Ignore. Ignore.

Smother any stirrings. Think of the dress. The dinner. Look at Google maps instead. Starbucks.

Anything that separates.

Them and Us.

Red snake awaits ahead. You have no patience for children who beg. You know it's a scam. You do enough to help others, you tell yourself.


Pretend he's not real and move on.

Green means go.



Devi Divine of Garden Pots


Devi Divine of garden pots (and patch of green plot)

stood verdant

resplendent

at my dehleez and said

Your garden, my child, is full to the brim.

I’ve done what I could

with hibiscus and neem.

Not forgetting frangipani, of course.

She holds, like all my creatures, the fragrances,

the essence of the first

the first kiss on Earth.

I’ve decked the bougainvillaea in Rani Pink.

And the buxom Madhu Malati, that shy blousy thing, has woken to the soft,

heady, steady, summer's first wink.

The oleander will intoxicate you just like I’d planned she would.

And mulberries are ripe. Pay heed.

Eat them. That's their need.

Their purple will stain you, your tongue, your floors, your soul

with the first— the very first

hint of a tint of this world.

I’ve put on a show like I do every year.

You’re their gardener.

But I’m your keeper.

The grass, the dew, and all the earthworms who renew

my soil. Your toil.

I leave in your nigrani.

Keep them. Shower enough paani.

Work is worship

My child—

Worship more.

Worry less.

Meanings


Racism at a Concert


I pick pebbles

from riverbeds and distant shores

mark them with names: places they were picked

and arrange them on my desk,

windowsills. Indelible bookmarks of a day in the sun, family

fun. Holidays far from home.

Kashmir, Chicago, Cyprus.


Holidays. Homes. Hiraeth run parallel. They never intersect.

We dismiss one to seek the other and yet,

it’s always home sweet home.


Nomads seeking oases, unable to dismiss that deep primal urge

to label, to tether stones,

humans, skins, accents

to “But where do you really come from?”


When you pushed me to get ahead

and shouted “Robbie’ at the Robbie Williams concert,

you turned me into a dry riverbed

stone, alone—

no arms to protest or mouth to shout: STOP! Back off!

You pushed me off like I was nothing.

Just brown.


Ahimsa taught me to always step back.

And I instinctively did.


“Do you even know the lyrics!” you scorned

from your great height of privilege built on so many wrongs—

your colonial conditioning distorted to suit your narrative

to disguise racism in convoluted logic.


“Does it matter?” I responded above the din.

You didn’t respond. How could you?


It was the call of an ancient river that plunged me into action.

The mountains in me, my Himalayan pedigree

avalanched me free.

Curses to Gandhi’s other cheek.

When stones on riverbeds move, they change

courses, they move mountains to oceans, rocks to sand.

Shocked, you asked, “Why did you push me?”

“Because you pushed me first.”

I uttered matter-of-factly.


It felt so good to reverse my flow and glow,

grow back into my fullness,

my humanity, into my fierce Kali and Shakti

into my voice, my history, my identity.

You couldn’t push any further so you hollered ‘Robbie’ from your spot.


The next morning, I scrubbed all the pebbles clean,

even the ones marked with permanent ink.

 

Arti Jain is a poet, blogger and author. She lives in Doha, Qatar, with her husband and half a dozen neem trees. Her work has appeared in publications including Gulmohur Quarterly, Kindle India Magazine, and The Kali Project. She writes and performs poetry in English and Hindi.


Email: ashisharti@aol.com

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