A snake can detect an earthquake seventy-five miles away
and five days before it happens. Found in a random forward
by a person I am not friends with. I did not question
the veracity of this information. Having no desire really
to get to know them. In my language the word ‘Xaap’
is not spoken aloud at night. Fear and reverence
contained in one expelled breath. Yet, a girl I know
told me how she is hypnotized by their sinuous grace.
Not me! On Thursday, I shut a heavy encyclopedia
shattering the peace of a library. Boom! Like a bomb
exploding on my street back home. I gathered my wits
like limbs and coughed into my sleeve. Life with me
being sound and fury. The wind itself changing
its direction as I walk through it. I know they sense me
from afar, I let them.
Xaap: In Assamese it means snake.
The bamboo grove in our backyard has grown ten feet tall.
I use a Da to make my way, ferociously hacking at the
overhanging branches of a Nahar. The stiff leaves rustle
impatiently on the lissome stems in disagreement.
The Moringa bristles with pain relished by hairy caterpillars.
The Colocasia is giant, splendid, the red earth steams. The moon
is up in the middle of the day. Defiant, it says “I am always here”.
Somehow I am twelve again, a child in plaits, curious, unafraid,
armed with a weapon. A Koel has cried herself hoarse as usual.
Father hums to himself. Or is it that transistor he carries around?
A small fire burns while I mutter, “The Latin word for leaf is Folium”.
But today it is burnt feathers not foliage. The afternoon embraces
my transfixed self as I watch the dead. “You are back, Deuta”, I gasp.
It is a hushed prayer of elation. He does not look up as he prepares fowl,
skin singed, fingers dexterous. My stomach rumbles. In every dream,
Like the moon, he is always there.
Da: A large knife with a wooden handle commonly found in Assamese households.
Nahar: A flowering tree with fragrant blooms and edible berries.
Deuta: Father in Assamese
Often a moth will follow me, up and down it moves its
gossamer wings. Powered by darkness, fluttering against
the patio door. Like a ghost it peeks inside.
Becoming a stick, a fallen leaf from a maple, dead grass,
the sleeve of my camel-coloured coat, clinging to the underside
of a branch, it quietly plots an apocalypse.
Kissing the crook of my elbow like a dissembling lover,
somedays it’s death, somedays it’s hope. But most days I
chide myself “It’s just a moth”.
Jahnavi Gogoi is a Canada-based Indian poet. Her work has been featured in various literary magazines. She writes a lot about her native state of Assam and is primarily a writer of children’s fiction. She grew up in Gauhati but currently resides in the picturesque town of Ajax in Ontario with her husband and feisty 7-year-old daughter.