Friday, Dec 09, 2022

Poems: Of Vines, Trails, Music, Miracles and Beauty


Poems: Of Vines, Trails, Music, Miracles and Beauty

Looking at honeysuckle in the US evokes a moment spent in grandmother’s garden in India when Madhumalti vine drooped from the weight of its red blossoms. A trail creases memory, elusive like an unkept promise and searing like an unfinished dream.

Trail and vines.
Trail and vines. Shutterstock

Madhumalti Vine

A Madhumalti vine grew in my grandmother’s garden in India
It would bloom from spring through summer
The flowers miraculously changing colors from
White to pink to red
Attracting moths and butterflies
Bees and birds
The blooms were alluring no matter their colour
It was in September though that the Madhumalti vine touched the zenith of beauty
The flowers glorious and a deep done red
Their fragrance flying out of the garden into the street
Imbuing the air with ecstasy 
Madhumalti vine is drooping from the weight of its red blossoms like a bejeweled bride, grandmother said one evening in mid-September 
I was 17, my mind filled with vain and empty love songs
I imagined myself as a bride, 
Captivating like the Madhumalti vine
I wasn’t sure about the colour red though
Na-uh, I am not going to wear red, I told myself
You can wear magenta, grandmother blurted
My cheeks turned a hot pink
Grandmother had read my mind
I blushed for days on recalling her ingenuity
In the US, they call the vine ‘Honeysuckle’
It grows down the street from my house 
If I look at it long enough
Colours fly in to crowd my mind
White, pink, red, magenta 
I revert in time to grandmother’s garden
To being 17
The world turns young and new
The sky a hot pink
Radiating with dreams

The Trail

She was a friend 
We would walk together in the canyon
Talking of trees and poems
Films and songs and art
Collecting pine cones in bags
Birdsongs in our hearts
Do you want to walk a new trail, she asked one day
Sure, I said
We walked a little deeper into the canyon where
Pines grew in clusters 
Thick grass strewn with dandelions
She pointed towards the trail
I jumped for joy 
The trail was narrow and inviting 
It ran along a pond 
There were geese and 
a million winking wildflowers 
We walked the length of the trail and back
Euphoria in our strides
Abandon in our hearts
Wind whistling in our ears
We took to walking the trail on a many a day 
The thrill around it never ceasing as we encountered 
New birds and flowers
Rocks and squirrels 
Then like all good things
The adventure ended
We heard that a mountain lion had been sighted near the pond
We never walked the trail again
In time, she moved to another city
The trail now lives in my memory 
Elusive like an unkept promise 
Searing like an unfinished dream


Pink flowers.
Pink flowers. Shutterstock

Resonance and Reality

Behind the old house was a
Grassy lawn bordered by flowerbeds and fruit trees
Beyond that lay a field where
Green wheat swayed in the wind
One evening I walked past the lawn 
Into the wheat field
Cutting through the center of it to reach the other end
In front of me stood a tiny temple 
Shiva Gwala, the field workers called it
Made of stick, mud and straw
It evoked nostalgia for another time
I bowed and sat down under a tree that stood to a side 
Legends of Shiva throbbing in my mind
He was everything and everywhere
First teacher 
First storyteller
Supreme artist
Greatest warrior 
Master of time
Consciousness of the universe
Overhead the evening star Venus burst through the sky and 
Glinted in my face
An ineffable music coming to jolt me
Knocking at my heart
The music never left me thereafter
Drumming in my head at uncertain times 
Years later when I was hiking in the Shivalik Hills 
I met a goatherd 
He had stories galore to share about Shiva
I listened without blinking
Have you ever heard the music? he asked
I gasped
We smiled in unison
The ethereal music flying in to echo in the sky
Things merging and dispersing
Ancient lore and cosmic truth 
Matter and awareness 
Resonance and reality
Questions sinking in humility
Truth spiraling over darkness

The Light

When I was eleven and 
Sick with a deathly fever
I saw the light
Sometimes white
Other times yellow
It flickered over me night and day
I spoke to it deliriously 
It wanted to pull me into the ether 
A force held me down
The light and the force played tug of war
Stretching me in different directions
The force prevailed 
Colours returning to splash my days
Rainbows and butterflies calling my name
A new life beckoned to a new me
I embraced it full on but 
Never do I permit myself
To forget the light 
I am the better from my encounter with it
More beautiful than I could ever have been 
Every day is a miracle
Every moment a gift


A pomegranate fruit.
A pomegranate fruit. Shutterstock

Slain Beauty

A long time ago I lived in a house where a
Pomegranate tree grew in the backyard
One spring it burst forth into astonishing ruby blossoms
Yellow butterflies twinkling in the March air 
The blooms promised to make way for large, round fruits
I could scarcely wait for summer
To savor the scent of ripe pomegranates 
To take in their juicy sweetness
One night as I lay dreaming of May 
A storm flew in on the sly
It roared and ravaged in the darkness 
Snuck away at dawn
When I woke up, the pomegranate tree lay uprooted
Scarlet petals strewn across the space 
Like thwarted aspirations 
They cleared the lifeless tree away
Its fleeting glory coming to flash before my eyes 
Yellow butterflies exiting the backyard in a single file
Did the storm slay beauty? 
Or was it my obsession with it that slaughtered it?
Did the answer even matter?
The tree was dead
The butterflies gone
The vision was ephemeral
Its memory eternal