Stone Telling

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Confluence (Triveni Sangam)

by Shruti Iyer

I woke up with three rivers on my lips.

Former glory; now home of Sediment, Corpse, Dust and Worshipper.
Burdened by sin through forcible descent, she
Made her way through tangled hair and arrived to meet my lips the way she did my foremothers.
Mothers of meditative mountain, austere glacier, abundant glade,
Filled with scorching fire, finite patience.
Terrain-bruised body, moon-pierced skin, almost as if the weight silently resting on her hips is:
                          a delicate affair.
                         and yet, a forced affair.
The sounds of the dolphins and the sparrows (and later, the thud of the concrete) lulled her to a half-sleep, and
she remembers Sacrifice.
as though she is a mother and her fingertips, while sleeping on the charpoy,
absently reach out to her stretch-marks:
an everyday re-enactment of relinquishment.

(She did not ask for the weight of the world to be placed on her twisting spine,
to shoulder it past floodplain, factory, fishing-net,
only near the end of her course did she dare cry:
                                  but if I had a choice in the matter — )

She is the only sister to carry herself — corpse and all — to the sea.
She no longer hears the dolphins speak.

Sister of death, daughter of the sun. Twin of the first river:
born bathed in light.
She wears a sari made of blue — slowly turning grey, ageing in the folds, as her brother told her she would.
Each fold
Performing Brahmin's Gospel, Ideology, Song and Ritual. Touched by the many
feet that come to her banks. Feet the colour of the sands.
She whispers, longingly, a plea: one day, the lover that would make the kiss of all other lovers an annoyance,
He came to My shores.
The feet — blood dripping from the ankles — do not listen.
She had asked Yama once, am I immortal?
Her brother's beloved, dark, quiet face reflected in her clear (but sometimes stormy) waters,
how was he to tell her that
she gifts salvation to the believers that poison her waters?
Not the poison that turns your throat blue, she is not a neelkantha, instead
her pallu is ashen, drowning in the silt.
(If only she could have drowned them, sacred thread and all, instead.)
The folds grow tighter
crushing, choking her chest.
               and as though they have played the game of dice once more
               (with the aim to clothe her, not disrobe her)
               what was once her lover's blessing, becomes a curse.
And try as she might, heaving, pulling, stretching, tearing, screaming
the sari only gets longer.
            She stands, exhausted, in a sari made of saffron.
And the feet — the robes veiling the trickling blood —
                                the sight of
                                the saffron-wearing men
                                standing on the banks of the
                                saffron-wearing river.
She had howled at the crows on her banks, she had told the roots of the gulmohar tree, furiously spilling onto the floodplains, she was the
Sun-speaking, bird-whispering, bravest sister of them all, but:
The feet, the bloody feet, the same colour as the sands.
(And the bright orange fabric continues to unspool at her feet as she falls.
If they could see her dark face, as dusty as her brother's,
would they still worship her so?)
The blood still falls from the unhearing feet.
She does not wait for anything anymore.

The third:
Desert, desert, desert and barren myth.

A confluence of
lost beauty, mere theory, and silent story
came to my lips this morning.

Shruti Iyer is a nineteen year old feminist, activist, and student of Politics, Philosophy and Law at King's College London. Raised in India, she spends three months of the year in Bangalore drinking fresh fruit juice with her grandfather and the other nine hunting for guavas in South London. In her spare time, she enjoys chasing pigeons, singing to plants, and reading. This is her first published poem. She can be found on Twitter @arreyaar.

Photography: adapted from Helter Skelter, by Shreyank Gupta.