Menka Shivdasani


The river basin is a work of art,
embroidered like a rippled skirt in brown.   
Where water once gushed
the banks flare out like flame.

The banks flare out against my cracking feet
and there are needles in my eyes,
chain stitch in red, looped over on my skin.
The parched pot slides, splinters
against my bone.

I think of the fields with their ghostly crops
and my rag-and-bone scarecrow man.
He lifts his eyes to the sky;
the sun burns black.

The scarecrow man with his blackened lip
and a tongue too singed to speak
dreams of jackfruit swollen with rain-rich juice
and a grey cloud cradling mist.

Somewhere there must be a sea
waiting for this river to flow.
But the chain stitch runs
across the embroidered dress,
loops along the border, dry.

And I scratch the river bed
with my twisted nail,
trying to tease a trickle through.
A tide rushes up
against my swollen eye,
and the moonlight tiptoes in.
It covers my face for a moment,
then it is gone.

When I awake, the dress
is still ragged,
dry as the river bed.

Menka Shivdasani

Menka Shivdasani has three collections: Nirvana at Ten RupeesStet and Safe House. She has edited two anthologies of poetry for, and an anthology of women's writing, If the Roof Leaks, Let it Leak for SPARROW. She is co-translator of Freedom and Fissures (Sahitya Akademi), an anthology of Sindhi Partition poetry. In 1986, Menka co-founded Poetry Circle in Bombay. Her work as a journalist includes eleven books, three of which were launched by the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.