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Monday, October 31, 2005

Pavement Dwellers - Rameshwari Sundaram

Pavement Dwellers
Rameshwari Sundaram

i feel like a mother
carrying something heavy on my back
for my son,
to make his favourite meethai
send him to school
hold the water bottle out
while the cream ambassador
revs in its hurry
we do want to leave your womb, ma,
me and this car.
i'm not that woman.

i'm this person standing far away
holding out this strange gift
the nature of which i don't know.
dreamt up in a hurry
by a tired human race
some of its greatest lauded achievements
are falling to pieces of red rust in your lap.
the blanket i get to wrap around myself
and underneath that i extend a warm hand....
it is unfair
you can't touch this hand
but you can see it outstretched.
do you envy me, my blanket?
well, i don't have it all the time.
besides it's thin and torn and it turns on me sometimes
when i'm sleeping on this pavement
not far from where you are,
you'll see me sleeping naked
while my blanket is at the nearest
but those are my woes
and tonight your thoughts seem to be filling my sky.
your pain, over miles, coming drip-drip into me.
slowly, slowly...
i can feel your rejection
and your closing shell
shuting me out,
and this hand
with its rusted ring
lying empty
not touched, not seen.

we are the pavement-dwellers

it seems like this sky forever
the night and the huddled blankets
the occasional swish of silk
from under a jute sack
surprised aren't we?

me and my blanket stay here
my dark eyes like caverns staring out
it just rained.
you can feel the cold freeze into that pain in your
the cold grey air come closer and closer
descriptive forces assail my mind right now.
is this existentialist, dear reader?

i can only dream of a world
where i could have been a mother
with a son and a cream ambasador
the only creeping nightmares in my womb.
this world with its grey dark forces
like cold steel next to freezing ears
like eyes smashed against
the rods of a school bus.
like a boy squeezed between a tree and a bus
dying before so many eyes.
or so we thought.
we kids were presumptuous
in our greed for juvenile horror.
he was already dead,
just the blood still moved,
slowly creeping down into the ground.
so now i stand at the edge of a pavement
yet spacious in the sky it gives
where i can look up
like for daily news -
who visits me today in my mind ?
his name/her name, occupation, disease, demise

i feel like i stand
at the edge of this tall building
with a hand giving the only light
outstretched to give something.
i sit down
look for my wandering blanket
and others scold me, telling me i should have more
and tell my blanket not to go.
i can't do that.
i look for food with the others.
we do live in a completely anarchist world,
scramble, search, and some strange silence
with each other.
i can imagine an ordered world far away,
whose nightmares are filled with visions of us
and our nightmares are filled with visions of them.
i stumble with hunger down this street
and wander off to far away places.
i can't seem to reach the edge of this loneliness.
can't seem to find anybody here.
i am content, we are content
and yet we all are looking.

if the season changes, the mood does
so even though the sun does rise and fall here
i imagine us on a planet
with its face turned away from light.
i hold my blanket around me
and sometimes in this dark greyness
i see rallies go past me
and white light-giving leaflets are thrust into my
i join too occasionally
and scream the slogans,
i see all those other eyes brown and friendly
and see others look into mine with despair.
what are these dark eyes with that greyness around
them doing here.
eyes that don't convey what theirs convey.
what myth of blackness and cold steel and mirrors are
those eyes looking for
definitely not what they see in their future.
my future is eyes are different. and i
feel scared
because i don't know how.

join me, my friend.
my blanket.
but it stays back
puzzling over cracks in the pavement,
leaving me in moments like these when i need it to
remind me i can be more
than a visitor to this.
i dwell here. and yet...
i can see my blanket,
its brown cloak trailing over the puddles
as it laughs and joins up with others.
as it lives and thumps others on the back.
and comes to me with an air of aloofness to keep me
what hypocrisy, if you don't like me
why don't you stay away ?
i'm back in my usual place on the side of the road.
sitting there
watching that beautiful sky
with its colours of blue and grey and black and white
and everything
write my mind out.
i do love it here sometimes.

sometimes i imagine that my toes could grow longer
so that they can wrap around each other
and keep themselves warm.
that my eyes would turn brown one night...
and i would have those dreams as everybody else.
that i could live with the anonymity of sameness.
but everything knows the colour of my eyes
even what can't see like these streets
that take up a chant...
go see her eyes, go look at them.
they are very strange and different.

these towers are rising above me,
the stone just holds the cold and unleashes it at
my blanket lying quietly beside me, for once
and this sky breathing into my eyes.
i see suddenly an orange glow coming fast from
coming swiftly
so fast,
its heat reaching first,
bewitching in its tender glow
that will later explode in my face.
i feel fear.
my dark world threatened by this powerful light and
heat that doesn't seem
it surrounds this greyness insidiously sending in few
orange rays.
and we creep along
with our usual lives.
the edges have been demarcated by this force.
and the ordered world far away laughing in its comfort
with this light.
i don't like the growing warmth in the stones
i sleep on them and each night it seems stronger.
like something held back waiting, waiting.


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