Three Poems

Dinner Conversations



We never talked about whether Jains

were OK with electric crematoriums

when I was younger. These days even

the chairs have opinions on mortality,

speak with certainty, like people

who are convinced they know exactly

which mosquito gave them dengue.

I’m not sure what to make of the world

when someone opens the fridge for a carton

of milk, greets his wife and daughters,

Morning Girls! then drops to the floor.

I don’t know if falling asleep in Benares

and never waking up is better than slamming

your head on a San Francisco pavement

by mistake. And how to respond to Father,

who starts up about the little time he has left

when I finally announce I’m getting hitched.

The years grow drowsy on antibiotics

and you’d think we’d be counting the beloveds

just to make sure they’ve still got teeth in their heads.

Never mind the floods, never mind the sludge-

torn vessels. You’d think we’d be giving up on sugar

and taking our lungs for a walk. I’m scared

I’ll die in a stupid way, by choking on a cornflake,

when what I want is to be prefixed by majesty –

Her Majesty or her majestic hips could kill . . .

but what I get might be a raft floating out to sea,

nothing that is over indefinitely,

because here is Brother, earlobes wet

from a shower, hands full of friends –

a gentleman’s navy sock, a kerchief of silk,

robberies of restaurant serviettes.

He holds them at the table’s edge,

swishing them this way and that

till all our fears are a kind of hunger –

belly of wolf, eyes of wolf kings,

always asking for more more more


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