December 5, 2018KR OnlinePoetry

At the burning ghats

Boatman drifts us close
to where they burn bodies, holy
fires laid out in steps, bizarre
black-tinged shade of ochre bleeding
into the perennial river.
Sweet cooking smell of newly
washed flesh, an occasional wail, circling
bird-clouds and throat-swells
of chanting—bells clanging—
Would you like to hear the crackle
of splitting skull, he asks.

I am thinking of you, bony and long
fingered—face smashed in, they said—
head filled to the brim
with the next miraculous thought
stirred with a spoon of madness, a pinch
of butterfly lightness—
They said your skull did not
cleave easily and your young woman’s wrists
snapped impatiently—bangles lost—
I speak to the boatman. Beg him
to pray for your salvation, absolution of intact
skull, clean white smoke from
healed wounds and soft gray ash as
a sign of forgiveness. He asks for
money, and another pyre lights up the sky.

Anuradha Vijayakrishnan
Anuradha Vijayakrishnan’s poetry and fiction have appeared in Magma, 91st Meridian, NW 14: The Anthology of New Writing, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Orbis, Asia Literary Review, Guftugu, and Indian Literature. She is a poetry alumna of the Prague Summer Program (WMU). Her debut novel Seeing the Girl (LiFi Publications, India, 2014), was long listed for the Man Asian Literary Prize and translated into Italian as Sorelle (2017). She holds a postgraduate degree in Management from XLRI, Jamshedpur. She lives in Dubai and works in the retail payments industry.