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Dreaming of Lalla1

You walk intoxicated in your
splendid nakedness, heedless
to my call. You walk on, through
barracks and broken homes, taking
the paths you took six hundred years
ago, and vanish around the bend –

I am a five-year-old standing
at your feet, imploring you to show me
the Pond on your head, your walking on
water, and all the things my Nani said
you could do2 – but you simply laugh and
walk on. You do not mean ill but I am hurt.

I find you in the family album,
a presence hovering somewhere
in the fading color photographs
of my parent’s honeymoon,
urging them to drink deep
of this ancient land;

at least
my mother did, and so
brings you to me thirty years later
in her early morning chanting,
Om Namah Shivaya
Om Namah Shivaya

I am a young woman,
standing in front of you as you sit
with eyes closed, asking you to
teach me the secret science of breath.
But you do not open your eyes. You are
gone when I close and then open mine.

Om Namah Shivaya

I close my eyes
and begin to chant to your lord,
knowing this to be the only way to you.

Om Namah Shivaya

In the infinite
space of sound
we finally meet
face to face
in our common mourning
over our lost paradise.

And I can see you are in no mood for peace –
Centuries of poise have shattered
and fury has opened your eyes.
The faiths your breast held as one
have broken loose
and your hair is waving wildly.

At the foot of the Shivalik hills
I can hear your valley
thunder deafeningly
as your soul leaves the cage
of your body
to roar your naked
song of rage
and hurl down water
from your pitcher
as unending rain.

Enfold me, Lalla, in your arms,
as the sound of the bullets
rises from the valley
to salute

your final retreat
as you vanish

into dreams
of the exiled.


More By  :  Archna Sahni

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