manu_thmb   Manohar Shetty

 

 Exotica

They eat reindeer in Finland.
And elsewhere strange stews
Of raccoon and kangaroo,
And bony fish for breakfast.

The blonde yogi, vegetarian,
Counts reams of her money
Openly in the soundless Express
From Zurich to Bern
Where the Arre river is turquoise

And cultured pearl, and long cars
Halt for me to cross, the rare horn
Sudden as gunshot, and water is
Never offered in the hot

Sidewalk cafes. In Helsinki
The customs girl puzzles
Over assorted bindis.
No designer drug–my words too
Fluid–only gifts for poets
From Iceland and Italy,
A simple cosmetic (which may even
adorn
Poodles in a beauty salon). Fjord-eyes
Unblinking, she is stern in her Finnish
English: ‘But do you speaking English?’
A bit. But I too have lost it in places

Named Nice and Reading.

***************************

Peacock

I’d always thought of it as female,
A spry but vain ballerina
Pirouetting in a king’s estates,
A courtesan or a bashful bride, and once
In a film, as a decorous symbol,
Spreading luminous wings
On a gloomy rooftop in snowfall
Somewhere in Europe.
Always, its femaleness flaunted
Itself; in those royal gardens
Its flaming fantail of monocled
Monograms outsparkled
Rose, marigold, zinnia, its perfect
Extravagance of poise
And colour invoking back
A subverted anima.

It takes a flexing of vision
To look beyond sheer sight,
The rainbow display of grace and shade:
In those same palace grounds
I remember, once, its slender neck
Swivelling in the flattened grass,
A strange gawky cackle as it rose,
In its beak a fullgrown
Krait, slick symmetrical scales
Panicky and porous.
How deliciously deftly
Claw and beak poked and raked,
The plumed crown tossed like curls,
As it plucked out its eyes.
Triumphant, it stared at me
With both defiance and pride,
This androgynous bird of prey
Sprayed by jets of sunlight,
Claws like stiletto heels
At rest on its conquest.

***************************

Domestic Creatures

Lizard
Tense, wizened,
Wrinkled neck twisting,
She clears
The air of small
Aberrations
With a snapping tongue,
A long tongue.

Pigeon
Swaddled cosily, he
Settles by the window,
Burping softly;
Eyelids half-closed,
Head sinking
In a fluffy
Embroidered pillow.

Spider
The swollen-headed spider
Spins yarns from her corner.
Tenuous threads of her tales
Glitter like rays
From the fingertips of a saint.

She weaves on, plays along,
Hangs from a hoary strand,
Rolls, unrolls: a yoyo,
A jiggling asterisk: a footnote:
Little characters transfixed
In the clutches of her folds.

Cockroach
Open the lid, he tumbles out
Like a family secret;
Scuttles back into darkness;
Reappears, feelers like
Miniature periscopes,
Questioning the air;
Leaves tell-tale traces:
Wings flaky as withered
Onion skin, fresh
Specks scurrying
In old crevices.

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