Boatman addresses the poet

Poetry / Urvashi Bahuguna

The river is a palm-line someone has taken a knife to.

Mapped it is seen heading further than
the jacaranda tree where terns hover
in the spade of dusk.

Keep both hands in water at all times: feeding
the poem part of you will keep it from coming
after the rest. You are no lotus held
by leafbeds thick as hide.

The gators in the mudslopes of
                  mangroves

appear belly-keeled to their resting spots,
but nothing belonging to water ever stills.
                                                                                          Not even you.

Inlets lead
                  to breeding pools
for molluscs: don’t drift there.
Don’t graze the embankment walls
that hold the monsoon river from
flooding the rice fields.

When you pass a length of river with no birds,
move faster.

Here is a bud, the raat ki rani. Turn back as it blooms.
Leave it, white and nude, where you disembark.
Next time: do not come empty-handed.

Urvashi Bahuguna has poems published in Vayavya, Flycatcher, Cadaverine, The Four Quarters Magazine and elsewhere. She recently completed a creative writing degree from the University of East Anglia.