longing so flawed

— Snigdha Koirala

On the longest night
of the year,
I undress gently.
My beloved:      no lover,
no eyes.
            My beloved,      the waters
            of my child-years
            I visit each sleep
            I elude.
The slow-brewed purple
of sky, tipping
into Phewa Tal.
            Tal, the Nepali word
            for lake, I mistake
            at times for chal.
Or rather, through
my colloquial routes,
I tuck into it
another meaning.
            As my grandmother
            tucked, at the top
            of her wardrobe,
            a photo      of me.
On a boat, reaching—
almost—to the water.
            We must not touch
            what we cannot see
It was—almost—
absurd, those child-years.
            Those hours, a viscid
            kind of slip,      studying
            a branch, its claws.
Banyans, birches.
Touching. This photo
I studied till it
sprouted      its own meaning.
            Grew      into a body,
            grew, thus, into its longings.
            Blue and heavy,
            as they vined    with mine.
We must not touch,
how do we touch?
            Each morning I woke
            to a wall of wisterias.
Even now, they coil
my want and love,
my need. Coil    my tongue
(and touch). My tongue,
a faulty glory.
            I left   like the wind,
            a single blow.
            I left not knowing.
            Of hands,      the face.
Of hands kept   from
holding the face
of a loved one.
            Even once.      Even
            for the last time.
Of hands bruised
to a purple,      of hands
            I left   not knowing.
            I keep   leaving.
            I leave, with longing
            so flawed, I eat
            even my elusions.

The title is taken from Agha Shahid Ali’s ‘First Day of Spring’.

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