No one will intervene, there is no Messiah. Only ourselves, and this vast serenity. There is no why. In life, you cannot ask for time to lay down the burden. Arjun, Krishna is the shape of things!

There are glass bead games, great and royal games of chance, but life is not a game, unless you call it the Great Performance, the enactment of how things are. And in it you and I have parts, and on each part depends so little, so much, that we must play it well. There is no other reward, except the vision of something we must call great and terrible and beautiful because we cannot see it whole. Forget performing yourself to an audience, a greater part awaits. Arjun, Krishna is the shape of things.




Reference: “To which god shall we offer our worship?” — originally from the Rig Veda, found as epigraph to Shashi Deshpande’s Small Remedies (2000).





Metaphoric substitutions and adept subjects

Sometimes life evades deterrence and I know the secret lives of things.

Two whispering girls, a watchful child, a man who must have been handsome once, another without gloves, a jovial husband and taciturn wife, an older man silently bullied by a younger woman, two farmers’ sons talking of the city and guns, a scurrying in the bush, a voice, an eye, a patch or crease of skin.

When I breathe it comes in–Life–and I am within something else’s senses. A pistil within some other flower, responding to a companion light, to lives I have not taken. I am made wide open, turned out, at the mercy of its fruition.

I become another, one, many, and when returned to my little life I am small, having left my parts behind in other places. But my living eyes can see further than my own and the sky lights its magic lamps for my keen joy alone.

La Huesera

First you see your shadow. Then you realize you don’t exist, except as a negative tracery of words and intentions. You are the obverse of your declarations, the birth cry, the death rattle.

You are now unwoven bone, and this is what you always wanted. For the mere chance of being light, seeing it glow between your ribs like shuttered noonday. For the chance to become again a man, a woman, moveable life itself.

This is how you knit yourself. In pictures and puzzles they drew such lines as lie slack beneath your upward flight. This was the battle dress, muscle and sinew and cloth of pride. This was the vessel of honor, they said, such wide bones. But escaped from the clothing all this is attitude, bent and gnarled in courtesy.

When the roof falls open to air in merging invasion it still obeys the structural limits of vanished hands. Parcae, Fata, the measure slips from these fingers. There is great space beyond.






Alter ego

This is a playful parcel of words– I wouldn’t call it poetry–and I have thought of it in several ways: as a letter to a young wife from an old mistress, as a letter from one Other Woman to another, as a letter from an artist to a subject, from a subject to her alter ego, or one from a poet to a dancer-in-the-ring-of-life. Name it what you will, this dramatic formulation from one secret sharer to another.

The crossed-out words are deliberate; we all use them to speak to our selves, don’t we?

I hope the reader will do me the honor of including in the registers of these words Joseph Conrad’s “The Secret Sharer” and The Secret Agent, as well as Ashis Nandy’s The Intimate Enemy. We are intimate enemies all, and they haunt me, those old wily masters.


Secret agent,

I live through you, for you, you are my life.

Life gives you all that is/was/was never mine

And I weave you  your perfect representation

out of my life,

the shavings of my work.

You clothe me in the parings of your shringaar

                        my words, your tresses

and I draw you, perfect

my Other


who I would be, would not be,

O body swayed to love,

Which is the dancer, which the dance?


I see you take seven forms,

In the worlds I cannot enter

each of the seven thrones


Adorn, would bear

who I would be, would not be

my alter


I give you all that is mine,

My beautiful vicarious life.