Mira pushes aside the mountain you are climbing

Desire is never one way. Black
          snakes crawl through your throat. The divine longs

for human proximity to divinity. The divine longs
            for touch. You have not wanted

a body. And you have
            wanted. A careless
tongue can make chatter
but unrequited love
          can make an avalanche.
Your teeth chatter and you know

            somewhere a funeral parade is moving, one ant
after another marching. Your snake shed its skins as the curve of a               pilgrimage
          awaiting dawn. Heaven is too much a metaphor

to be of use to a lover weeping for
a false love. Every shaman needs a healer
and every God a devotee they can admire.

When God comes back from the pilgrimage, you are more
          plump. Everyone can see your wisdoms
sprouting. This time — dangerous. Even women

          will cast stones. Watch the people’s hands: they carry
shards of their half-spoken dreams. But you have

                          invented an embrace. In the first worship,
you make the one devoted to devotion devoted to you.

You bring the mountain
into your lips. Without

prayer, your mouth blooms.

Related Poems

Muse

I was young when you came to me. 
Each thing rings its turn, 
you sang in my ear, a slip of a thing 
dressed like a convent girl—
white socks, shoes, 
dark blue pinafore, white blouse.

A pencil box in hand: girl, book, tree—
those were the words you gave me. 
Girl was penne, hair drawn back, 
gleaming on the scalp, 
the self in a mirror in a rosewood room 
the sky at monsoon time, pearl slits

In cloud cover, a jagged music pours:
gash of sense, raw covenant 
clasped still in a gold bound book, 
pusthakam pages parted, 
ink rubbed with mist,
a bird might have dreamt its shadow there

spreading fire in a tree maram.
You murmured the word, sliding it on your tongue, 
trying to get how a girl could turn
into a molten thing and not burn. 
Centuries later worn out from travel 
I rest under a tree.

You come to me 
a bird shedding gold feathers, 
each one a quill scraping my tympanum. 
You set a book to my ribs. 
Night after night I unclasp it 
at the mirror's edge 

alphabets flicker and soar. 
Write in the light 
of all the languages 
you know the earth contains, 
you murmur in my ear.
This is pure transport.

Each Moment a White Bull Steps Shining into the World

If the gods bring to you
a strange and frightening creature,
accept the gift
as if it were one you had chosen.

Say the accustomed prayers,
oil the hooves well,
caress the small ears with praise.

Have the new halter of woven silver
embedded with jewels.
Spare no expense, pay what is asked,
when a gift arrives from the sea.

Treat it as you yourself
would be treated,
brought speechless and naked
into the court of a king.

And when the request finally comes,
do not hesitate even an instant—

Stroke the white throat,
the heavy, trembling dewlaps
you've come to believe were yours,
and plunge in the knife.

Not once
did you enter the pasture
without pause,
without yourself trembling.
That you came to love it, that was the gift.

Let the envious gods take back what they can.

—1994

Fledgling

I scare away rabbits stripping the strawberries
in the garden, ripened ovaries reddening 
their mouths. You take down the hanging basket 
and show it to our son—a nest, secret as a heart, 
throbbing between flowers. Look, but don’t touch, 
you instruct our son who has already begun 
to reach for the black globes of a new bird’s eyes, 
wanting to touch the world. To know it. 
Disappointed, you say: Common house finch, 
as if even banal miracles aren’t still pink 
and blind and heaving with life. When the cat 
your ex-wife gave you died, I was grateful. 
I’d never seen a man grieve like that 
for an animal. I held you like a victory, 
embarrassed and relieved that this was how 
you loved. To the bone of you. To the meat. 
And we want the stricken pleasure of intimacy,
so we risk it. We do. Every day we take down 
the basket and prove it to our son. Just look
at its rawness, its tenderness, it’s almost flying.