I forgot how Madras loves noise —
loves neighbours and pregnant women
and Gods and babies
and Brahmins who rise
like fire hymns to sear the air
with habitual earthquakes.
How funeral processions clatter
down streets with drums and rose-petals,
dancing death into deafness.
How vendors and cats make noises
of love on bedroom walls and alleyways
of night, operatic and dark.
How cars in reverse sing Jingle Bells
and scooters have larynxes of lorries.
How even colour can never be quiet.
How fisherwomen in screaming red —
with skirts and incandescent third eyes
and bangles like rasping planets
and Tamil women on their morning walks
in saris and jasmine and trainers
can shred the day and all its skinny silences.
I forgot how a man dying under the body
of a tattered boat could ask for promises;
how they could be as soundless as the sea
on a wounded day, altering the ground
of the earth as simply as the sun filtering through —
the monsoon rain dividing everything.