Wood a million years old,
long timed to stone, now lying on its flank
in an empty porch, where on
undisturbed afternoons, crows perch
to spread their chalk: and to think
I almost fell off it once,
as a child, tightwalking its length.
From here, you hear the guide saying,
you only see the tip of the palace.
Underneath, the king’s favourite
dreams up her body as a lake,
blue to the touch, and the light,
festering at the surface,
plays in her vault like shoals.
Footfalls in an old lane. Rain washes
down a slope towards the building.
At the entrance, a gargoyle,
leper-mouthed, screams inaudibly
at the unexpected visitor,
who hurriedly folds his umbrella
and steps into the dark.
A moment of sublime distraction,
when, as in that ancient dusk,
the Tirthankar inhabits the smile
in his own bust,
but only for a moment,
leaving the stone
vacant and blind like a child.
And to feel that I am all these
and many more, older things -
swords, armies, dust in sunlight,
a stone in rigor, carved
and polished to perfection,
in turn broken, but kept ticking,
waiting for oblivion.
By Avik Chanda
QLRS Vol. 3 No. 2 Jan 2004