Friday, December 21, 2012

Awakening Shiva

Butter lamps she lights, gilding altar with linga wicks in yoni-ponds of ghee, then she and Shiva and Kartik and Ganesh sing aarti, and then they take a lamp each to their pallets and read themselves to sleep, most sweetly on nights moist with thunder. Now, hours later, the twin stars of Mithuna gaze down at the trees and Shiva's passed out, palm-leaf sutras fallen to the floor, face cloud-blue in butter's fragrant, failing flames. The boys, too, she sees, as she tip-toes to the hut's far end, asprawl on their mats in soft gold halos--riding rafts on Vishnu's dark sea, heads dearly akimbo, as if at rest in crooks of the arms of night. 

Night's quiet, the world breathes slow; she wonders, turning on heel with lamp in hand, where she's laid her book, she thirsts for a bare hour of story before the black rustles down and she, too, floats past the horizon. Thunder--low, strong as Shiva's arms-- purrs as she pulls over the boys a blanket of old saris; she'll nestle in his arms soon enough but this rumbling calm comes so seldom she wants to sip it like cooling chai. Flames spangle edges of her sight-- not hearth-flaring but lightning -- closer than before, or maybe she's dazed from the dim, as altar lamps blink and fizzle, as she scans a shelf for her book but spies only the big Das Gupta firecrackers, Diwali leftovers, that she told Shiva not to leave where the boys could see.

She grabs them to hide in her hotchpotch gourd with the cuttlebone and cucumber seeds, pressing them between arm and breast while keeping hold of her lamp, then cuts a glance at Shiva in what sparks as reproach but in this dampening light warms into desire: she must read a while, but her hips and back relax as she thinks of an hour or so from now warming herself in their bed's drowsy flames. And there's her book, on the wicker stool near the fire-- she walks softly, minding the boys and Shiva; she hates to wake him he works so hard and sleeps so little-- and none of them, given fetching of water, gathering of cow dung, teaching of the village boys, boiling of rice, sweeping of house, spinning of cloth--ever seem to have enough night.

Her body loose, head fuzzed, heart abloom in anticipation of love-- she casts down her arm to the book but knocks the stool, and in pain yet in grace recoils; off-kilter yet sinuous she wriggles to grip the lamp but loses hold of the firecrackers, twisting upright as they carom off her foot and into the fire, watching fuse flash to life like Indra's bolt shouts logos of thunder.

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