poetry

My Home Is the River. {poetry}

 

I wrote this poem for a poetry prompt I received which required me to listen to Sufjan Stevens’ latest album, Convocations.

The album has five parts to it — ‘Meditations’, ‘Lamentations’, ‘Revelations’, ‘Celebrations’ and ‘Incantations’. Sufjan created the album as a tribute to his father, whom he lost in August  2020. My poem is based on the last rites I performed for my father, whom I lost on November 26th, 2020.

***

I stand on the banks of the river
together, with others —
Loss, the bonding factor.
I close my eyes, in meditation —
My father holds me
In his sturdy arms — I am asleep

And over his shoulders, I feel so tall
And on his back, I am scared I will fall
Now, I carry him —
In an urn over my head
My father, my home, my shelter
The roof on my head

A convocation of drivers, we
For the final journey —
Of a father, wife, mother
Friend, nephew, brother;
we stand at the water’s edge.
My eyes open, I stand ready…

To throw the only roof I had
Into the river bed
I feel the waters flowing
Rivulets over my face
They join my home in the river
I watch it float away

My clothes stick to my skin
Wet, as one, without a shelter,
standing in the rain.
I feel the cold in my bones
I shiver. My heart laments my loss
They say it’s because I’m a woman,

I’m finding it hard to let go,
As if it’s a natural thing for a man
To throw his home in the river
I don’t understand how it’s easier;
I look at the faces of the men
Hoping for a revelation…

A remedy to calcify the pain
I see their faces, as wet as mine
A question in my mind —
They say it’s the river on their faces
And the sea on mine.

My body half in the water,
I stand on the river bed.
Palms joined together,
my back faces my home.
I turn to the lingam
as I am told,
my driver’s duty done

The sun warms my head
“May the waters carry my home safely.
May there be no hurdles,” I pray.
“May my home find its way.
May it reach its destination,”
I chant an incantation

Om Namah Shivaya
Om Namah Shivaya.”
I whisper in celebration
of all that it stood for, and all that remains
I step out of the waters and look one more time
For my home in the river… I see no sign

It’s become one with the river
It is the river.
“Om Namah Shivaya
Om Namah Shivaya”
I take a few drops in the cup of my palms
And sprinkle my home, the river, my roof, over my head.

***

Smitha Vishwanath is a banker by profession, a blogger by choice, a poet by accident and an artist at heart. She published her first book of poetry Roads: A Journey with Verses in July 2019. Her poetry has been published by Rebelle Society, The Short of It, and SpillWords Press. Her poem ‘Do you have dreams?’ was recently featured on the National Poetry Writing Month 2021 website. You could contact Smitha via her website.

 

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