Author:

Another Man’s Woman

My lover has failed to come to the trysting place,
It is perhaps that his mind is dazed,
Or perhaps that he went to another woman,
Or lured perhaps by festive folk, that he delays,
Or perhaps along the dark fringe
Of the forest he wanders lost
– JAYADEVA

If we’d lived in another age,
I’d have been the kind of woman
who refused to cast down her eyes.
The kind of woman
the other maids in town despise
because she forgets to tie up the calves
and split the curds.
You know the kind –
with a tilt in her hips
and hair that slips
continually
from her braids.

But since we live in a world
that’s just reflection,
mere illusions of the mind;
perhaps I can be her after all –
the one whose hips defeat the mountains
with their greatness,
whose breasts are heavy,
close and high –
sandal-pasted;
who walks through moonless nights
with lotus skin and lotus feet
across forbidden boundaries.

I’ll be the kind who sallies out
to wait for love
with musk-kissed hair
and navel bared in a thousand secret places –
past the cowsheds
and the balsam grove,
across the river,
to the garden of hibiscus.

And although the night be dark
and fierce enough to stir
the seven sleeping oceans,
I’ll deceive the forest
like a shadow,
slipping noiselessly past
evil eyes and serpent tongues
and the husband who lies inside
jealous of my devotion.

But if I should reach the river bank
and see you there –
combing another woman’s hair.
If I should see the girdle
loosen from her waist
while you string jasmine
round her supine face.
If you should drink the honeyed sweet
from the petals
of her crimsoned lips –

I won’t question this betrayal,
or ask who this other woman is.

I’ll simply walk
into the darkness
where every trunk
and branch and leaf
looks like you, feels like you,
speaks like you: deep-chested
yellow-limbed
rain-cloud blue.

And later, while the husband sleeps,
I’ll make my way
to the town’s cremation grounds.
I’ll strip away my clothes and dance among the mounds of ash
to command the churning of a storm.
For I have been with you
since you were born
and will stay with you
till you return –
soaked with the lasting dawn.