The Way and Other Poems

by Kala Ramesh

The Way

“Before I die, please put me on the bare floor, Kalyani.”

This, my mother said, was kollu paati’s repeated request in the final years of her life.

When my parents came to know that kollu paati’s death was imminent, they gently laid her on a white dhoti spread over the cold bare floor. I was a silent spectator as my mother broke open a small bronze container that held the Ganga jalam and poured a little into the grand old lady’s mouth. She began to hiccup, and the water trickled down her neck. Gradually she quietened down. I don’t know when she finally stopped breathing.

This incident often flashes in my mind’s eye. I never asked my mother why kollu paati wanted to be shifted from her cosy bed to the hard bare floor, and nobody bothered to tell me the reason.

Years later, I went deeper into the five elements that make up the world — the panchabhootas. I was pleasantly surprised to know how our bodies are made up of these five elements of space, wind, fire, water and earth and how the five senses of sound, touch, sight, taste and smell are interconnected to these five elements.

In my living will, I too seek to be placed on the floor.

bansuri …
silence absorbs
the last note

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brahma muhurta …
joining the stream
of consciousness
          a bulbul’s song
as light as ever

          like a paper boat
          your ashes simply become
          the river
          is your spirit still near
          the family you loved

notes: tanka-doha
Kabir is famous for his Doha – couplets of 24 sound units. Not taking the sound units into account, I could pair tanka to tell a story more effectively. I started to write tanka-doha a decade ago, and they are published in tanka journals all over the world.

We have tanka sequences of five verses, but there is something special about a twin tanka which says so much in a short span of 10 lines (more or less in twenty words.) The link and shift that happens between the two tanka is sheer magic. Retaining the spirit of tanka in its form, tanka-doha is gaining wide acceptance.

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thought patterns
will these waves
        on their return
know the new me

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by their ego shields
two rivals
belting each other
with knife-sharp words

Author’s Bio:

Kala Ramesh is an award-winning poet, editor, and anthologist who received a Pushcart Prize nomination in Modern Haiku (51.3) for her haibun “On Slippery Ground.” Her book of haiku and haibun, Beyond the Horizon Beyond, was shortlisted for the Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize in 2019, and HarperCollins published her book of tanka and tanka prose, The Forest I Know, in July 2021. She is the founder and creative director of Triveni Haikai India and the founder of haikuKATHA Journal.

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