The Thumbai Flowers and Other Poems

By Uma Gowrishankar

1 – The Thumbai Flowers

After he leaves for the airport
the dust from his shoes settles on the floor.

The smell of soap lingers in the room
as I fold the warmth of his body in the blanket.

It goes back to the practice from my childhood
when I wandered in the overgrown backyards of people

to collect the thumbai flowers, pinches of the moon in my palm
that I weaved into a garland. The pale stem of a flower

pressed into the heart of another, into the soft pouches
of nectar for the bees that helicoptered to my face—

the brush of wings a whisper so faint like the slight
movement of his chest as he sleeps.

I pay attention to the small things in him that the others miss
so like the thumbai flowers that no one cared to gather.

2 – How to Drink from the Cup of Silence

I incline to the center to stay close to home— carapace
of dust from the milling crowd outside the window.

The street lights go off one after another, the ring of mist
diffuses in the dispersal of a cloud of bees.

I sit in this tight circle eying how far others throw their nets:
some come back to stuff dirt of the earth in their mouths;

most, uprooted, listen to the tree fall in the distant forest
in a soft thud of grief as they hold their mug of coffee

and look out at the snow-covered driveway. How do I hold
her in tenderness? One way of tending a life is to stand in a queue

at the shop as beans get roasted. It takes time to prepare
a tumbler of frothy coffee— a lifetime if it is the final gulp.

You in your chair overlooking the deck and I on my terrace where
the hibiscus shrub is eaten by mealybugs, holding the cup of silence.

3 – The Fatal Flight

The pigeon mistook the glass for the sky,
rocketing energy hit the window—
the shock was mute.

The bird
flopped on the terrazzo floor blue and polished to mirror the sky.
I looked down briefly from this poem to the flutter

Did not know
anything could be so silent in pain—
a hunched grey cloud.

Imploding cells patterned by hands unlike mine,
palm-sized god in every feather.

Uma Gowrishankar is a writer and artist from Chennai, South India. Her poems have appeared in online and print journals that include Yearbook of Indian Poetry in English 2020, Poetry at Sangam, City: A Journal Of South Asian Literature, Qarrtsiluni, Vayavya, Hibiscus: Poems that Heal and Empower, Shimmer Spring, Buddhist Poetry Review, Silver Birch Press, The Well-Earned, Feral: A Journal of Poetry and Art, Curio Poetry. Her full-length collection of poetry ‘Birthing History’ was published by Leaky Boot Press.

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