The Bone Harp Sings Nine Moods
by Shweta Narayan
1. Mohanam Surya's falling ruby melts into yellow sapphire into radiant blue — pearl-streaked and bloody with coral and cinnamon clouds Two diamond points — Sukra against endless sky, and you arms a garland skin on skin 2. Arabhi Hands warm on my hips skin one layer of silk apart words warm in my ear — Come away. 3. Shanmukhapriya I know — every chip in these filigree walls, every dip and crack in the jewel-tiled floor every slippery hollow walked into the steps, every song of the monsoon-swollen river and my mother's moods in my sister's voice — How then shall I leave? 4. Begada Forget her as I have forgotten her. We will thread Gul-mohar and wild magnolia into garlands of heady flame exchange them under Agni's dancing gaze and Soma's ecstasy We will feed each other crisp pomegranate seeds and forget them all. 5. Amritavarshini Elder sister, walk with me Elder sister give us leave He is my breath my monsoon rain I beg you — don't 6. Rithigowla From my breast, from my arms a harp, O traveler My fingerbones — to be your pegs my hair unbreaking strings Carve me Set me, O my love with nine celestial stones lustrous as pomegranate seeds and take me home. 7. Bhairavi Leave my blood to the cinnamon river In Ruby's steadfast cadence I no longer need a heart Only let it pulse, Mother in your storm-foamed rage to find the sea to crack and dry with summer to be eaten — I no longer care. 8. Hindolam Do not grieve, Elder sister Do not cry. I don't want much. Just your throat's blood your eyes grown dim your thigh bone for a flute to sing Mother's sweet springtime moods in your beloved voice. 9. Hamsadhwani And under your hands, O my love and your warm breath, we shall sing — together.
Shweta Narayan was smelted in India's summer, quenched in the monsoon, wound up on words in Malaysia, and pointed westwards. She surfaced in Saudi Arabia, The Netherlands, and Scotland before settling in California, where she lives on language, veggie tacos, and the internet. Shweta took classes in classical Indian music on the way; her late uncle lovingly referred to these as "the bellyache."
Asked if she believes in ghosts, Shweta says: "I believe in anything I'm writing about; so I'm not afraid of ghosts -- yet. People turned into musical instruments are another matter."
Her poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in places (other than Goblin Fruit!) like Mythic Delirium, Jabberwocky, and Not One of Us, and her fiction in Realms of Fantasy and the anthologies Clockwork Phoenix 3 and The Beastly Bride. She was the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship recipient at the 2007 Clarion workshop. Shweta can be found online at www.shwetanarayan.org.
The music in the audio version of this poem is performed by Sangeetha Ayyar of Sydney, Australia; Shweta would also like to thank Mohan Ayyar for his help with the recording.
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