Krishna, 3:29 AM


In a crumpled shirt (so casual for a god)

Bow tucked loosely under an arm still jittery from battle

He balanced himself on a flat boat painted black.

Each wave as I kneel closer a migrant flag

A tongue with syllables no script can catch.

The many births you have passed through, try to remember them as I do mine

Memory is all you have.

Still, how much can you bear on your back?

You’ve lost one language, gained another, lost a third.

There’s nothing you’ll inherit, neither per stirpes nor per capita

No plot by the riverbank in your father’s village of Kozencheri

Or by the burning ghat in Varanasi.

All you have is a writing hand smeared with ink and little bits of paper

Swirling in a violent wind.

I am a blue-black child cheeks swollen with a butter ball

I stole from mama’s kitchen

Stones and sky and stars melt in my mouth

Wooden spoon in hand she chased me

Round and round the tamarind tree.

I am musk in the wings of the koel which nests in that tree —

You heard its cry in the jolting bus from Santa Monica to Malibu

After the Ferris wheel, the lovers with their wind slashed hair

Toxic foam on the drifts of the ocean

Come the dry cactus lands

The child who crosses the border water bottle in hand

Fallen asleep in the aisle where backpacks and sodden baskets are stashed.

Out of her soiled pink skirt whirl these blood-scratched skies

And all the singing rifts of story.


Source: Poetry (October 2018)

Krishna, 3:29 AM, in Poetry from the Poetry Foundation | 2018 | Poems by Meena Alexander
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