My mother was an enchantress
My daughter has seen her dance
With cats at night.
House-geckos used to respond to her call.
With her index finger she manoeuvred
The movements of the spiders
At home leg by leg
A single frown from her, and
The cockroaches fell flat,
Their thin legs groping the air.
When they heard her footsteps
Rats returned to the laps of
The witches who had sent them.
She returned the owls’ hoot
And the foxes’ howl.
Even sterile cows began lactating
As she stroked their backs.
Coconut trees bent down
to drop their tender fruits into her thin hands
Mango trees burst into blossoms at her touch
Even the plates and ladles at home
Stood to attention at her command.
Ghosts smiled at her, like neighbours.
She knew by heart the lexicon
Of ants and grasses.
Using different synonyms she changed
The rain’s rhythms and the wind’s beats.
She grazed the clouds, lightning for her whip
Butterflies formed a halo
Around mother’s head.
She recognised each crow
By what it had been in its previous birth.
She found the names of squirrels
Reading their lines, summoned them
and taught them Malayalam.
Reading the map of her betel-spit
She prophesied father’s death on the temple- hill.
When his clothes came back she hugged them
As if father was still inside them
She prepared meals for guests even before
The crows announced their arrival,
Planted coconut saplings and
Sowed vegetable seeds
For each of her unborn grandchildren
The only thing mother could not predict
Was the end of her own world.
Sitting in that darkness,
I recall that world:
The barn in the fields and the paddy measure,
The winnowing flat and the bamboo mat,
Songs of the ploughmen and the weeding women
The thorny names of the paddy seeds,
And my bleeding black, black roots.