Indra at Land’s End, Mumbai
I was burning on the promenade
when Indra appeared to me, no glaze
of sweat on his wide forehead.
For a moment he looked fierce,
even without a sword, or hook or anything
I might usually recognise him by. I glanced
away, but he would not be ignored,
carrying a shoe-cleaning box, his dark face
adorned with a leaking eye, his dusty soles
bare, his precious jacket torn,
graceful in his twisting walk. I wanted
to pray to him for thunderous rain
and put a lid on the heat that came everywhere
with me, but then he was only
a shoe-man with his box of tricks, raising
his hand to stop me, in a quest for five rupees.
He turned into a god again when I said no.
Sita at the Lake Palace
I arrive at the small island palace late,
with my head screaming from the car ride
south to Udaipur; all day the pain
has tormented me like a white monkey
scratching my brain. Sita comes to me,
and for once I am not afraid to strip –
letting my body be in the space
behind the screen, with the silk cloth
soaked in jasmine. At home, in the city,
I never walk naked, always lock the bathroom door,
close blinds rather than curl them open,
wear too many layers, even in the sun.
It is Sita with her light touch, urging me
to lie down in the perfumed shade.
Gentle fingers trace my spine, cool
on my shoulders, arms, along my calves,
thighs, pulling me through the knot I had
become, making an opening for the heart.
Julie-ann Rowell’s pamphlet Convergence (Brodie Press) won a Poetry Book Society Award. Her collection Letters North was nominated for the Michael Murphy Poetry Prize for Best First Collection in Britain and Ireland in 2011. Her latest collection, Voices in the Garden, about Joan of Arc, is published by Lapwing Publications, Belfast. She runs a poetry workshop in Bristol.