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Saturday, 19 October 2002

Two poems by Anu Lakhan

I packed:
dry leaves, a toothbrush, a file,
and went up into the mountain
to sleep.
I washed down on a wave,
awakened to rain, purring sky
curled up in my lap, strong coffee.
The land seeped between my scales.
I have been judged
Now, seemingly seamless,
I am more.
I walk east in search of tomorrow
and new words, like rows of gleaming teeth,
smile behind ink-stained hands.


Gentle, and more gentle still,
like flowers, but fallen
or half drowned,
these small words like seeds
that grow into islands—
I see you have found the flat shadows
of mountains and the ends of meanings.

I cannot begin,
not knowing the way,
not believing the sign:
I wait and forget
and return—
the vining hand, this
branching sentence remains.
You remark upon the time.

[First published in Calabash, September 2000]

Night Rain, by Keith Jardim

The land is dry. He walks slowly up the hill to the house, his shoes disturbing powdery earth among the stones. It is late at night, cool, and the moon is high above him. There are no other houses around. He can see bits of quartz glinting on the road. The cliffs of another, smaller island are dull cream, bare. Between the islands he sees moonlight on the sea, and a sailboat, leaning, crossing the moonlight. A breeze stirs a poui as he passes; the only sound, he can just hear it.

He stops to look at the stars. They are absent around the moon but light the rest of the sky. He stares at the sea for a while, then begins walking again.

Higher up the hill, he sees a valley where the stone ruins of a colonial villa still stand. The moonlight shows the scorched land around the walls and pillars of the ruins.

He arrives at a gate. Two dogs, wagging their tails, come to him. They do not bark. He opens the gate, leaves it open, and goes with the dogs, stroking their long floppy ears, across the gravel driveway and into the garage, where there is a jeep. A watchman is lying on a wooden table. There is a bundle of cloth under his head. He is asleep, the garage light on over him.

He opens the door connecting the laundry-room and the garage. The dogs whine. They look up at him and he holds their stare. Their eyes are large, limpid and brown. The dogs wag their tails. He enters the house.

In the kitchen, in cool darkness, with the combined star-and-moonlight apparent through the shutters, he opens the fridge, gets his water bottle, and drinks fast. He sighs but is not tired.

A wind comes into the garden, a garden of scattered trees, plants, cactus, and bougainvillea hedges. The acre of fenced-in land is bone white in the moonlight; many of the plants, even some of the cactus, are almost emaciated. The bougainvillea hedges bloom. He shivers. The sea is visible in the distance below. No moonlight there, it is darker and immense. He takes some keys from his pocket and opens a door onto the verandah. He walks to the nearest hedge and picks some of the flowers close to their petals. Then, walking quickly, he re-enters the house.

Inside the bedroom there is a young woman on the double bed. He sees her long bare leg, angled, hugging a pillow, and an arm curved above her head. Her breasts, pale and protruding, are half-covered in moonlight. He rests the bougainvillea flowers on the window-sill above her head. Through the window he can see the sailboat anchored in the moonlight, and someone, silhouetted, rowing a dinghy towards shore.

He carefully removes a packed duffle bag from beneath the bed and goes to the bathroom with it. He puts it behind the shower curtain in the bath, goes to the sink, washes his hands and face, brushes his teeth, undresses, then puts his clothes on top the bag. Then he returns to the bedroom, and eases into the bed beside her. She senses him, and he moves closer for her warmth. He begins stroking her back, sitting up against the headboard. Soon he moves down along the length of her and hugs her. He holds her very close and kisses the back of her neck. Again and again. He can do nothing more.

The moonlight and starlight fade. The dogs trot on the gravel outside. A wind starts, building and building until he hears a low moan around the house. Now and then, as the wind nudges them, sun-chairs scrape on the red-tiled floor of the verandah. He hears the wind in the trees around the house, the whines of the dogs, her interrupted breathing, and the creak of the roof.

He hears everything.

Then he hears the rain, and listens, thinking.

She stirs, whispering at him, hugging him, moving against him for his warmth now, and kissing his hand.

It’s raining like you told me it would, she says. I love the rain, she says, rubbing against him. He almost does not hear her.

The rain ... the rain, she murmurs.

She is asleep with her arm around him.

He listens to the rain for a long time.

[First published in the Atlanta Review, Spring 1997]