Ravi Shankar

Return to Mumbai

Bombay no longer, the island
Circumscribed by water exhausts
Herself in rain. For six months,
Her suitors, Vasai, Ulhas, Thane,
Spar, each swelling, vigorously
Surging, empurpling against
The horizon’s taut washboard.
She, placid, stares breathless,
Smiles the smile of a schoolgirl
Whose step-father has just left
For London and decidedly opens
To each. Already, her soil soaks.
Already she sings in preparation,
Rust-colored flames smoldering
Compost, plastic tarps flapping,
Held down by planks, stones,
Discarded tires; dirt roads gravid
With rickshaws, vegetable wallahs
Whipping bullocks, Tata trucks
Distended with diesel, yellow
And black taxis like so many drones
Evacuating the hive, bicycles,
Ambassadors, Maruti Suzikis,
Creaking double decker buses
Emblazoned with the latest
Bollywood star, women in fraying
Saris, barefoot men collecting
Alms, children praying, their shape
More rail than real. From an island
Mother, rising water fathers
This mitotic bharathanatyam,
An embryonic dance held
Until the obstetrician’s arrival.

Ravi Shankar
Return to Mumbai was first published in Massachusetts Review, Volume 40, Number 2, Summer 1999.
Poem, copyright © 1999 by Ravi Shankar
Appearing on From the Fishouse with permission
Audio file, copyright © 2005, From the Fishouse