The Older Touches
There are times when I remember
all of them fondly enough for them
to be here once more, all around
this house, which is far away from
where they were around, and at this hour,
far away again from my childhood fears.
Now I can just think of them. And
what is thinking except the mind’s
imaginings, the heart speaking to itself
in the darkness of default, fearing alien
ears, the world’s participation in the shame
of being touched in front of others?
It was a long time back. My father who
died young, closed me around him
with his frail hands and sang his
usual song of orphaned eyes and hands,
fugitive tears showing themselves
for the first time after a long time.
It seems I need it now. The warmth
of an ancestral touch now withered away
into history and time. No one knows. No one
cares to know. Except my mother, now
floating somewhere on the skies of
yesterdays. I used to receive her touches too.
And grandmother’s. Precious, like nothing else.
Her hands pressing my tired limbs with love,
fingers moving blissfully through my hair
in a familiar act of ritual and worship, as if
without it her own life would have remained
incomplete, a mere leaning toward the end.
Other touches have followed. In dreams
and daydreams. When I am alone and afraid
of the ways of the world. But reluctant, as if their
giving were a kind of losing, as if they meant nothing
in a world that had learnt to live with itself. And,
that is when I need them. The older touches.
Bibhu Padhi has published fourteen books of poetry. His poems have appeared in distinguished magazines throughout the English-speaking world, such as Contemporary Review, The Poetry Review, Poetry Wales, The Rialto, Stand, American Media, The American Scholar, Commonweal, The New Criterion, Poetry, Southwest Review, TriQuarterly, New Contrast, The Antigonish Review, Queen’s Quarterly and The Toronto Review. They have been included in numerous anthologies and textbooks. Five of the most recent are The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets, Language for a New Century (Norton), Journeys (HarperCollins), 60 Indian Poets (Penguin) and The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry.
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