Thursday, March 5, 2009
Arjun at the Swayamvar: Voices from Mahabharata
Being best friends with the divine doesn’t help
The same old intrigue and desperations led me to this contest and fire
My arrow, though true to its mark, is fueled by mortal sinew and blood
The eye it snags spits out tissue and nerve
The whole exercise feels like a hoax, a bad deal with too-tiny small print
But the Fire Princess seems oblivious to any cosmic conspiracy
Seeing only the promise and comfort of my muscled shoulder, my twinkling glance
Admiring only the sensuous garland entwining my bronzed epithelium.
I lower my eyes (she is shorter by a full head) to hint at my noble humility
She exchanges a quick glance with her brothers, one divine, one fiery
Seeking assurance for the rightness of her choice, the propriety of what is happening
I too look around, but my brothers have forgotten me in the moment
They all are busy blinking tears, of victory, of gratitude
You’d think I’d blinded them when my arrow targeted the fish eye.
They do not smell the fog of envy that clouds the Hall
It stings my eyes as it rises to the canopy and darkens the skies
I wonder what sightlessness descended when my arrow pierced that eye
The contest feels weighed, like loaded dice, a veneer covering a warning
A clanging prothalmion sung as prelude to apocalypse
My shoulders sag under the heaviness of flowers as I lift the bridal garland with sure hands
And hang my head to accept the burdensome future of a dying age.
Shefali Shah Choksi