"Morning of the Monsoon"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Jan. 13 2009 7:34 AM

"Morning of the Monsoon"

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear Diane Mehta read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.

The blue-black curve of weather sizzles when it smacks the asphalt.
Ocean air tumbles in, loosely shaped in networks of water.

Embroidered marigolds on muslin, canary-yellow kurtas,
pelican pink blur together in the wash
flowing in rivulets down the grooves of roads

the British built. Rainwater aimless as worshippers
tilted in prayer, chanting the old rhythms.

The monsoon works itself north. Cashews infuse the air
which thrives on motion, ripe fruit, and daily appeals—
a step up in the next world, more love.

Defiant, clouds gather, then fling down an annual sum:
12,000 by flood, 289 by riots, the rest burned to the bone

with garlands. Ash is the color of the road,
my grandmother's ashes cold as my mother's bones,
remains that will be mine. Words don't last in me—

there are too many dialects. I tilt into finite.
The rest plug into a circular, scene-shifting pull of souls—

Nirvana and the rest, rapture—
to be cut loose from life, its repetitions
hell. Like walking into the shade.

Diane Mehta is a poet and freelance writer in Brooklyn, N.Y., and author of the book How to Write Poetry.

  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Dec. 19 2014 4:15 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? Staff writer Lily Hay Newman shares what stories intrigued her at the magazine this week.