Indian Miniatures

by Cornelia Rohde

Sheeshpal lifts both hands
off the wheel of his flying taxi,
presses palms in prayer,
inclines his head to Lord Shiva
splendid in garlands, stone
statue in a roadside shrine
flashing neon lights.
I beg his god to spare me.

A lime green parrot coasts
into a gulmohar tree.
Chatty socialites
titter, “Isn’t he so cuuuute?”
suck pink gin fizzes,
munch croissants in Khan Market.
In Lakshmi’s garden,
two emerald hummingbirds
sip red shaving brush blossoms.

VIP cars sweep
past security blockades,
where I queue with Ghazal devotees
in rumpled Ludiana woolens. We
file past endless checkpoints
to savor classical love songs,
sip chai in clay cups
under floodlit royal palms
next to Humayan’s library
made of warm rose sandstone.

Strands of seed pearls round my neck,
I wear yards of swishing silk.
I’m stuck in traffic
with my window open
to breathe cool Spring air.
A stump of arm thrusts at me,
its dangling nipple
a half filled flesh balloon.

Ira’s hand flashes
a lavish ruby jewel.
She confides she bought it
with her horoscope’s advice
to cure her skin rash problems.
Large rubies are so ugly,”
her well-bred voice intones,
that’s why Mummy told me
To encircle it with diamonds
.”

In Connaught Circle,
a Vodaphone salesman
interrupts my request
to glare darkly at his colleague,
snaps a rebuke, accented by
his wagging head:
It is very logic problem
you are having
,”
smoothly swivels back to me
to carry on with business,
like all of Delhi’s millions.

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