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The New YorkerLady Dufferin’s Terrace

In the old Viceregal lodge silk paisley and damask on the walls,
Rosewood staircase skittish on damp rock.

Rajahs stopped to water their horses, British armies dithered in heat,
Cattle crept uphill.

On unequal ground the shadow of wings —
Restless calligraphy

Afternoons I go downhill in search of bottled water
And Britannia biscuits.

When I was a child ayah gave me biscuits to dip in tea
In a house with a mango grove not far from the sea

Beauty swallows us whole.
I try to imagine your face without stubble on it.

In Boileaganj market I step into a pothole —
It’s filled with shining water,

Desire makes ghosts of us.
Earthworms glisten in papaya peel

Merchants squat in wooden shops
Hawking hair oil and liver pills.

A lorry with a blue god rattles past.
Krishna’s right hand

Is stretched in benediction.
His eye, bruised.

Come twilight I sip cold water,
Stretch out on a chaise longue,

I am distracted by monkeys
Clawing stone pineapples on Lady Dufferin’s terrace.

A cloud floats down, covering us all.
I turn on an oil lamp and write to you:

Dear X — Where are you?
In the mess on Observatory Hill

They serve us rice, dal, and sliced onions.
Also green chilis, the color of parrot wings.

Download Lady Dufferin’s Terrace (PDF)

— Alexander, M. “Lady Dufferin’s Terrace.” The New Yorker. 05 Sep. 2011. 55-56. http://www.newyorker.com/fiction/poetry/2011/09/05/110905po_poem_alexander

 

Lady Dufferin’s Terrace (New Yorker, 2011) | 2011 | Links, Poems by Meena Alexander
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