Homepage photograph via Flickr by ww_whist

We sat on crispy sand,
our spines in afternoon thaw,
looking out on old school bells
gathering echoes on the Thar.
We spoke about camel-
stomached love, the eucalyptus
men and women who’d
promised to grow sky-
old with us.

The desert is a virgin—
its skin only as old
as the last thought.
New hymen patterns
on every breath.
Love bites on dunes,
like goose bumps
on our dawn-damp skin.

Our furry whispers
were windows of delight.
My thinness was a belief
that transformed you
into a butterfly.
You grew wings
and looked for peace
whose address is
always next door.
You took a roll call
of all tall smiles
that bended
their necks to enter
through your garden arch.
I wanted a tree
to scratch my back.
There were none.
Only giant cacti thorns.

The eyes of women
dropping from your mouth
left me in sweat.
I searched for shade.
Where are the shadows
of desert lovers?

I looked upwards,
mumbled scanty whispers.
The sky is the waiter
who takes your order and smiles.
You are restless.
Nothing arrives.

Memory is a wall
guarding our houses.
A black goat enters,
chews air and leaves.
Gun-bags of sandy silence
are embankment.

A desert is
all neighborhood.
We roam, we loiter,
we never enter.
Its curfew-hour
patience unnerves us

until the sun clears its throat
to arrive
and you slither
into a desert corpse
to wait for
a war-burnt lover.

Sumana Roy

An early draft of Sumana Roy’s first novel, Love in the Chicken’s Neck, was longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize 2008. She lives in the “Chicken’s Neck” region of India.