“The Wheel” by Vinda Karandikar

Someone is about to come but doesn’t. Is about
to turn on the stairs but doesn’t.
I button my shirt
come from the laundry with all its dazzling blots,
like one’s peculiar fate.
I shut the door, sit quietly.
The fan begins to whirl
and turn the air into a whirlpool of fire,
making a noise bigger than the house.
Someone is about to come and doesn’t.
It doesn’t matter.
Calmly I lean against the wall,
become a wall.
A wounded bird on my shoulder laughs raucously,
laughs at the shoulder it perches on!

My soul of flesh and blood puts a long thread in the needle’s eye.
I stitch a patch on my son’s umbrella.
I pick his nose and name the pickings:
I call one “Elephant” and another “Lion.”
Someone is about to come and doesn’t. Is about
to turn on the stairs and doesn’t.
I tickle my children,
they tickle me in turn; I laugh,
with a will; for I do not feel tickled.
It doesn’t matter.
I scan their fingers for signs:
Nine conches and one wheel.

Note: “Nine conches and one wheel” are formations of lines on the tips of fingers which, in Indian palmistry, foretell a happy life.

Translated from the Marathi by the author

http://www.poetrymagazine.org/magazine/0907/poem_180011.html

“Some one is about to come but doesn’t/Is about to turn on the stairs but doesn’t.” A possibility with a certainty of the event not happening,ab initio. This is how despair reveals itself.”I button my shirt come from the laundry with all its dazzling blots” I am leaving the room but do not. Like those blots on the shirt I have my peculiar fate to enact.I shut the door and sit quietly as the fan whirs and makes a noise bigger than the house.

“makes the noise bigger than the house”
is a pretty image. The meaning works both ways.The whirring noise is higher in volume than what the house contain.At another level the noise of the house rises above the noise level of the house itself.The house creaks in decrepitude and its doors rattle. The whirring fan makes the air into a whirlpool of fire.In the blazing heat of mid-summer the concrete roof sends down shafts of heat through the air stirred by the whirring of the fan.Calmly I lean against the wall and become the wall.”become the wall” is to become immobile against the wall merging into its staticity. “A wounded bird on my shoulder laughs raucously/Laughs at the very shoulder it perches on”-the laughter of rejection,of apathy and of the hopelessness of unreturned love.

I stitch my son’s umbrella ,mending its patches ,like the patches which dazzled on my shirt like my fate.I pick my son’s nose and give funny names to the pickings.I get tickled by children but cannot laugh.Because no matter how much they try they cannot bring me back my happiness.It does not matter.My children have nine conches and one wheel on their fingers .Their future will be bright as the the presence of one conch on the fingers is predictive of a prosperous life.

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