Fall 1992, Volume 9.3


G. S. Sharat Chandra

G. S. Sharat Chandra is a professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. His newest books are Immigrants of Loss (Hippopotamus Press, England), and Family of Mirrors (BkMk Press, Missouri). He is the author of ten books, including translations from Sanskrit and English into the Indian language Kannada. A former Fulbright Fellow and winner of an NEA Fellowship in Creative Writing, Chandra has given readings at the Library of Congress, Oxford, and McDaid's Pub in Dublin.

See other work published in Weber Studies by G. S. Sharat Chandra: Poetry—Vol. 4.1Vol. 7.1Vol. 12.2, Vol., 15.1, Fiction—Vol. 15.1.



A Hindu ceremony where crow
believed to be ancestors are fed
My brothers and sisters are calling
our ancestors from their hideout
in heaven where
they wait dead or denied,
mortally reminiscing
on the good food they ate,
until they grow wings
to sneak back as ravens.
It must be the smell itself
that gives them directions
to homes of relatives
who're cooking the burden.
A fat one eats only rice,
another pecks on pickles,
one grumbles about the cook,
another perches praising a niece
whose recipes came from a book.
A foreign dead asks for knives,
another circles the house
cawing directions
to a flock of frenetic wives.
Fed by the scriptures,
my ancestors
still remain unimpressed:
a burly beak declares flatly
my wife's curry is a sorry mess.
The last one to leave is a lecher,
sighs at my wife's sumptuous look,
signals he'll be back later,
for favors off the hook.

Valley of the Crows, India

At the sudden edge
where the hill gapes into the valley,
a gnarled mimosa leans
away from the sky
to shade a heap of pebbles,
a raven sits cleaning its beak,
its eyes ancient as guilt.
Without much sympathy
boyish waiters tell the story:
a paltry priest, his orthodox wife,
and lonely daughter
took care of the temple nearby.
It was a worthless living
between bosoms of crippled gods.
There was famine,
pilgrims went elsewhere
where gods flourished
under influential care.
The daughter grew like a lush vine
through the crevices of poverty,
a rich man took her,
ashamed, the mother led
the pregnant girl to the valley,
jumped together arms spread,
it was windless,
no one heard a cry or prayer.
When the crows were done,
no one could find the scattered bones,
the priest went deranged,
rang the temple bells for days
as if to ask the ravens.
The hill is now a tourist resort
where week-end revellers
sit drinking cold beer,
listening to the past held
in the gyrating postures
of waiters who are also guides
to the temple kept intact
with its tragedies.
I among them,
and the raven which slaps
its groomed wings in memory.
We have everything
telephones, TV, schedules for readings,
addresses, invitations,
but we circle our chairs,
ask aimless questions
who was the angel at the airport
singing names on the intercom
as if she were calling us?
Why are we shouting
our names into mirrors,
awake in a dream
where sirens draw near?
Women sit close
all evening under lamps
to read what we wrote
lost in their country.
Our hands are empty,
our words roam in the city.
Even our rooms are shaped
like boats
to make us buoyant,
yet we drift without docks,
our heads are numbers
bobbing on the streets,
in between the lights,
words are raindrops on our fists.
You can throw anything into the sea,
the sea opens,
the sea zips itself back.
In the strange buildings,
hosted by linguists
we seek walls to hold us steady,
let our ghosts converse.