An intense ballad, the fury of nature and an old woman, in this verse by Sumita, in Different Truths.
“The Old Woman’s escaping!” reported my sons.
The flood water rising high had vanquished
Six feet tall gates and barbed wire crowned compound walls,
A serene brown sea rippled to the horizon from my terrace.
No walls, boundaries demarcated ownership,
Houses kneeled dismal in lintel high water,
Trees and decorative crotons drooped, helplessly
Met flotsam, caught the dazed wanderers on eddying streams.
A nudge, a scrape, not a word exchanged,
Too shocked to complain of their plight, they parted again.
“The Old Woman disappeared towards the lake,” said Dad
Ready to discard his clothes and swim after her.
I wouldn’t let him; three floods in as many weeks
I was used to losses: two cars, an inverter, a water pump,
The woodwork in the house bloated…
The Old Man lay entangled in a watering hose
Floating next to a couple of drunken buckets –
Dustbin and a gardening pail, solemn shiny plastic
Bobbing gently in mutual sympathy,
Silent disbelief in their defenseless indignity.
Water receded leaving behind tales of drownings,
Beaches lined with dead strays,
And apartments sunk two floors deep.
At home, I only dealt with thick slimy sludge,
Peeling walls and warped doors with curling layers
Flourishing powdery fungus and cute button mushrooms;
Arguments for car services, dealings with insurance agents,
The professional cleaners, the plumber and the electricians.
The Old Woman’s fate was latent regret.
I hopelessly checked the lake on a breather,
Found she hadn’t traveled far, just two plots down
My neighbour kindly hauled her back on his scooter.
A dead weight with absorbed water,
Smiling gamely as the sun dried her.
Someone had scooped out a hollow on her top…
To fulfill requirement for a tall ashtray perhaps
Or simply a thoughtless jobless defacing act…
In my garden again they pose graciously together;
Changed. Apart from her excavated top,
Taller, and the Old Man leans towards her.
Photos by the poet
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