~ for Linthoi

Ishaanou cannot trace
the wild etymology of her name.
The rags of faith come loose
from the ends of her phanek
in whispers of a language
she had once deciphered
with her rice-body.
Love’s epic fades in her eyes today,
as lotuses grow blue in a smothered pond
like poisoned lips.
She listens to her name echoing back
from a hillock lost to the war.

Such a name is a conspiracy
of winters waiting for dreams;
it bleeds along the street’s bare theatre,
where sunless forests fly
searching for her shadow,
while she mimics a bitch
whose tail the boys had tied years ago
with a string of live crackers.

Ishaanou understands history
like whores understand men;
she is the earth vanishing
into a city’s gutters,
the frozen eyes of breasts
watching the world
like clocks in bombed buildings.

*In Meiteilon, the language of the Meiteis of Manipur, Ishaanou is the feminine for ‘beloved’.