The River Tells No Lies

scraps, wisps, whatever, straggles out
muddied, muddled and misted over
dragged out of the mouth of the Kaveri
some bits dredged out of the river-bottom
nothing’s unsullied, the goddess frowns.

lemons juicy, swollen, some-some shrunken
were they twelve or sixteen, who knows?
enough to keep the headaches at bay
not enough to be rid of her clinging grip
lemons washed, halved and deseeded
squeezed dry with her firm lizard-like grasp
every lingering sour drop freed into the pot
of cooled sugar syrup and silently poured
into small-necked lemonade bottles, stealth.

marks their passage to the icebox in the van
the drive’s coffee-fuelled bends get bold and boisterous
leading to chilled beer-guzzling nights by the banks
boys will be boys, smokers, teetotallers, all
and girls will be sized up, local or otherwise.

the areca nut hardens, the heat mounts
the pink datura advances, her poison spreads
leeches stray in pre-monsoon abandon
the river runs its course, summer’s on its march but
all she can do is wait with lemon-scented hands.

the aftertaste if you must know: bitter-sour.

Zarin Virji is a school leader, teacher trainer and writer.

Featured image: Jr Korpa / Unsplash