Sriya Narayanan works in the marketing department of a newspaper where she writes feature articles. Her poetry has been published in Nthposition and Eclectica. In 2009, she was shortlisted for the Toto Funds The Arts (TFA) Creative Writing award. A classical violinist she blogs at sriyanarayanan.blogspot.com on animal rights.
The Moral Science Teacher
The pirated book of fables is awash with typos.
Like a row of grey tulips, her uniformed audience sits
On brown benches, staring. Their eyeballs are elevator shafts.
“Why should we learn all this?”
She gives them a test to silence them
So she can have a quiet moment at the window
Overlooking an open sewer where a dehydrated puppy
Is drinking itself to death. She grabs her water flask
And rushes out to its rescue as
The 12-year-old silhouettes begin to go rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb.
When she returns, it is recess and the corridors are flooded
With children who fantasize about escape.
Their shoes squish against the concrete floor.
Raising her index fingers to her temples
She makes ripples with them, closes her eyes.
The asbestos roof is being pelted with bulbous raindrops
And is bleeding poison into the girls’ wing.
She ignores a stubborn lump in her armpit, and writes
In cursive with a pastel chalk
“Dip all your deeds in faith”.
I’m running late and am stuck at this intersection
Where the temple is vomiting people into the street
(And vice versa).
A loudspeaker cone hangs like a torn wire
From a lamppost whose sides are drenched in bright red spit.
Screams of faith wash over all of us
As my agnostic lungs well up.
I should’ve known better than to bury myself
In my sheets for those extra five minutes.
Others switch off their engines as a gesture of surrender
But I accelerate, look at my watch and at the mirror
I am growing old in this car.
A coconut is severed and flung onto the syrup-soaked floor
What a waste of food.
The believers form a twitching line with no-arm distance
Sparking off a tug-of-war of tongues.
I allow myself a prayer: may this crowd dissipate.
Sunlight pours through my windshield and climbs over my face.
I try again.
Meanwhile, at the entrance, a triangular heap of footwear grows
Like a sea monkey
Once moistened, unstoppable.