the long hooked poles
know the nooks and crannies
find flaws in stonework
or grappling with granite
ignite a flutter
of unexpected pigeons
and the boat is jockeyed away from
the landing

after a pair of knees
has shot up and streaked
down the mast after
the confusion of hands about
the rigging

an off-white miracle

the sail


because a sailor waved
to a boy

        another boy
waves to another sailor

in the clarity of air
the gesture withers for want
of correspondence and
the hand that returns to him
the hand his knee accepts
as his own
                is the hand
of an aged person
                             a hand
that must remain patient
and give the boy it’s a part of
               to catch up

frozen in a suit the foreman
self-conscious beside
his more self-conscious spouse
finds illegible the palm that opens
demandingly before him

the mould of his hands
broken about his right knee
he reaches for a plastic wallet
he pays the fares

along the rim of the boat
lightly the man rests his arm
without brushing against
his woman’s shoulder

and sunlight
for the possession of her throat
when she shifts
in the wooden seat

and the newly weds exchange
smiles for small profit


show me a foreman he says
to himself
              who knows
his centreless grinding
oilfired saltbath furnace better
than i do
              and swears
at the seagull
who invents
on the spur of the air
what is clearly the whitest inflection
           and what is
clearly for the seagull
over and above the waves
a matter of course


the speedboat swerves off
leaving behind a divergence of sea
and the whole harbour all
that floats must bear
the briny brunt
the sailboat
hurl its hulk over
burly rollers
surmounted soon in leaps
and bounds

a gull hitched on hump
the long trail toils on
bringing to every craft
a measure of imbalance
a jolt for a dinghy
a fillip to a schooner
a swagger to a ketch

and after the sea wall
scabby and vicious with shells
has scalped the surge
after the backwash
has reverted to the bulk of water
all things that float
a normal vacillation



his wife has dismissed
the waves like a queen
a band of oiled acrobats

in her shuttered eyes
move in dark circles
they move against her will

like the fingers
of an archaeologist
move across her stony face
and across the worn
edict of a smile
cut thereon

her husband in chains
is brought before her
he clanks and grovels

throw him to the wolves
she says
staring fixedly
at a hair in his right nostril.

a two-year-old renounces
his mother’s ear
and begins to cascade
down her person
rejecting her tattooed arm
denying her thighs
undaunted by her knees
and further down
her shanks
               he demands
                                                   and balloons
from father to son
                             are handed

closer to keel than all
elders are
and down there
honoured among boots
chappals and bare feet
he goes into a huddle with
                                          the balloons
                                          coming to grips
with one
              being persuasive
with another
              and setting an example
              by punishing a third


two sisters
that came
when the boat
nearly started

seated side
by side
on a plank
have not

hands in lap
they have
been looking
past the boatman’s

the wrinkles
of his saline

and loose ends
of the sea



the boat courses around
to sidle up
against the landing
the wall sweeps
by magisterially
the music man

an expanse of
unswerving stone
encrusted coarsely
with shells
admonishes our sight

–  Arun Kolatkar. The Boatride