Michelle Cahill / Poetry

Laksmī under Oath

Laksmī under Oath

I left my footprints on the threshold
of ancient temples, pointing
inwards, like the flow of fortune.

In 200 BC, well-intentioned seers
fashioned me, etched in bronze
on lintels, the gateways to the city.

The land was barren, a salt marsh
where Indra slayed a three-headed fiend,
pole stars drifting and rivers forked.

How my parasitic limbs ached,
my breast cut off, its vestiges leaking
milk. I was spared of Vedic hymns,

a self-sovereign. The villagers
offered testimony in ricecakes, garlands,
jhoti. Untouchables defiled me.

Brahmin beggars stalked me, carping
for centuries. From that sensual debut
I was glitter in the ocean’s foam.

Here are my breasts, and here
are my twenty acrylic nails, my spinal
brace, my club feet and pressure sores.

All this lotus mania! Crouching in Ganges
mud takes its toll. Even poets are stalking me.
I am dripping in gold, they can’t resist.

Close-up, the room is full of strangers,
shaking, coughing, as I sign the affidavit
(in my red half-slip) and swallow a pill.

Vishnu, I am not bipolar, I am post-op,
with a restylane flush, on a spending spree,
unfolding in you, as the moon would.

Michelle Cahill

‘Laksmī under Oath’ first appeared in Vishvarūpa (5IP)

What shines through Cahill’s sure craft and control is a sense of a mind in transition, restlessly looking outwards and inwards on worlds dizzying in their multiplicity.  Alison Croggon

From Kuring-gai Chase to Dharamsala; from a child’s swing to a ghost ship; from transvestites in Mumbai to the antipodean grammar of a daughter’s crayon drawings; from Hamlet at the Opera House to Parvati in Darlinghurst and Ganesa, these poems do, with restrained, sometimes pained eloquence, what only poems can do: they make moments enormous; they speak for the voiceless; they arrest time; they recharge language; they turn the sensual world inside out; they complicate and clarify perception. Mark Tredinnick




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