Elements of Composition

Composed as I am,
like others,
of elements on certain well-known lists,
father’s seed and mother’s egg

gathering earth,
air, fire, mostly water,
into a mulberry mass,
moulding calcium,

carbon, even gold,
magnesium and such,
into a chattering self tangled in love and work,

scary dreams,
capable of eyes that can see,
only by moving constantly,
the constancy of things

like Stonehenge or cherry trees;

add uncle’s eleven fingers making
shadow-plays of rajas and cats,

becoming fingers again,
the look of panic on sister’s face an hour before

her wedding,
a dated newspaper map,
of a place one has never seen,
maybe no longer there

after the riots,
downtown Nairobi,
that a friend carried in his
passport as others would

a woman’s picture in their wallets;

add the lepers of Madurai,
male, female, married, with children,

lion faces,
crabs for claws,
clotted on their shadows under
the stone-eyed

goddesses of dance,
mere pillars,
moving as nothing on
earth can move &

I pass through them as
they pass through me
taking and leaving affections,
seeds, skeletons,

millennia of fossil records of insects
that do not last a day,

body-prints of mayflies,
a legend half-heard in a train

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of the half-man searching for
an ever-fleeing other half

through Muharram tigers,
hyacinths in crocodile waters,
and the sweet

twisted lives of epileptic saints,

and even as I add I lose,
decompose, into my elements

into other names and forms,
past, and passing, tenses without time,

caterpillar on a leaf,
eating, being eaten.

Elements of Composition by A K Ramanujan

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