If Maps Were Hummingbirds – Shankar Narayan

Ecstasy would be your world
and you would flit
like sirens to the lilting lutes
of Abyssinia and Anatolia,
seeking forever
the closing of a circle

just over your horizon.
Grief-worlds turn fairytale
in that place where time
seems to hover,
just never quite where
you expected, in shaded glades

where the goat’s cloven hoof
fills with red water, beckons you
to drink. Yes, if maps were hummingbirds
your lightning tongues might
taste salt of Jerusalem
over curry of Kerala,

and what of the many many dragonflies
that chase away your meridians,
make you sing and hum yourself
over the tepid cliffs of existence, to fever
with nectars and tropics
you’d only imagined?—

Listen. Buenos Aires
is offering its roses,
the jasmines of Angkor
are opening, all you need

do is forget, forget
gravity, forget
tomorrow, erase
all the lovers

your mouth almost tasted, eradicate
every place you ever rested
your outstretched hand, flitter away
every last whit of breath

over disremembered
Cancers. For you know

is coming. And tonight

you will sleep
like the dead.

snarayanShankar Narayan explores identity, power, and race in a world where the body is flung across borders yet possesses unrivaled power to transcend them. A Pushcart Prize nominee and fellow at Kundiman and Hugo House, Shankar awakens to the wonders of Cascadia every day, but his heart yearns east to his other hometown, Delhi.