The Morning After the Festival

The temple lies along the river,
six stone pillars lifting it above the fields of frosted vegetables.
It is the morning after the festival.
In the leaping light, the water that floats between the pillars
is as still and as glimmering as the polished floor.
On it lies a solitary form wrapped in grey: it seems to float on water.
He floats in his dreams, for he is the singer, 
brought from afar for the festival.
He is reliving last night:
the music flowing into the river with his voice, 
the light on the river carrying it up to the moon, 
the heavenly notes scattered among the stars.
The light is stronger now.
It washes over the sleeping figure in the temple, 
as if the river had overflowed.
On the bank,
an old woman appears with a broom and starts to sweep away the debris
of fallen leaves;
of withered garlands; 
of paper and tinsel; 
of dreams.
The river will accept it and carry it all away; 
anyway, it already owns the music.
Tanya Mendonsa
Tanya Mendonsa was educated at Loreto school and college in Calcutta. After spending twenty years in Paris, studying French literature at the Sorbonne, painting and running a language school, she returned to India, a story told in her memoir The Book of Joshua. She is the author of two collections of poetry, The Dreaming House and 
All the Answer I Shall Ever Get. 
Her poems have been widely anthologized. She currently lives in the blue mountains of the Nilgiris with the abstract painter Antonio E Costa. 
Note: This poem is from All the Answer I Shall Ever Get, Tanya Mendonsa's second collection of poems, which is an exploration and a meditation on two eternal themes: love and friendship and the power of the past. The poet says, "I wrote this poem, as I did many others, on my early morning walks before anyone was up. This particular poem was inspired by the village of Moira in Goa, which is bordered on each side by a river. Every morning, I would take a different direction — there were so many! — but one of my favourites was along a stretch of water that had islands on the far side and this particular temple on a sloping bank. The light is extraordinary just after dawn. The rest you can read as I imagined it. I'm also a painter, which is perhaps why I 'see' things in a certain way." In the poems of the book are to be found passionate longing and profound loss, but this is no ordinary homage to those most celebrated of human feelings. Mendonsa's directness and simplicity is, by turns, intimate, terrifying, uplifting and, ultimately, liberating. These poems open our eyes to a world seen anew with a lyricism that never ceases to astonish and delight.