Bird’s Song

For Bhabhi
Maa says,
“the roses die in hotter weather,”
where the bridge arches
from the stirring overture
of a summered creek.

In June, the dewed bulbs bloom,
unabashed, widening their glorious hips,
upturning their chaniya,
where you can enter
the fluffed oblivion
under cotton pleating,

where grandmother calls my Maa’s name,

and the names
of all mothers,
all daughters
that have come before,

like a nostalgia,
hidden and freed, birthing wild youth,
dissipating honeyed gulab
in the flourished steam of earthen petrichor.

Here, you can caress the fragile silk
matted over a crest of cheekbone.
Here, you can feel the tenderness of a laugh,
as a night wind rattles a skeleton of thorns.

Somehow, without eyes,
you can still make out a face,
how the petals wrinkle into
the soft edges of old age.

We know it is time,
when the first music
under a bridge, is the mellow
stream carousing
the withered remains of a flower.

Maa says,
“pray for the soul,” as we listen
to the last thali of a stavan
percuss the heart of stones, mend broken branches,
follow the water down until
the final metered drone disappears
into the raag of a bird’s song,
modulating a cool complexion
along a breeze.

Preeti Shah

Listen to Preeti reading ‘“Bird’s Song”’ (2:11).


Preeti Shah is a Queens-based Indian American healthcare worker and meditation teacher who has poetry upcoming in Rigorous and Sharkpack Shorts, and art upcoming in Penn Review. You can find her on her IG handle: @babyprema. “Bird’s Song” was written to honor the life of Shrimati Vasumati Kirtilal Chokshi.

© text and audio 2020