Emily’s Belly


At last
the house is empty.
The windows sigh and let in the pigeons.
Outside, the soft, slow rain watches
the leaping gold fish in our fish bowl.
Emily and Lily they are called,
though we might be mistaken
about their gender.

I drink my tea cold
and speak to the walls.
They throw new words back at me,
words I am too slow to catch.
A few find their way into Emily’s open mouth.

Shakuntala’s ring*
was restored from the belly of a fish.

What will become
of the words inside Emily’s belly ?
Who will find them ?
Will they be found ?



*In Hindu mythology, Shakuntala was the wife of King Dushyanta and the mother of Bharata. Her story is narrated in the epic Mahabharatha. Dushayanta marries Shakuntala in a simple gandharva style wedding and leaves for his kingdom, promising to send for her soon. Before he goes,  he gives her a ring with his seal on it. Lost in thoughts of Dushyanta, Shakuntala fails to greet the Rishi Kanva who curses her to the effect that the person she is thinking of will forget her altogether. Later, he modifies his curse saying that the person would remember everything once again if Shakuntala showed him a personal token that had been given to her. Shakuntala sets out for Dushyanta’s kingdom. On the way, she stops to bathe in a river and the ring that Dushyanta had given her slips out of her finger and ends up inside the belly of a fish.  Dushyanta fails to recognize Shakuntala.  It is only when a fisherman finds the ring inside a fish he has caught and produces it before Dushyanta, that the latter recalls everything.