Sometimes I write a poem about Hindu culture for my Brahmin husband. It feeds his vague nostalgia for festivals like this weekend's Ganesh Chaturthi. Members of a Hindu household worship a clay murti of the mathematician god Shri Ganesha, and then submerge it at an immersion site. Neighborhoods compete with each other in building the biggest murti, and there are pujas and other rituals. A sweet called kozhakottai, a dumpling made from rice flour with a stuffing of coconut and jaggery, is offered at the temple.Once I made 101 of them, and I'm Episcopalian.
On a palanquin lofted
by four garlanded men,
the pot-bellied Elephant God
leads a seaward procession.
A believer cradling a small
earthen version of the god
mutters last-minute prayers,
supplications hurried to shore
by a trick of the wind.
Ganapati, let the train come
that I may keep my job. Let my son
pass exams, my daughters marry
into good families.
Water slaps sand, the air clacks
with finger cymbals. The pilgrim
wades out waist-deep, the murti
in his elbow’s crook. He releases it
like a bad debt, a broken promise.
A pyune rushes into the train station
from a street strewn with obstacles.
He tugs the hands of a stopped clock
into a likely hour while outside, a flotilla
of figurines streams by, streaked features
half- erased, trunks of clay dissolving.