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Hestia Domestica
Look, I’m an old-fashioned sort.
I say the fire’s place is in the stove
or in the mud lamp in the alcove
or in a lantern.

Of course, the fire goddess might have wandered
as a child, naked from forest to forest in ancient times
or she might have rolled in the grasslands
in the yet unworded confusion
of first-flush, gooseflesh youth.
Or she might have danced in abandon,
flaming to love, hugging to her heart
the lava spewing from an erect peak
glowing with the revelation of orgasm.

But the blazing lava has long since frozen
on rusty roofs, the forests have shrunk
to worm-eaten rafters. And the grass
is a threadbare thatch where people
with dry hair, dull eyes and reeking armpits
huddle around a dented pot of rice.
In their withered bellies
fire’s cousin, hunger, blooms.

Now fire, hunger’s cousin, instead of feeding
her desires, throws away her shame,
runs naked down the avenues, screaming.

Grab that wanton by her arm,
drag her by her unkempt hair,
smother her with dust
and tie her, cow-moaning,
to a pyre in the burning ground:
all alone, by herself.

Poet's Note: This poem is part of a series called ‘Khandit Khand’ written after the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992.