She talks about her days abroad:
Kyoto, and her journeys
out to ancient shrines, gingkos
unravelling over river water,
a spoiled affair with a painter
and a student she slept with
on the rebound, his dainty manners
and pudding bowl haircut.
Life catches at her in these moments
the flush of wine at her throat
the hangover of choices. Tonight
she talks about Mumbai. A later time,
but one when wide life
still offered itself with potential.
How, on her first day she had left
her boyfriend slumbering in their hotel,
and walked out into the streets
to be amongst the sellers of rice
and tamarind, the green ice cream
offered by the cup. A local man
had spied her, dazed as she was,
by jet lag and the experience,
and he had promised her chai,
the best she would ever taste.
She had allowed herself to be led
through back streets and alleys,
putting her faith in the adventure
in a way she now finds inconceivable.
The chai wallah had set up
beside an outdoor latrine, a line
of men staring over as they pissed.
The tea had brewed in a metal pot
for what might have been forever,
the steam of cardamon and cinnamon,
mingling with urine’s ammonia,
the even redness of it like river silt,
the dust beneath her feet.
Later, in an alley by Soho Square
she will turn and pull me
back towards her, kiss me,
and whisper promises of deeds
which so far are forbidden
and within the public expression
of these needs, I will think
of her walk from the strange hotel
the men at the latrine, the chai
which was the best she had ever tasted,
the boyfriend, even now, who sleeps.