- Letter to a Husband
Fifth day past the full moon you ended fourteen years with Rama in the forest. I took the children to another house. It seemed useless to wait for a shadow that falls on the road at five but doesn’t come in.
You wore your oldest sandals. Are they broken now? One night the ones you left I put out at the temple. Various men must be wearing them— I don’t even know who they are. As for the city, the courtesans prepare annually for your arrival. They do not think of my position. Like you, they never felt the taut skin of this native land burdened by so much waiting; and all along, your brother kept a seat for you at Nandigram, white umbrella of the state. Therefore our eldest, Govindas, will not assume your tasks until council reconvenes.
I am teaching at the school near Palika Bazaar, so crowded has it become, but I have seen all five children through and decided to stay on; and with their classmates also gone, new enrollments every year, it is less well-known I am your wife. Lately the students confuse me with Memsahib Arvinda; she has taken up teaching, too old to entertain— you remember her?— favored by all your brothers who kept her house on the western compound near the mali’s house. I knew everything but didn’t say.
Sometimes I see her across the maidan in her white sari. One day I will approach her. I have lost only you. How many must be gone from her! So I give this letter to the son of your harness-keeper who still speaks as if you are coming through the gate. And when you receive this, go to her: at dusk, she waits in the clearing where the same mali plants too many marigolds because the champak trees never took root.
mali (Hindi): gardener
maidan (Hindi): field
Works by Reetika Vazirani
• Letter to a Husband
• Reading the Poem About the Yew Tree
Reetika Vazirani is a recipient of a 1994 “Discovery”/The Nation award. Her poems have appeared in various periodicals, including Agni, The American Voice, The Kenyon Review, The Literary Review and The Nation. In 1990, her poems first began appearing in Callaloo.