The Sikh
soft kurti flowing,
glances up as he passes beneath the balcony

His grey wood staff,
tapping the pavement,
thrumming to the center of the Earth

The morning’s light
flickers through the trees
and the wind chimes
a gentle greeting

A mantis
has come to visit,
curious about the metal bed on which I lay,
propped up against the mantle beside the open French doors

She hangs upside down
on the molding where it greets the floorboards,
nonchalant, blasé, comme ci, comme ça

I slide down into the rolling chair next to my bed,
draw a pink rose from the vase on my nightstand
and offer it to my mystical friend

She crawls onto the pale-red bloom,
wobbling there a bit,
as I wedge the stem between my toes
and wheel the two of us to be warmed by the sun

She lifts the silvery green stretch of her jointed foreleg,
and pulls the luminous spiked sheath through her palps,
arching it, like a dancer, over her bulbous eyes,
scratching to the rustle of dried mandevilla leaves tangled in the railing

You hide
beneath wispy white gauze
long lost of its crispness

Your belly,
full of memories of divine sweets,
protrudes like that of the mantis

Hers full of eggs,
promise and death,
yours full of laughter,
and wisdom brought from other lands

I wait for you each morning when the sun rises
and watch until your turban
and the last breath of your staff
disappear down the road between the branches of the maidenhair gingko

Where were you
when the sun was kissing the mid-summer day goodnight
and I lay broken at the bottom of the stairs

I waited for you,
but only the mantis came


Afternoons without the Sikh
pass slowly as time does
when washed with sadness

A mandevilla blossom,
spent of its prime
floats like a balloon into the air and disappears over the roof

The bed, unmade,
awaits a daily dose of tidiness
as does the balcony, the night’s assemblage
of autumn foliage convened like blathering schoolboys

In the corners they crouch,
and under the toeholds
waiting to be chased into the field across the road,
chattering like crickets

Afternoons without the Sikh
the pavement awaits the beat of his walking stick
telling time with the passage of clouds

A hummingbird, thirsty,
perches like a warrior on a naked branch of the coffeetree
stripped of its leaves by the winds of winters past

She flutters her wings,
sharpens her nectar needle,
and listens for the distant baton of her conductor dressed in white,
poised to take flight at the hint of a downbeat

Afternoons without the Sikh
hawks hang in the sky like mobiles
‘til he appears
and time stops for a moment

A grasshopper, drunk with heat
waggles its antennae
stridulating with excitement in a most orthopterian way

Will you still come
when I stand once again
and offer me your staff

Shall I anoint my shoulders,
my breasts
my belly
my limbs with sweet almond oil

Shall I wrap my hair
and my pale body
in crispy white gauze
and unfurl my broken legs as the mantis would

Where were you when she came
and taught me to lick myself clean
and heal my wounds

I will wait for you
and offer a pink-hued bloom


Nights without the Sikh
my lover places a shot of bourbon next to the vase
on the nightstand he fashioned from a cardboard box

He lifts the blanket off my feet, my nails painted electric-blue
and kisses each toe
one by one

Then my forehead
but not my lips
and never my legs
afraid I will break apart from his touch

He leaves me and sits alone
at the stone breakfast counter
on the far side the room,
playing his favorite songs to lull me to sleep

The melodies float upon the air
and blow through my body like ghosts,
rushing past as though I cannot hear them

As though I cannot feel
As though I am not here
As though I am a corpse

Nights without the Sikh
the hummingbird and the grasshopper fall silent
and mandevilla blooms droop in the coolness,
like horses sleeping on their feet

Nights without the Sikh
my lover climbs the stairs to our room,
where we used to lie together in the moonlight,
and I am left alone in the darkness beneath him

I rage
at the caterpillar, the wasp, the butterfly,
and the ant making its way up the white oleander stalk

When the magnolia outside my window hears me,
and begins to play its best song upon the midnight breeze
I sit up and stroke my jointed legs like a mantis

Nights without the Sikh,
the only sound that remains is my lover’s disturbed sleep
resonating through the ceiling, whispering,
I am here I am here you are not alone

He sleeps
while I lie awake
drunk with memories
of dancing barefoot on the beach in the moonlight

I feel the presence of the mantis
beckoning me to rise,
to walk, to fly

I waited for you,
but found only a grey staff among fallen leaves on the pavement in the morning