Cover painting by Amy M. Lambert
In Keel Bone, Maya Khosla's words don't merely capture with precision a Himalayan winter and black-necked cranes, or a felled yellow cedar, or a child working in a match factory. Her words don't merely express the death and hope of a blue lupine spring, or the stealth of a black leopard, or the compassion of a motherly Anna ma. Her words are the very particular stones and weather, the rivers and homes, the creatures and people, trapped and free in their momentary events, in their momentary landscapes, the resonances, fears and joys of the many worlds of her poems. These worlds, these poems, of Keel Bone are their own reality of reaching, extraordinary and not to be missed.
Ravens stole her dentures again.
We climbed the spindly branches,
dug into the tangle,
clutched at her teeth.
The ravens in their half-made nest above,
shouting down their thickest language
like dark rain, tricksters scolding.
Achiamma below, toothless, hands on hips:
What do they think they are making,
Taj Mahal? You'd think she loathes animals,
but when dusk draws out the geckos,
Achiamma offers them rice lumps
trembling at the ends of long sticks.
Rind-tough bodies crawl out the cracks,
up walls, their necks thick as cane-root
shudder, gulp, and shudder for more.
Must feed their eye and scale,
feed the thick meat of memory.
Helps them remember us, keep us safe—
Geckos nod, upside-down push-ups.
The flesh-wrapped coals of their eyes
bulge as moths spin and bump
around the lamps' glass-cheeked fire.
The reptiles rip forward, some catch wing-crumples,
some land on the floor with a clap.
Achiamma shapes gecko-eyes in the dust
to draw away ills, ravens' longings,
then she darkens the windows with clove-steam
to suck out the evening's colors.
Now ravens' jungly eyes won't wander
further than their nest.
© 2003 by Maya Khosla