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Fickle Muses an online journal of myth and legend

art by Phyllis Bertoni Krosinsky
by Phyllis Bertoni Krosinsky

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Two poems by Saba Siddique

Ballad 2

In my grandmother’s village
silk is woven all day
and when dusk falls
women gather
for a furtive dip
in the village pond,
ducking heads and bodies
like unsure birds
holding their breath and eyes tight

to tell tales,
their bosoms trembling
beneath the nine yards of silk
that can cover bodies

or tied around necks
to swing from mango trees
if contemplating an early death

like the tailor’s daughter Amna
who spent sixteen summers hiding in groves
to avoid being sent to school,

only to jump into the water
one sultry evening
redolent with musk, jasmine and cow pats,
the brown skeins of her long hair spread out
like a fisherman’s net
over lotus blooms

and who,
later,
unseen,
walked to the mango grove
to use the silk woven by neighbours

to wander forever with her lover
who had lain amidst the lotuses
that hot summer evening

 

Ballad 3

A long time ago
when such things were possible
the schoolmaster’s winsome wife
took a jinn as a lover

laughing and giggling
in the long cool verandas,
raising her creamy arms
covered with hot pink bangles
to clap with delight
when the nightingales hid in jasmine bushes to sing

and on those evenings
when monsoon rains
washed the courtyard,
lifting her long skirts
thigh high
to dance whirling to music
only she could hear,
her smile bringing blushes
to the cheeks of amazed onlookers

who now enjoined the schoolmaster
to assert his conjugal rights
and fight for the love of his wife
who should have known better
than to give her heart to a mere shadow

years passed
and the house came to be inhabited
by the sounds of unborn children,
their laughter echoing
in vacant rooms

Stung,
the schoolmaster vowed revenge
but wept
when her head rolled in the courtyard,
smiling,
at peace at last.