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chitra banerjee divakaruni


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  The River

I lie on the grass and listen
to the river inside me. It
pulses and churns, surges up
against the clenched rock
of my heart
until finally it spurts from my head
in a dark jet. Behind,
the clouds swoop and dive
on paper wings, the palace walls
grow taller, brick by brick, till they rise beyond
the painting's edge. The river

is deep now and still, an opaque lake
filled with blue fish. But look,
the ground tilts, the green touch-me-not plants
angle away from my body. I am falling.
The lake cups its liquid fingers for me,
the fish glint like light on ice. Evening. The river pebbles

are newborn pearls. The water rises.
I am disappearing, my body
rippling into circles. Legs, waist,
armpits. My hair floats upward, a skein
of melting silk. I give
my face to the river, the lines
of my forehead, my palms. When the last cell
has dissolved, the last cry
of the lake-birds, I will, once more,
hear the river inside.


The World Tree


The tree grows out of my navel. Black
as snakeskin, it slithers upward, away
from my voice. Spreads
across the entire morning, its leaf-tongues
drinking the light. It bores its roots
into my belly till I can no longer tell them
from my dry, gnarled veins. And when it is sure
I will never forget the pain
of its birthing, it parts its branches

so I can see, far
in that ocean of green,
a figure, tiny and perfect, pale
as ivory, leaning
on his elbow. He looks down and I know
that mouth, those eyes. Mine.
I raise my arm. I am calling
loud as I can. He gazes
into the distance, the bright, rippling
air. It is clear
he sees, hears nothing. I continue
to call. The tree grows and grows
into the world between us.


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Excerpted from Leaving Yuba City by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. Copyright © 1997 by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of the Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.