Where Vessels Go to Die by Uma Shankar






Where Vessels Go to Die

Did you think of shipyards, things that sail the seas
When you heard vessels- I am thinking of the glorious
Uruli, peepa,kodam…
Grand, majestic creations in brass.
At least until that modern day interloper called stainless steel crept in.
These storehouses of grain, water, pickled mango, lime
Great big family lunches and dinners, served on banana leaves
On cool earthen floors, when the kuyil’s plaintive, insistent cries
Surged in volume and pitch along with the summer heat!

Were the Uruli a chess piece, it would be the castle
Solid, staid, capable of no dramatic flair.
Peepa– of immense capacity, sang lustily of a family’s gustatory dedication
Now, a form of address for a person of generous girth.
The kodam– immortalized by womenfolk of yore, gopis of Mathura
Figures of grace, making the arduous task of filling water from a well or tank
Look oh so- languorous!

Now, that one has steel, melamine, plastic, and paper containers
Some disposable too.
What is the fate of brass vessels-
That need elbow grease, lemon peels or tamarind pulp to shine
Will they gather dust in attics and basements?
Or meet fiery ends in furnaces?
To be reborn into shapes appealing to modern tastes?
But listen carefully as I do, and you will hear the whispers of the past
Linking a Rekha in Manhattan to a Radha in Mathura

Urulis, Peepas, Kodams- Tamil words for various storing vessels
Kuyil- Tamil for cuckoo
Gopis- Devotees of the Hindu deity Krishna

Uma Shankar lives in New Jersey. She likes to write poetry in English and Hindi and also translates. Her poems have featured on Wingless Dreamer and Red Noise Collective.

Image: FiveRings, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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