(Writers Workshop, Calcutta 1976.)
Pub. in: Ploughshares (Boston), 25th Anniversary
Issue, 17(2&3), 1991
On the Passing of Age
by Bina Agarwal
As the soft green of moss covers
the gnarled roots of an old banyan, so evening
creeps over the folds of my grandparents.
Veiled by the dusk from the hurting brilliance
of a young world, they sit in undisturbed stillness
on garden chairs, side by side.
Many who come to see their son,
or their son's son or daughters, hasten
unnoticing to a ceaseless doorbell.
Age has no wisdom now, nor youth folly,
and more than what we need to know
is written in books.
The togetherness of habit binds them
in their wait. Lunch at twelve-thirty—
she will not eat without him; tea at four.
As his stick supports his waking hours
so her sleeping form comforts his dreams.
Though their minds wander separate ways—
hers still delighting in details of family fortunes,
his dwelling on past independence, accepting
the present as part of tradition.
Just beneath the crook of her arm, grandmother's skin
feels like the velvet blouses in Mother's dowry—
creased but perfectly preserved.
Or like wings of butterflies I caught as a child.
It leaves behind the same sad remembrance
of fragile colors.
© Bina Agarwal