Spaces that are Meant to be Sacred

What happens outside the temple
is always worth a quick click and a flash,
and that’s a world of its own, well-captured.

Those who go in, to the space where
nothing can be recorded,
have to keep a distance from the ones
in front of them, and pretend
that they’re there only for a glimpse
of the deity, to pray,
and to receive the blessings.

The young men
who sit under the adjacent banyan tree
are liberated from the pretensions
that exist close to the sanctum sanctorum.

They don’t miss what everyone
going in is wearing,
whose flowers are fresher,
who walks with a pronounced limp
or a hidden one,
and whose eyes are able to see beyond
what’s in a straight line ahead of them.

They’re free to sing what they like,
mixing imagery
from worship with courtship games,
dream aloud of a future life-partner
who’s pious and modern, like in the movies,
watch a cricket game, or listen
to a political speech on a phone,
and on rare occasions, fight
with a friend who’s no more a friend

till it kills the serenity of the deities,
as if someone has thrown a stone
to the sacred pond,
the ripples shocking its fish
that’ve grown too big and lazy
to come to the surface
and have a peep at what’s going wrong.

Jose Varghese is a bilingual writer and translator from India. He is the author of Silver Painted Gandhi and Other Poems and his short story manuscript In/Sane was a finalist in the 2018 Beverly International Prize. His second collection of poems is scheduled for publication in 2022 by Black Spring Press Group, UK. He was a finalist twice in the London Independent Story Prize (LISP), a runner up in the Salt Prize, and was commended in the Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Prize. His works are published or forthcoming in Litro, Under the Radar Magazine (Nine Arches Press), Joao Roque Literary Journal, Burningwords Literary Journal, SPLASH! (Haunted Waters Press), Wild Roof Journal, The Bookends Review, The Closed Eye Open, Sunspot Literary Journal, Chariot Press, The Showbear Family Circus, Sad Girls Club, The Best Asian Short Story Anthology (2019 and 2021), The Best Asian Poetry Anthology (2021), Wingless Dreamer (Spring Poetry Contest 2021), Bluing the Blade (Tempered Runes Press), Lunchbreak Zine, Cathexis Northwest Press, Khabar, Live Encounters, Dreich, Meridian: The APWT Drunken Boat Anthology of New Writing, Afterwards, Summer Anywhere, I Am Not a Silent Poet, Spilling Cocoa Over Martin Amis, Kavya Bharati, Bengaluru Review, Muse India, Re-Markings, Unthology 5, Unveiled, Reflex Fiction, Retreat West, Flash Fiction Magazine, Chandrabhaga, and Postcolonial Text.