Maya Khosla is co-directing “The Turtle Diaries project”, supported by awards from Save Our Seas Foundation. Equipped with a background in biology, she also works on animal rescues. Her work has appeared in “World Literature Today” (Pushcart Prize nomination), “The Harper Collins Anthology of English Poetry” and “Sanctuary Magazine.” Her collections include “Keel Bone” (Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize) and “Web of Water” (non-fiction). Previous efforts include screenwriting for “Shifting Undercurrents: Women Seaweed Collectors in Gulf of Mannar” (2012 Jeevika Film Festival Award) and “Village of Dust, City of Water” (2007 Lion Award, Wildlife Asia Film Festival).
Children in a Mustard Field
For Tuks and Raa
Four steps into the button blooms and they vanish.
Only their wake, a pair of breast-strokes swishing
the gold multitudes aside, is visible. Already
they are straying further than the lasso
of adult voices can pitch, instructing the children
to about-turn Now. Already they are gleaning bitter mints
of a world where greens, multiplied
innumerable times by rain, rise festooned
around each fingernail-sized sun that stains
their cheeks and arms with pollen-streaks.
Slipperless on the cracked earth, theirs is a world
secure without roof or doors. Where the chlorophylls
and petals of fantasy will remain adrift long after they return,
long after they learn to crack the black seeds over flames.
Today I returned to the river you showed me
a still place where the undercurrents
are holding and releasing the pebbly banks,
where bowls larger than swimming pools
are bulging with shadow-green caves
sweet and clear as jelly, with surfaces rich in silver.
So I went searching for the small, defiant
dollops of life— frogs so delicately spotted
you could stare at them and see only speckled stones.
And I thought about you there, miles upriver,
laughter like light itself, persuading me to jump in,
to trust the silken flows of time immemorial
with everything I have. The instant spent
there was a minute, an hour, a lifetime.
Isn’t that what water tries to tell us?
And of course I hesitated at first. As all the
living-- the anchored, the finned or feathered
feel fear too. Recognizing that to take a leap
of faith is to treasure arrival, always. The ancients,
Ganges, Mississippi, Orinoco, all teach us that.
Now four a.m. brushes like hair across my face
and I awaken again to that rushing and roaring
on the other side of time, somewhere not too far
Arribada: Arrival of Olive Ridley Sea Turtles
Because desire and perfection are tangled forever in darkness,
those who emerge are offspring of an edge
whose salts and sighs echo the waves.
The night rising and sinking under phosphorescence
churned into being
with each wave’s crash and sizzle. A map of cold
green light from which mystery
must surface to breathe, must swell
to the shape of a thousand strangers,
a thousand more. All clothed in submarine suitcases
heaped with expectations. About birth, safety in numbers.
No choice but to sink to your knees in sand
terrified that life, laden with all her pearls of tomorrow,
could lose her lumbering grip on the world.
And though the turtles cannot afford
to care about perils, evolution does.
And so has created this mad saturation—
so great you could walk miles on their shells
and never touch sand.
Such is persistence. It has no choice but itself,
older than the Jurassic moment
when females began this flipper-footed scraping,
this egg-laying labor, eyes gazing seaward
vertical eyelids opening, shutting, opening
full of tear-gel.
Afghanistan, End of Eighty-Seven
Candlelight skids up a child who walks in asleep
with eyes open. But she is no longer here.
A curfew darkness crumples listening. No child voices
protest through the crack of footfalls.
A sudden shift, hair thrown back by wind entering
the hour of curtains jerked from grip.
Water. Blood-apricots. Arrows scattering like night-birds
from the open mouth of falling.
When the low waves roll in, they smash windows
for miles around. The searching aches
from the sight of a half-empty cup, a small coat
left slumped against a tree trunk. Here is a fragment of landmine,
here the daughter’s half-eaten peach. Another.
Fear is migration’s best equipment. Run.
Run without wiping the cobwebs from your face.
Leave the faces encrusted with salt and fingers of grass--
hers among them. Unbuckle the weight of time,
give bruises air. Now wind. A half-shout somewhere in it.
Tsunami currents from a far country
attenuate to high tide waves
drowning a third of the island with hisses
of silk. Sand slips under the pressure,
letting go of thousands.
This is not a pleasant world to enter
as a turtle egg. Hyenas growl their excitement
over smashed ones, clawing the sub-sand
for more. Clouds burst, loose drops rake
at the long wait between embryo and hatchling.
On Day 47, search parties sweep the sands
with flashlights. Underneath, the voiceless
are cracking their world open, stumbling out
towards the cold brilliance.
Together this once, wise in a Jurassic instant,
they enter and tumble through the crash and sizzle.
Some will fly through waves— hope tossing
on a foamy elliptical. Others will be wounded, flailing
under the beaks of ravens and gulls
that are only slightly deterred by the gunfire
from forest guards too sleepy to rescue baby turtles
one by one.
The lucky ones hurry on, unencumbered,
not knowing how much their bodies crave
the surge, the low music of touch,
the seaweed mats floating far beyond sight.