From the edge of Bhuleshwar
where even the gods
lose themselves
we looked back.
But the scent of jasmine
beckoned us from Phulgal,
Lane of Flowers, and the alleys
swallowed us.

A web of streets led
to courtyards within courtyards, overhung
by wooden balconies
where laundry fluttered. Cows
brushed past tiny stalls, heaped
with eggplants. Bangle sellers
held out fragile wares, and pilgrims,
leaning on their staffs, watched us
through the doors of painted temples.

We refused no one,
we gave alms to beggars, and bargained
for curious purchases: apples of Sita,
a red clay water pot,
a sieve, an iron saucer
for frying seeds.
A grinning old woman
sold us flesh-colored fingers of turmeric
and a bunch of channa peas, torn up
by the roots.

Clutching these talismans, the apple
sweet in our mouths,
we found the way out of Bhuleshwar.
But the things I brought from there
refused to thrive. The clay pot leaked,
the sieve held water. I spat out
bitter mouthfuls of turmeric,
and the channa, fried in my saucer, tasted
of burnt hair.

People go there for bargains: wedding
flowers, peas and beans, food
for the dead. Next time
in the lanes of Bhuleshwar,
I will braid my hair with jasmine
and feed channa
to the silent cows. The old woman
watching me will see
I take nothing out.