Pia Taavila 



Above the Mediterranean,
toward the Arabian Sea,
through low banks of clouds,
the sun sets in the west;
its long rays stretch,
fingers of fading light.

From Istanbul to Bombay,
the wails of mullahs rise:
tambourines and tablas,
the imam’s eerie cry.

Women in flowing robes,
secret jewels, veiled eyes flashing.
Orchids in the Agra, tangerines,
pomegranates, dates and figs,
goats’ heads, severed.
I’m lost and drowning.

A bony finger points the way
to yearning’s cobbled path:
the petals and the peasant,
patchouli and myrrh,
dung and marigold,
jasmine bowers.

Beloved, I shall return to tell you these things.


Because I chirped hello, I startled
Usha’s father. He fell the full length
of twelve marble steps. I stood above
the foyer, watched as each bony joint,
the crane-like skull, struck pink stone.

Usha cried out, bent to him, dabbed
with a corner of her cotton pullau.
Blood bloomed into her sari’s hem,
spread across the glistening tiles.
Slowly he rose, shaken, alive.

If only I could call them back,
withdraw my good intentions, restore
the railing to his hand, set down the out-
stretched foot. Years later, I still see
the mid-stride hope: safe landing.


In a dark river flowing,
encircling the earth,
your tropical genitals float in my dream,
an island nation of bougainvillea:
male mynah birds calling.

Wrapped in orchid desire,
I lounge poolside and sip cloudy
drinks from a tall, lazy glass,
a paper umbrella perched on its rim,
salt lime edging my lips.


A crystal vase,
slender leaves.

Heads heavy on
tendril stalks,
two peonies bloom,
their fluted edges
flail, vivid, white.
Stark pink centers
billow, their yellow pistils


Just before you come to me
in this depth of winter melt,
the sluice overflows,
roof dams run.
I have heard your voice,
a rushing wind, cypress knots.

Tonight I will see
the underbellies of leaves,
the Banyan trees,
their silver throats,
your face — in its lined,
sandy beaches.
I’ll yield to thaw,
to chaos,

And there, in the blue/black shadow,
in fern-laden loam,
jacks-in-the-pulpit rise,
jimson weed and
spores, airborne;
wild mustard:
these fields,
these rivers,
this air.

©2005 Pia Taaliva

Pia Taavila was raised in Maggie Valley, North Carolina. She now teaches at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.