Mantra for Tired Merchants

In Kerala, there are no boats,

no palms, drupes, canals or streams

only those who build and tether

their faith in kettuvallam dreams.


My hands are anchors: I smother

turmeric on sacred snake groves.

Come, Nagaraja. Come, Vishnu—

and station in her craggy coves. 


I pray softly, something like this:


Preserve her dreamers, the tired

hulls and keels that keep them afloat.

Architecture is dead: are we

vessels drifting, worn to devote?


I catch perch in my net, sell it

to vendors from Haryana.

Frugally, I still sit and eat

Om Namo Narayanaya.


-Shreya Pabbaraju

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