6. alappuzha

There are no roads.
Palm trees stoop over our houseboat,
some bending to kiss the water
that folds itself neatly
like pleats of silk.
Tangled Malayalam lolls alongside us,
thick and lazy like it’s just
woken up, touting charcoal
toothpaste and ghee.

Women with overflowing baskets slap
their husbands’ shirts in the river,
scrubbing hard against rocks to beat
the salty sweat from threadbare collars.
A child bathes in our gasoline rainbows.

The boatman pulls the engine cord,
sending vibrations across cups of tea
we’ve perched on the sideboard.
Wordlessly he hands me one,
then props his thick-soled feet
on the bow, head cocked
sideways to listen. It is

as still as Heaven.

Somewhere, someone is singing.
Someone is always singing.

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