25. madharasapattinam

On the way from Chennai to Mahabalipuram
stands a singular gate in the middle of a field,
erect, ornate, bedecked with peeling pink-and-purple deities.
The fence around it has crumbled,
Time has scattered it on the ground like bread crumbs,
and the cottage behind it is far from stately,
with one pan over coals in the front yard.

An old man rises to meet his son by the road,
abandoning the fire to limp down the path
and pry open the rusted lock of the gate,
pulling it stiffly backward to let him in.

“My son!” the man cries
and throws his arms around him,
“Welcome home!”
He struggles to pull the gate closed.

“Appa, I can walk around the gate easily, the fence is gone.
There is no need to trouble yourself so.
Why do you insist on using this gate?”

“So that when you arrive, you will know
how happy I am to see you,
every time.”

 

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