Haibun Today

A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Editor
Volume 5, Number 1, March 2011

John Brandi
El Rito, New Mexico, USA



At the very tip of India's sacred triangle—the apex of the pudendum, the sea-surrounded southernmost finale—is a temple devoted to Kumari Devi, the virgin-goddess, a potent embodiment of Shakti, the active Intermediary between the absolute and the mundane. Inside the temple is a gloomy idol of Kumari Devi, a far fetch from the way ancient villagers saw her: in caves, sacred groves, mineral seeps, rocky clefts, river confluences; any organic, fire-wind-water-created shape that exhibited terrific energy compressed into hips, breasts, vulva, pregnant belly, etc. The temple's 3000-year-old interior has fire lamps burning in claustrophobic dark, stone pillars fingermarked by devotees, smoky erotica stained with betel-nut spittle. The real devotion is outside: in couples teasingly splashing in Kanyakumari's waves, in freshly-bathed women rewrapping their bodies, in the elderly gentleman holding a kite while his kids and their kids frolic in the foam. Playful, all-permeating Joy! No fatalists here, no money-demanding temple priests to spoil the fun. "Life is to enjoy," exclaims a turbaned Sikh leaning on a stone railing next to us. "This is our purpose, what we should do!" He gives a nod to the children tackling each other on the beach, to the newlyweds grabbing secret wave-splashed fondles. And yes, there's the background clanggg of temple bells, the ragamuffin dragging his sack, the unfinished skeleton of a hotel built on the cove where fishing families once had their homes. All of it imperfect, transient, becoming, un-becoming—just as the crimson orb extinguishes itself, tips into the sea. The greasy idol inside its stone cave is being washed with camphor and milk, while on the beach, in the last marigold blush of sun, a mother gently dries the sparkling limbs of her daughter after a ritual bath.

Helped into her dress
a naked child raises her arms
to the setting sun.







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