Issue No. 3, Winter 2012

Sandalwood Moon
Sharanya Manivannan

For hours we followed the river shaking in coins of sun until it led at last to a place of stillness. The night swept its wing low over the southern heartland and let the sun slip from its beak. We settled down on the stairs of the old seraglio and looked across at the dovecote, a terracotta lamp on its every sill, and did not question the origin of its splendor. It appeared, simply, to have been lit from within.

And because we were hours from any coast, and because the moon exists only where it is sought to be seen, it would not emerge from the sea that night, an orange smolder waning to smudged ivory. Instead, midway between the earth and the nearest star, a rondure of sandalwood: a color I could slough off as balsamic for my skin.

There is mystery to how war enters a person, and how it can be coaxed to exit without wounds. There is no mystery to the trajectory of heart, its arrivals and departures. Amidst the shadows of senescent buildings, flickering lamps, the wind an ineloquent thrashing in the coconut fronds, you said, “How grand the world is. And yet” – you kissed one of my small hands, calyxed within yours – “how easily encompassed.” I did not respond then. But I knew that after the storm, by the light of day, I would take you to a pond caparisoned by blossoms and try to show you how elongated sadness becomes as delicate as a lily stem and as strong. I would watch you from a farther shore. And if I could not teach you how to love, I would teach myself how to live alone.

This is the weight of love: just because you can touch water doesn’t mean that the oceans are yours. This is the weight of grief: buoyant beyond disbelief. I have learnt how to look for both before they come into view: diaphanous, a low-rising ring, light midwifed by light.

Sharanya Manivannan is the author of a book of poems, Witchcraft. Her fiction, poetry and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Drunken Boat, Hobart, Wasafiri, Cerise Press, Killing The Buddha, Monkeybicycle, The Nervous Breakdown and elsewhere. She can be found online at