Temple Ash Bodies

By Akila Ranganathan

  Search, Olufemi Lawal

Search, Olufemi Lawal

dust settles after being disturbed by our wayward bodies
crushed in the corner of the abandoned godown, like a
deity mildly annoyed at an intrusion, the room groans, sticks
crimson mud to our ankles and calves, then satisfied with the branding
falls back into its ancient sleep; like temple ash, I tell her, but her eyes are
darkened, half lidded, the evening light streaming onto her bare brown back,
and it feels like achieving bliss, this friction, this sacred heat trembling between our bodies,
but I think, there is nothing holy about it.

in the city, they say, there is more freedom, but the press of the constricted walls
feels the same, the blackened room feels similar, the fevered edge to every touch
vibrates with the same inevitable — this will be the last time — but mapping her slopes and
planes is like a pleading prayer for more, always always; in daylight, we flirt the line of
rural catching urban, flit between the thrumming base beats of the club scene,
learn english and jeanswear, coaxing cosmopolitan modernity in with each shot,
but at night as she trails the same alcohol laced tongue between my clenched thighs,
the facades crumble one by one, until we’re naked in my grandfather’s old house again,
the same trilling fear in our panting breath — there’s nothing different here.

sandalwood scented, smeared with crimson turmeric, the goddess smiles
beatifically; she would forgive me, I think, for she would understand
the allure of the temple dancers in her courtyard, swathed in silk and gold,
and perhaps one day, the priests will open the inner sanctum to find her missing,
just crimson mud footprints and temple ash branded in abandoned anklets,
and amidst the resultant mayhem, maybe we would feel a little holy.


Olufemi Lawal is a photographer, songwriter and poet who has lived in China since 2009. He is the co-founder of Poetish: A poetry workshop. He enjoys taking portrait photos and documenting his experiences through song and poetry.

Akila Ranganathan is 18 years old and a resident of Chennai, India. She is currently working towards an undecided major at Ashoka University, Haryana, and trying to write poetry to make sense of the world around her.