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If Hot Flowers Come to the Street, By R. Meenakshi

November 01, 1998

Red cassia flowers

are a forest fire,

or so they say.

It's an April event

called a summer fire.

Anarchy in green.

An explosion of buds.

Fire in the snow.

On the head of Lord Shiva

of the snow mountains

there are red matted locks,

gleaming cassia flowers,

and the Ganga.

In his red hand,

fire,

a small drum,

a deer.

And a snake at his throat.

That snake

won't strike the deer.

The fire in his hand

won't burn the Ganga.

But in our street

even flies

will swarm to hot flowers.

TRANSLATED FROM THE TAMIL BY MARTHA ANN SELBY

From "World Poetry," edited by Katharine Washburn, John S. Major and Clifton Fadiman (W.W. Norton: 1338 pp., $45)

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