Masala Chai & Other Poems by Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad

Masala chai

always reminds me of rest stops and rain –
Himalayan apple orchards wrapped
around rugged trails, the smell
of mountain soil, tatters of sky flashing blue
smudging to thundercloud grey –
a lot like your eyes – I could never tell
where the gold ended
and the filaments of green began.

Nothing comforts the soul
like a cup of masala chai,
you whispered, savouring the milky decoction

of black tea and cloves. Cardamom pods bobbed
like boats, in our clay tumblers. I licked my lips,
looking at your youthful Cupid’s bow,
as top notes of cinnamon and ginger
came alive, singing upon our palettes.

On this San Francisco afternoon,
I sit cross-legged upon the grass,
sipping from a steaming thermos
of fragrant masala chai. I watch the flaming rust
of the bridge’s cables spear through
the gathering  fog. The icy bay laps at the piers –
green and gold, like a bitter-sweet memory
of your eyes, from sojourns
of yesteryears.


Of love and aftershave

My first love, at his morning ritual,
would brandish an electric shaver,
whirring it over the pores of his cheeks,
flecks of stubble hitting the air
like quarry dust. My favourite part
was prising open his prized possession –
the bottle of Old Spice, with its
three masted schooner, floating
like a Homeric Galley in a void of white.
He would loom in the powder room
like an Odysseus, letting me splash
an icy dash on his cheeks with
my four year old palms. A wave of anise
and musk would wash over us as he
kissed my nose. Then out he would blaze
into the world, engineer’s hard hat
under his arm, ready to launch
a thousand fire engines.

My last love, favours the fragrance
of Royal Copenhagen. The shower
is infused with the scent of apple moss.
Floral notes of jasmine curl into
the bedroom, as he steps out, in a cloud
of steam. Like father, he entrusts me
with his aftershave, and I tap a few drops
on his sandpaper cheeks, watching him
dress – this soft spoken man,
a numbers savant, in his lambswool
pullover and thinker’s specs, gearing
to dive into the Rubik’s cube
of logic. I cradle the vial and swirl
the sea of cyan at its heart, awakening
notes of cedar and mace as he kisses
my nose and leaves; and I smile at how
I have picked at core,
the same mould of man
to love.


Wake up jam

It’s that time of the day again to tally
the number of fetal kicks. I cradle
the curve of my eight month belly,
straining for signs that things
are well but all is quiet
within my cocoon.

In the kitchen I whisk the pulp
of passion fruit, mixed berries tossed
with golden pears, motley flesh seeped
in sugar and lime, bringing it to a slow
simmer, its surface blistering
in rings.

Diced jalapeños go in on a whim –
newest craving, and as impulsiveness grips,
unusual ingredients suffuse the brew-
a sprinkling of sesame, deseeded chillies,
and soon the blend begins to skim
the nebulous realm between jam
and jazzy chutney.

I revert back to sweetness with generous scoops
of agave, rolling boil, and the melange
leaves the edges of the pan, thickening
and congealing as I relish a spoonful
of the aromatic jelly – the jalapeños buzzing
with earthy heat, with an aftertaste
smokey and green.

A few minutes later my slumbering baby
slowly awakens with birdlike flutters,
flits and rolls steadily strengthening
as I savour more of the spicy jam. I count
and tally each kick and turn, as fireflies fill
the evening garden. The end of a long wait
seems near.


—About the Author—

Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad is an Indian-Australian artist, poet, and pianist. She holds a Masters in English and is a member of Sydney’s North Shore Poetry Project. Her art and poetry have been widely published in both print and online literary journals and anthologies, and her recent works have been featured in Bracken Magazine’s Corona Hopelings series, Silver Birch Press, and The Amsterdam Quarterly Review. New works are forthcoming in Underwood Press Black Bough Poetry, Ethel zine, and elsewhere. She co-edits the Australian literary journal Authora Australis.

Oormila made our feature image, a mixed-media painting to go with the first poem – Masala chai – with gouache, acrylic, oil pastels, and paper bits (12″x12″).

For more art and poetry by Oormila, go  HERE!