Sujata Bhatt


The way I learned
to eat sugar cane in Sanosra:
I use my teeth
to tear the outer hard chaal
then, bite off strips
of the white fibrous heart - 
suck hard with my teeth, press down
and the juice spills out.

January mornings
the farmer cuts tender green sugar-cane
and brings it to our door.
Afternoon, when the elders are asleep
we sneak outside carrying the long smooth stalks.
The sun warms us, the dogs yawn,
our teeth grow strong
our jaws are numb;
for hours we suck out the russ, the juice
                                                     sticky all over our hands

So tonight
when you tell me to use my teeth,
to suck hard, harder,
then, I smell sugar cane grass
                         in your hair
and imagine you’d like to be
shérdi       shérdi       out in the fields
              the stalks sway
                       opening a path before us

*Shérdi: sugar cane