as you wiped your brow
or were they the clinking of cowrie-shells
as you put them in holes
seven by seven?
I thought I heard you laugh
making an unexpected, clever move
or was it the sound of pearls
falling, one by one?
Was that a cry of victory
as you have won the match
or was it your honey-voiced anguish
never willing to lose
fair or otherwise?
That was clearly the board tossed
in indignant, violent protest
and utter denial that you lost;
or did you just claim
with eyelashes pleading for agreement
that you tripped on a floorboard?
But there is another game afoot,
isn't it - a love game you play
with my heart-breaking imagination?
(Pallankuzhi is a popular board game in Tamil Nadu)
(Published in Indian Review, April 2011)