On her swan-ringed island


Of mist


And falling petals


Of song,


Saraswathi stands,


Holding the wild scent


Of the lilies of eternity


In her silver hand,


Her fingers braiding bright




Of the dawn-lit past,


Of myth-hatched eons, long




Singed in the flames


Of endings,


Half-forgotten though


Their names,


In the days that followed after


Of snow


And white-


Drifting mountains.


On the lapping lake


Pairs of swans sail


And shake


The water from their wings;


Their white and gray cygnets trail




All in a row


Bobbing on the ruffled waves,


While up on the granite cliff


In the rock-cut caves,


In tall




Of stone


Are ranged the rolls of palm leaf scrolls,


That catch the words


Of poems flown,


The whispering of languages, long gone,


That went on the wandering wind,


On the wings of the waters,


The sacred song, the notes of forest birds,


The eloquence of flowers,


The sound, the syllable, the brush stroke,


The ring of the chisel-struck hieroglyph,


All kept with care,


Every one,


From the child’s first fist-


Drawn scribbles


To the holy vedas of the rishis,


Seers from the stars,


And then the chorus


By the daughters


Of the owl to honor the night’s shadow,


The dream-enchanted dark,


All kept,


With none slipped into the abyss, none






There too


Are bundled reams


Of cotton




In the rainbow ribbons of creation:


The pale-footed hue


Of the mourning dove and her mate,


Ambling on the sunlit sand,


The orange-banded tail


Of the sharp-shinned


Hawk, with mystic eyes,


Shades of the stout


Trunks of trees,


Of the ficus


And the white-petaled teak,


The red glint,


The arc


Of the setting sun


Across the pebbled, upland creek


The sea-blue




Of the lotus


And the silver halo


Of the moon that beams


Through the indigo


Ocean of the swift-sailing night.


All abide,


Their essence


Set to ride


Along the clouds


Of each new dawn


That sings


On the shining






In the sacred annals


Of her book-filled jars


All knowledge, beauty,


And infinity,


All that is real,


With nothing lost.


Now the swans fly




In the air


Of crystal frost


Among the green wooded lands.


Within her magic,






The least stir


Is known


Of every creature,


The leaping, gray-pawed squirrels,


The rooting snout


Of the bristle-faced, brave boar,


Every delight


Of the dance


Of the dragonfly


On the rain-bent




Then too, remembered, is the way


To skip


Among the stars,




The olden, dwarven folk,


Their iridescent lore


Of how to weave a shimmering cloak,


Or fabricate


A flying ship,


Or stoke


An immortal fire


Against the bane-crossed




Or travel fast


Like racing light,


The path to take


To a wondrous land


Of fairies, elves, and heroes bold,


The remedy for every ill,


How to ply


The sea


Of time to find the age of gold


Hidden on a cloud-ringed shore,


At the world’s end,


And how to make


One’s way through the deepening core


Of the moss-footed forest


In an elvan autumn,


Of leaf-sprinkled light,


All knowledge past


And yet to be.


Where now the kind




Of Saraswathi?


Where the haunting notes


Of the veena, and the light


Beat of the mridangam?


Where the bells that peal


In the skies of dawn?


Where the peace


In the morning call


Of the swans and the flocking geese?


And where the soft bleat of the goats


Clambering up the rock-strewn hill?


All wait,


Wild and free,




In the luminous blue jars


Of the drifting sky


All that shines true,


One day,


To be born anew


When the mist




With the glad-crying


Swans of sunrise,


Over the mountains


Of a far country.




 January 13, 2013   Sharon St Joan



Image:  Painting by Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906) /Wikimedia Commons / “This work is in the public domain in the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less.” / Goddess Saraswathi