The sodden dripping weight which he moulted

and offered to the god who received it

in cupped hands—was it skin

really, or rather something amphibious,

half metallic scales, half mutely screaming

integument smelling of fish, while

flayed Karna shivered from a cold

he had never thought to endure, shivered

animal-like, a mere beast

prepared for the cooking pot;

and walked to the battlefield certain

to be pierced by the first lance

aimed at him. But the burden!

Amazingly it had lifted,

and might it not be one’s heart’s desire fulfilled

to die unrehearsed of lightness.

Gieve Patel is a renowned Mumbai-based painter and poet.

Write to lounge@livemint.com

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