Shanti Goddess

Her sari was a rippling cascade of heavy emerald silk,

Waterfalls of fabric rustling rivers down her holy thighs,

And dripping from her skin the condensed sweat of Rajasthan sun,

The perspiration of her billion labouring sons and daughters crystallised,

Forged with patriotic pride to shine resplendent at her feet,

golden anklets, toe rings, bracelets, nose rings,

set in place so purposefully,

to leave behind her tinkling softly – a memory, a hope.

A scrawled note upon those sacred stones

That just below the surface here are treasures you may never know, so,

Being a sucker for both mystery and dark women with darker history,

I followed her into a crowded alley

All dust and samosas sizzling

All fry and boil and scalding chai

My songless feet and I weaved the travellers displaced path

We sidestepped trash and holes and holy cow shit,

Following the tinkling golden of her laugh

I found it echo in every proud baya’s call

In every ‘Namaste madam’

In every ‘excuse me excuse me where are you from?’

In every tinnily blaring bollywood song.

It echoed through the ceaseless noise,

Clear as the memory of a lullaby

And when the din was overwhelming

I found her in the most tragically beautiful hazelnut eyes

A tiny boy carrying a rubbish bag

Three times the size of his frame

Dark and bent and unseen, a shadow of his untouchable shame

Yet his face was lifted above it all, his giggle so full and real

Amused simply by a bright green kite,

Spinning wildly to break free – of the power line that tangled it

And all the brown children screeched up at it,

But this small ghost boy just laughed and laughed

And cracked and cracked my naive heart


And maybe that’s what she wanted,

As then the throng cleared for an instant

So I could glimpse my lady’s hasty descent down a staircase in the distance,

Her ebony hair flicked with henna red,

Threaded a strong rope round my caving chest,

Tugged me firmly and insistent.


I stumbled down crumbling stone into fog, musky heat

No sound came from my own footfalls

Yet they mirrored the pulsing beat, beat,

Beat of tablas staccato rhythm,

And tinkling out of the gloom,

I found my shanti goddess dancing, dancing

To her earth-core fire-forged tune.

She danced funeral pyres ablaze

She danced the mighty Ganges flood

Her hands clapped monsoon thunder rage

Her hips whispered midnight Goa love

Her chest released the holy Om


As her fawn soft eyes met mine

I saw the billion of her children in her defiant salty smile
I saw their paths running rivulets, caressing their way down her cheeks

To meet on her sacred pain painted lips

I saw the reason for her proud tinkling feet.

And so she tinkled my way though she’d already answered without ever having to speak.

And she breathed,


‘As imperfect as an uncut gem,

Chaos in senseless rhythm,

As beautiful as ugly could ever be,

Contradiction after contradiction.’










Photograph by Jaymi-lee Miller


One thought on “Shanti Goddess

  1. …and cracked and cracked my naive heart…

    That’s a really well executed line: internal rhyme and the stressed syllables are really balanced. The soft sounds in naive heart contrast quite beautifully against the sharpness of the crack sounds. This line and the image of the spinning kite are the heart of this. Lovely to read and a beautiful photo too 🙂

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