Ravens stole her dentures again.
We climbed the spindly branches,
dug into the tangle,
clutched at her teeth.
The ravens in their half-made nest above,
shouting down their thickest language,
like dark rain, tricksters scolding.
Achiamma below, toothless, hands on hips:
What do they think they are making,
Taj Mahal? You'd think she loathes animals,
but when dusk draws out the geckos,
Achiamma offers them rice lumps
trembling at the ends of long sticks.
Rind-tough bodies crawl out the cracks,
up walls, their necks thick as cane-root
shudder, gulp, and shudder for more.
Must feed their eye and scale,
feed the thick meat of memory
helps them remember us, keep us safe --
Geckos nod, upside-down push-ups.
The flesh-wrapped coals of their eyes
bulge as moths spin and bump
around the lamps' glass-cheeked fire.
The reptiles rip forward, some catch wing-crumples,
some land on the floor with a clap.
Achiamma shapes gecko-eyes into the dust
to draw away ills, ravens' longings,
then she darkens the windows with clove-steam,
to suck out the evening's colors.
Now raven's jungly eye won't wander
further than her nest.