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Books & Poetry

Poem: A night at the teahouse

Books & Poetry

Moonlighting as a young pianist at a teahouse in Mumbai inspired this week’s Poet’s Corner contribution from Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad.

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A night at the teahouse

Summer night – the city stews humid, breezeless.
The teahouse throngs with elderly connoisseurs.

In the montage of warm lights and velvet curtains,
waiters weave like chess pieces – an assortment of teapots,

balanced upon their arms. The old Bösendorfer sounds
wistfully woody as I play ‘My heart will go on’.

Loved-up couples beam, blinking through curly wisps
wafting from Assams and Darjeelings. How they adore

this piece. I can tell by the way they gaze into their
partner’s eyes every time the chorus swells, hearts aflutter

again with the taste of first love. The octogenarian
in his Armani suit who always sits alone by the window,

orders the usual Earl Grey and scones, then slowly walking up,
asks if I would dine with him later. He teeters precariously on

his tortoiseshell stick, an unmistakable sadness staining
his sallow cheeks. In the corner I see the manager glare –

No speaking to customers is a rule, so I look down and away,
and the gentleman, for my lack of an answer, asks

if I could play ‘Speak softly love’. And I quietly nod –
my fingers curling, throbbing with muscle memory,

and the chords of The Godfather’s love-theme, ripple
into the air. I hear him by his window, hands cupped

in melancholy applause. The teahouse is deserted
when I gather my music, and the lights grow dim

as the Bösendorfe and I lean on each other in the shadows.
I sip my complimentary tea – a herbal green, with a biscuit

on the side, savouring my unlikely supper, before
blending into the emptiness of the starless city night.

Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad is an artist, poet and improv pianist living in Sydney. She holds a Masters in English from Delhi University and is a chief editor for the literary journal Authora Australis and member of Sydney’s North Shore Poetry Project. Her art and poetry have been published in a number of print and online journals and anthologies, and she was the winner of the Moon Prize awarded by the journal Writing in a Woman’s Voice. Her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and her art for the Best of the Net Journal. Oormila has her own poetry page here.

Readers’ original and unpublished poems of up to 40 lines can be emailed, with postal address, to Submissions should be in the body of the email, not as attachments. A poetry book will be awarded to each accepted contributor.


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