Vikram Masson


The Dance by Raja Segar

On Saturday mornings, mother would drive me
to the Hare Krishna Temple on West 55th street,
and Meera was always there — decked in an orange sari

and plain white blouse, pallu draped over her head,
covering all but wisps of dirty blonde hair, which curved
downward to the lashes of her green eyes. Her pallid

skin glistened as she danced with arms raised, chanting
Hare Krishna to the blue Lord luring Radha with his flute.
With what ecstasy those devotees conjured rhythm

with their dholaks, their sikhas bobbing like horse tails
as they jammed! I still remember Meera’s hands– tipped
roseate at the joints–when, after the puja, she gathered

prasad for me on a plastic plate. How she called me
fella as she spooned sweet rice into my mouth
amid pots of incense and spiraling garlands

of marigold. I’d follow her around the temple
as she pollened the day’s devotees with her smile. My mother
would stand awkwardly to the side, hands folded over

a sari and red raincoat, gazing sternly at me. Oh, how she
raged when I told her I could not stop thinking
about Meera–that she danced in Krishna’s garden

in my dreams; that her name dropped from my lips
as the first sunlight streamed through Jersey City’s tenements.
She was the love of my eleventh year, a wanderer

from Kansas, who, I learned years later, came to the
Hare Krishnas via Zen, the Summer of Love and Esalen.
Back then I didn’t know that everyone on 55th street –

the bodega owner, the man who dressed hot dogs under
a canted umbrella, the tailor who unfurled suit lengths
of wool to lure passing businessman–called the Hare Krishnas

hippies, druggies, cultists… Soon, more immigrants
streamed in, browning the landscape. They built
shopfront temples of their own, next to pizza joints,

and we stopped praying to Krishna at this temple
for wayward whites. I grew to dream of others
and learned to prefer bars and clubs to temples.

Years later, I saw Meera on 14th street in a flared
jumpsuit, hair teased up, smoking a cigarette,
clutching a man in leather pants. I choked up

as I remembered how she danced, hands raised in Krishna’s
garden; how she fed and comforted me. And how I too would
spend my life yearning like her for some glimpse of truth.


About the writer:
Vikram Masson is a lawyer by training who lives near Richmond, Virginia. His work has been featured most recently in the American Journal of Poetry, Glass, The Blue Mountain Review and Prometheus Dreaming.

Image: The Dance by Raja Segar (1951-). Oil on canvas. 40 x 30 inches. 2012. By free license.