Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Ram Govardhan

Hey handsome gravedigger,
at this spine-tingling witching hour,
you’re digging an oblong ditch,
for the frail, blood-soaked body
of the sweet, rose-cheeked girl
killed by her dashing husband,
who says he is a master mariner,
back from the Andaman sea,
after months, on a long vacation,
only to find his gorgeous wife
sleeping with a bald seaman.

Halfway, you are too jaded,
before you resume, as refreshment,
the smart killer is about to unpack
the carton of Scotch in the dickey,
also holding thick wads of currency,
in a ritzy, glittering Swiss briefcase.
Of course, yeah, believe you me,
the sexy briefcase is on him.

Even before the finishing touches,
the smiling killer shoves in the body,
your rhythmic stomping evens it,
he chucks a few green twigs over it,
the camouflage is now chameleonic.

He drives you to the beer-cellar
that is candle-lit, dark and spooky.
You gorge yourselves, choking the gullets,
washing it down with booze all night.

Woken up by the blazing noon,
coolly sipping beer by the poolside,
he says he isn’t at all her husband,
doesn’t even know her name or town,
that he, his mates raped her en masse,
strangled her dead with great difficulty,
to keep the piercing shrieks from reaching
the highway-commerce swishing apace.

You are now befuddled enough,
to say you weren’t a gravedigger either,
but someone bonkers, hard up and hopeless,
waiting for dope in the deepest forest,
when he summoned you to dig a trench.
You said you can’t, nor have implement.
Passing a cutting-edge crowbar and a saw,
he promised a fortune you couldn’t resist.
You were hungry, you were dumbstruck,
needed a fast buck, you needed a grub.

You are friends now, thick as thieves.
He tasks you four more such assignments,
you dispose the beautiful bodies with ease,
not breaking a sweat, not leaving a trace.

He then introduces his elitist friends
needing your cloak-and-dagger services.
You’re flush with dough, plenty for enterprise.
His holiday was over, while he went back to sea,
you weren’t at all at sea, you knew what to do,
you put up the money, hire a large workplace,
get licenses, black vans, funeral urns, experts,
and, before long, you are the legit undertaker
the town is proud of, your fiancé is proud of,
and, soul-satisfyingly, your mother is proud of.


Ram Govardhan’s poems and short stories have appeared in Asian Cha, Open Road Review, The Literary Yard, The Bangalore Review, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, Indian Ruminations, The Spark, Muse India, Nether, The Bombay Review and other Asian and African literary journals. His novel, Rough with the Smooth, was longlisted for the 2009 Man Asian Literary Prize, The Economist-Crossword 2011 Award and published by Leadstart Publishing, Mumbai. He lives in Chennai. Email:

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