Touches of the Great Indian Ocean

Rizio is a bilingual writer, teacher and editor. She has published three books of poetry as well as fiction and academic and critical writing. She is the founder of the thinkspace LILA Foundation for Translocal Initiatives ( and the CEO and Publisher of The Marg Foundation, which brings out India’s oldest magazine of the arts, Marg. She lives in Mumbai.


1. Sand

Comrade, I accept this washed beach
without asking why these sands of dawn
inexplicably relent to me in your presence,

thrusting forth a miscellany of secrets—
shadows of stars, war cry, children, cinnamon scent.
Without a single searching word,

I surrender to the excruciatingly delicate touch
of this shore’s madness, the dense truth
of its minutest granule throbbing against the subtle skin

between my toes. Sebastianos, my good old friend,
in return of my submission, the beach reveals to me how
one may shed one’s stone in an epic endeavor to lose oneself

to an undivided lightness, which could indeed trap one
on this coast that stretches resolutely
like layers and layers of dreams heaving with hope.

Now I see your stone, too, Sebastianos: Lonesome,
and yet longing to return to a past full of rock,
unmoving but microscopically opening itself on all sides.

It is time you wrote a letter to your daughter,
light and future bound,
from your otherwise impenetrable grain of sand.

2. Foam

Along the border line of remembrance
between water and earth, I chase your red shirt as if it were a dream.
The sea is a peerless enchanter; it lures me into its desire. Again.

I leap into a tide’s lathery arms that intimate me
of life foaming itself on great tides, whipping up
matter as in the hour just before the deluge.

My bare feet are wrinkled by the heat of re-creation.
Soon, they would run into the sun, washed white
by the fair salt of our race’s deadly imaginaries.

Comrade, our species is wild no more.
Our set hearts must know, the last act of our tragicomic play
will be played out with the pied sea’s passage into froth.

Sebastianos, hurry, let us frolic fast, for, we will be children no more.

3. Waters

Sebastianos, from my pre-dawn window,
I see a spirited emerald murmur lighting
an elusive fire on the moon-beached sea.

An entrancing flame of water now moves
from moment to moment, dressing in grace,
each of its waves. It is a spectral celebration.
From a distance, the heat of the imminent day
seizes my heart; I run out into the sea’s calling.
I am on the water’s edge; play has captured me.

The water exhilarates me with its bare beckoning;
I am certain, my friend, each droplet loving my body
has claimed its share from the ocean’s abundant will—

an inheritance of wildness. Daring its own evanescence,
it has arrived on this shore, riding a tremendous wave,
secreting unfathomable yearning in its intense curves.

It has looked on and waited for me to open my chamber,
get drawn into its hum, and unleash myself into its core.
When I land, it bursts joyfully on my skin, willing me away

to a million other seekers—fellow water beads, starfish,
twigs, powdered mountains, bottled letters, suns.
To a lot many killers, too, including salt.

I do not see fires anymore; all the flares of the universe
have come floating over these waters to enter my navel.
I am blind now, Sebastianos—and made of sheer water.


4. Mist

I watch your countenance through a glass of mist
erected by a mischievous wave.

It is a rare view, given only to children,
merfolk, traders, seagulls. I am here by chance.

I want to call the ocean into the cup of my hands,
hold it as if it were your face—archetypal and affected,

and yet serenely reflecting the ebb and flow of touch.
I must train my fingers.

But, this shore warms me beyond my wonderment;
the sky is angry and has opened its ninth eye.

Yet, in the steamy hope of seeing the sea plainly,
I shall stay, Sebastianos.

I ask myself how a hazy-eyed vortex of water turns deadly,
and worse, dreary, with the passage of time.

A man’s grimace may divulge such big secrets—
I must study your eyes.

Goa (2016-17)

painting: Chris George

Rizio B. Yohannan

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