Lemon light gleams on her gold-black stripes
through sparse bamboo blades at dawn.
Sprawled on her belly, legs folded on one side
she blends well in dry thistle — her face
composed, eyes ablaze, fixed on the bait.

Copper sun slants on her coat at dusk, tones down
black in highlights of yellow. The trap holds
her bruised limbs. Face contorts, dismayed —
eyes, dry, stilled in daze. At the bottom of the pit
against dullness of dark she appears pure gold
By Uma Asopa

Copyright © – Dr Uma Asopa

The Stray Dog

In his growl I heard the slapping
of his cords. Baring his canines
he barked with full throated defiance.

Sticks and stones didn’t deter him.
He chased away other dogs —
ran like a whirlwind.

Then, one day I heard in his growl
the gripes of an empty stomach
rasping of a parched tongue
staccato impatience of shallow breath.

I heard in his growl the contempt
for his life, of sleeping hungry
hiding in the hedge.

This morning he was dragged
to the municipal van
his neck caught in a metal trap
eyes popping out, limbs flailing.

I heard in his growl
the rattle of air leaving his chest.
By Uma Asopa

Copyright © – Dr Uma Asopa

In Season

One month from its yield the old mango sheds
aged leaves, wears shades of rust-green
and a crown tinged cream with flowering.

The afternoon sun sieves through the canopy,
slopes off the branches, distills on earth
slivers of light that quiver with winds.
Shade under the tree still remains dense
with fallen leaves and bird droppings.

Each rub of breeze disperses from flowers
a fine feathery dust. Air so pregnant
with a sweet-sour scent attracts greedy parrots.
They come and go, hop and fly,
peck on pedicles — drop bulbous buds.

The tree is used to their routing; it has fruited for years.
By Uma Asopa

Copyright © – Dr Uma Asopa

Tiger Count 2005 Siriska, Rajasthan

No roar in the jungle,
no growl in hills.
Quiet birds, still winds.

Deer don’t panic; elephants don’t alarm.

In mud or wet grass,
no pug- marks.
No trail of blood,
not a distant thud.

Behind the bushes no blazing eyes.

Trophies in some homes —
hides hanging from walls,
frozen eyes of glass,

teeth worn like a talisman,
bones stored in jars.
By Uma Asopa

Copyright © – Dr Uma Asopa

The Escape

The lions smell her fear. One climbs
on her neck, others cling to flanks.
Claws dig into hide, teeth grope for flesh.
The elephant plods, heaves, thumps,
whips her trunk — can’t shake them off.

Away from the herd, helpless, she slumps.
Dusk darkens. Before the silence
of death reverberates through the hills
the huge herbivore, one last time,
collects her strength to stand.

The evening echoes a thunder
in applause — rain follows in reprieve.
The elephant limps away
from the startled beasts.
Uma Asopa

Copyright © – Dr. Uma Asopa 2006