Poetry / November 2009 (Issue 9)

India, the River

by Ankur Agarwal

A bridge was painted white, it looked hazy;
a beggar sat on his haunches, its sidewalks,
and he looked happy, lost in thoughts;
hardly anyone looked at him, as they don't,
but rare was the coin tossed at him, as they do,
the sunlight could melt the tar of hanging contrivance,
and only a bit of shaggy smell would go unmissing,
with an old lifebuoy bar and a red lily comb; the matted locks
will float upstream and glaciers will keep cascading
or melting as the greens say. An object of curiosity,
all that makes you feel superior, or moves finally something
in your heart besides an old whetted desire, pity;
a monument he serves, to the nude whitened deceiving stones
of Ganga which murmurs only to gods, deigns a nod only to innocent,
and without regret descends from snow-clad innocence
to men who sell the never-rotting water; a life of teeming millions
where people grow up with oiled hair, starched shirts, their honesty
their pride in society, soon to decay into dust after a life of nothing
but a choice to be stiff and unbroken; yea, a life of busy men who only know
to make the best of what they were born in, and do not pity themselves
at each turn, who could worship woman in all innocence, still to learn
mocking their own loves and desires, still lacking the art of
abusing themselves, playing joyfully with others; taking life in seriousness,
and only wanting to be comfortable bank managers with paunches rotund,
a son settled with a fair wife, and a final corpulent hopeless doomed
desire for their son's wife; a host of fires burning and lamps waiting
for men to come home, the last free woman still standing on earth,
without stockings or mascara, her beauty her intelligent smile;
through plains of silt and leather tanneries, fields of wheat
and kids growing lepers with the touch of west, before they could know their
own, quiet and gurgling flows the river, and the golden bird wakes up.

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