New Year’s Eve
Night is a rush of noise, an Indian hilltown train
steaming up gradients through Himalayan tunnels,
morning the destination, quiet as a mountain-top
after the snow has melted, celebrants have left:
money, kinship, health; a time to think things over,
let them settle in the recesses of imagination.
They’ll raise their heads of their own accord, lean
out of carriages to wave. For now is the time
of watering the splendid platform displays, of
gathering at The Ridge, the Scandal Point in the mall,
fingering oak and rosewood souvenirs. In Shimla,
mashkis will be carrying goatskin bags of water,
sluicing down the tarmac while I, at the last
hill station of the year, will bring the silence in,
fold it like a three-flower Kullu shawl on my table.
The Cloud Sarcophagus
When I looked up, I was astonished at the muscularity
of clouds that were rearing up from a marble frieze
in high relief on a sarcophagus of blue. But whose?
Alexander’s routing the Persians? Or Abdalonymus
the gardener king’s, crowned by his very conqueror?
Now they revolved from war to peace and back again
but either way their spears were drawn, warriors, huntsmen,
lions snarling as they went, bundling up their hind legs
as if melting were a kind of leaping in slow motion.
And the cubs that littered their wake, play-fighting,
pouncing, rolling on their backs, were melting too,
panting, paws outstretched. What is to melt?
Into love, into war? Piece by piece to disintegrate
and reaccumulate into a giant maw that swallows
a sun, a planet, like a ball in a baseball mitt,
a perfect fit, while the jaw, the hand, fragment?