5 Poems

PUJA

The priest throws holy water on the crowd
as we pray among the scent of incense smoke.
The moon hears a heavy bell on the temple porch.
Hinduism is not a religion, it is a philosophy.

In the worshiping room, Kali goddess of black death
looks on, tongue out, stiff as stone, blood-stained.
Like art galleries, more worship rooms in adjacent places
praise Ganesha, others. I wish to be a chameleon. But

this is her week: the moon and sun alike chant
to the mother goddess wife of Siva in all her forms.
We consume her blessings from banana leaf plates and clay cups.
Hinduism is not a religion, it is a way of life.

Performers dance and sing and romp, all under a tented stage,
all dedicated to Durga, As we surround the performers
and flail around with the dancers we witness the art
of flower giving, priest worshiping, food offerings, tabla drumming.

In its final act the crowd of thousands parades through black veins
toward the deified river, holding high wax icons of divine motherhood,
the sun beating down hard, to where it dunks its idols
into waxing waters polluted with borne illnesses.

— Originally published in Z-Composition, appears in my book Mera Bharat.

POEM NOIRE

The depth of her absence
is my color of kala
now that the pure marble moon is new.

Well-lit street lamps
flood the aorta
of a city infested with fog.

These shiny black shoes
hide in the grainy asphalt
of this paling anxiety.

My wide open pupils fail to find
the iron bar suspended above
the rouge of her beauty.

The ladies never know
the detective
is the one not to know.

My charcoal-brimmed hat is tipped
toward the cold scarlet-stained concrete
of her fantasies.

And now I’ve witnessed the white thickness
as sleep everlasting
shadows her lips.

— Originally published in Referential Magazine, appeared on Verse Daily’s web weekly series.

SYMBALLEIN

Young Hunter crouched through Lascaux like his virgin
kill he’d celebrate soon enough,
into dampened darkness, leaving behind him
transcendent Sky towering in all its magic.
Before daybreak a meteor shower danced across Sky
but minutes before Sun rose pink.

Not long after the mumbles
of distant thunder, dark clouds slid under Sky,
bathing landscape. Clouds moved on
and Rainbow frowned down at them, the meek, for Sky was angry,
and so descended Young Hunter into the temple cave.

Dancing and drumming had already begun
there where bulls are painted;
Young Hunter had completed his rites of manhood.

Fire, small yet strong, danced
with the chanting as bird-masked Shaman entered his trance.
Eyes closed, his body convulsed
to drum beats and crackling flames
while the local hunter-artist painted on the cave wall.

Outside, Moon tried to peek in, but they were in too far.

Sky appeared appeased
to see this ritual redemption from guilt
of morning’s hunger. Once inside,
Shaman entered his trance, his body,
still.

Young Hunter had been told of the journey taken.
Shaman learned his craft from wise animals
hunters kill, and all of them, these Homo necans,
know their place below
superior beasts who teach the secrets
of immortality and longevity.

Shaman must find Earth’s gut
before he can climb to mingle with beasts
and bow to Sky. Upon his return,
he is dead. Homo necans must feed his lungs
so he can risk his life another day.

— Originally published by Z-Composition and appears in my book Steel Cut Oats.

STILL TIME

What time of day does time stay still?
No time exists when suns are new.
At work the seconds slow at will
While I am bored with work to do.
And evening time’s no time for rest:
The dishes done, the kids need baths.
And once in bed they try their best
To stay awake, but it never lasts.
And we’re too tired for time to talk—
I write, you knit, the raccoons roam.
The hands meander around the clock;
We read in bed, together, alone.
The lights go out; I watch your dreams.
And that’s when time has stopped, it seems.

— Originally published in Fox Chase Review.

I AM GILGAMESH

(Prologue)

I built walls and not one gets through.
I am perfect.

(Enkido)

Barbaric-born,
He never did care for this world.
But some harlot lured him forth,
Clothed and offered as my first-born.
I take no blame for his psychosis.

(Humbaba)

Together we tackle the cause,
A lone enigma we cannot
See, hear, touch, but a watchman no
Less, for the large and darkened woods

(Death)

Lurk too close. Strength weakens
When shadowed. Love set aside,
I lose desire for his goodwill.
I feel my soul tire with age

(Quest)

As I reach this crisis sooner.
I search for a plan,
A plan to move like the gods.
Important. Someone. Alive,

(Flood)

Instead of when I almost drowned
Under pressure of weathered life,
A bath among the dead.
In drew Noah with the sun,

(Return)

Its shining arms reached down to grab
My thoughts like a lost tablet
Found, wound me up like an instrument,
For I am King.

— Originally published in MO:Writings From the River, also appeared in Dis*Or*Der anthology and my book Symposium.

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