Explaining India

animal india monkey zoo
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No picture postcard or silver bangle bargained for in Jaisalmer,
no bright Rajasthani puppet bought from a retainer at Mehrangarh Fort,
no folk songs heard fireside at the Ossian camel camp,
no squeeze box, tabla drum, and wooden flute riff,
no stop at the mirrored temple to Sati Mari, a “local Hindu goddess,”
no city wide call for prayer at sunrise
or morning ragas at the Hotel Taj Ganges,
or the hotel’s herd of turkeys tended by an attendant in the formal garden,
no astrologers by appointment only in hotel lobbies
or bicycle rickshaw rides through the streets of Delhi,
no sip of opium tea from the palm of a camel herder,
no Sikh offering honey and wheat sweets after the prayer service,
no circumambulating the stupa in Deer Park,
where Buddha told his disciples the Middle Path
and this century’s pilgrims perform prostrations, no monk offering
a fallen leaf from the tree that shaded Buddha or wind dispersing
the silkscreened prayers of prayer flags,
no circle of monkeys, Hanuman’s ancestors,
expecting food and offering blessings at every temple.
Not even wrapping my body
in the lavender and gold brocade sari against the outside world,
no tinkle of bells on the wrists of a small girl dancing for rupees
as her father plays the ravanahatha or the boy running
on the banks of the backwaters of Kerala waving,
no packs of wild pigs and wild dogs eating the mounds of trash
outside the Taj Mahal,
no tents pitched on all roadsides, the homes for many families,
or the girl balancing on the high wire as her father beats a drum and her mother holds
the baby in her arms as tourists take pictures

will ever complete the story.

I tell my friends I have come back from India ~

 

~ Kathleen Willard

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Kathleen Willard is a Colorado poet whose collection Cirque & Sky won the Fledge Chapbook Poetry prize for 2015. Cirque & Sky uses the pastoral tradition to document the beauty of the Colorado landscape, and anti-pastorals to document fracking, superfund sites, benzene spills in the Platte River, and other environmental incursions. Her forthcoming collection, This Incendiary Season is forthcoming from Middle Creek Publishing.

Questioning January

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(Colorado, 2018)

“Look, a grasshopper,” said the child,
fetching it to me in both hands, brown, young

and later a bee, zig-zagging,
weaving about colorful urban garb
this unseasonable hieroglyphic of best laid plans
hopeful dispositions for sunny stuff woven

then late afternoon at home, reclining,
loafing bootless near the wood stove,
dipping randomly into Leaves of Grass, for pleasure
interrupted by a humming January housefly,
a new, rare breed

I let it out, only to kill a mosquito later . . . in the kitchen
. . . in January . . . in Colorado . . .

What do you think will become of these young men?
he asked hauntingly,
these who in few short years shall be unconscionably caused
to register for the selective service
to serve a country run by the most deluded,
and adolescent old men blind to reason and light?

And what will become of these young women,
the Poet, always a democrat of the republic, intimating
now only children, yet line leaders, still whip-sharp, inquisitive,
born of our wounds in hopes of healing?

and in the unerring hours of Orion, I dreamed
passing through trees too swiftly,
noticing nests but not allowed to long linger
horrified to glimpse baby birds in them . . . too early
too early, these babies
born into the false light and miller-less spring

wakening with fever, I scratched my colorless beard,
knowing this, remembering old desires
endless summer, such sweet harmonies enchanted,
en canto, “sung into,” without care, wished for

be careful. for without weathering winter
we will not deserve the splendor that is July

The smallest sprout” said Whitman, Holy Bard of America
“shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life,
and does not wait at the / end to arrest it,
[ . . . ]

All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed,

and luckier.

 

– David Anthony Martin
(last lines in quotations by Walt Whitman

 

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David Anthony Martin is a professional nemophilist afflicted with chronic werifisteria who employs the ancient arts of shikantaza and shirin-yoku to overcome his sense of hiraeth. He firages for wild mushrooms in season, collects feathers when he finds them, dreams nightly and writes daily. He is the founding editor of Middle Creek Publishing and the author of Span, Deepening the map, and Bijoux.

Shedding Skin

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I don’t find snakeskins anymore,
but I used to as a child-
shed here and there
by some shiny sleek friend
that had already made his way
to a warm and quiet place-
a place rife with primal orders.
Each time I found a snakeskin,
it was like finding a treasure.
Nowadays, I’m in the wild
more than ever,
but there are no snakeskins.

Where have all the snakes gone-
all the treasures?

Have all the wonderful beasts
fallen further into the green-
into the sylvan whorl
that we can only whisper of
in the comfort of our houses
when we’ve spent the day outside,
scratching at the edges?
Have all the good and gentle things
hidden themselves away?

I want to be a creature
that smells of pine and lilacs.
I want to be a beast
that roams the woods and hills
and knows all the names
of the trees, birds, and flowers.
I want to scrape myself
against mossy stones
or the burl of a fallen oak
and shed off the dry tatters
of the creature that I was
and emerge as something new-
gleaming with promise and praise
for the whole green wilderness.
I want to lose myself there
like a quick serpentine ghost
weaving over the loam and detritus-

.               ever darker,

 .                         ever deeper.

 

~ Nicholas Trandahl
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Nicholas Trandahl is a poet and outdoorsman, a veteran and a newspaper reporter who endeavors to write simply and honestly, who appreciates observing natural things and contemplating what he’s seen and done. He currently resides in Wyoming and is the author of two poetry collections, ‘Pulling Words’, and ‘Think of Me’.

 

 

Consider the Lilies

                 Find something that speaks to you.
                 Listen to it, learn from it.
                                              ~ Bonnie Thurston

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Past the mid-point of Lent,
good intentions fallen
onto rocky ground,
my breath clouds
the ice-cold window.
I want the fecundity
of warm earth,
these clenched hands
pried open, light to pierce
this darkness.

Outside, wind whips
the tall grass. The red pine’s
branches lift and sway. On its plated
bark, sap has hardened into transparent
beads. Last summer’s leaves,
dry and curled, rattle
on the lower branches
of an oak. I pick up what remains
of an acorn:  cap, cup, bowl;
inside, a perfect circle
of brown, an eye
without sight, its seed
the absence that speaks.

Perhaps, by now, it has leapt,
transformed into muscle, bone,
the blood of a liquid-eyed deer;
or maybe it lies hidden
a yard away where, by instinct
or luck, a squirrel will unearth it
after a snowfall yet to come.
Or it will not be found,
but will lie dormant, forgotten,
until the day it bursts forth
insistent, green, and holy.

 

.                                               ~  Anna Egan Smucker

 

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Anna Egan Smucker is the author of eight books including NO STAR NIGHTS (Knopf) winner of the International Reading Association Children’s Book Award. Recipient of a WV Arts Commission Artist Fellowship Award, her poems have been published in several anthologies and literary journals. www.annasmucker.com