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


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.