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.

Shedding Skin



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
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

considerthelillies_2_original (2)

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



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