Monday, July 22, 2019 09:29

Varanasi

Heaven or hell.
Could Hades be here?
Could the devil have meant this much?
Did my plans need to bring me to this place?

I read about you in books
but they said nothing about this
Nothing of the grime
that covers your face.

How long had I yearned for this journey.
The journey of a lifetime.
Why then were you so terrible,
so much like hell?

Mothers, with hungry babies
longing to feed
on an empty breast
like a dried up well.

Beasts walking the streets
leaving their waste for the rats.
Sewage from homes floating under foot.
Your filth in my mouth at every turn.

Bodies on pyres, waiting for what?
The convention of the living?
An end to the dead
at seeing them burn.

Stalls with fruit and vegetables,
sharing the fetid heat of summer
with the waste and the flies,
Men, unwashed and smelling still of toil.

On the river; your mighty Ganga
I set free a candle and cried for my father.
Then held my skirt tightly to me and walked away,
leaving you to your squalid soil.

In the comfort of my room I cleansed myself of you.
Threw away my soiled clothes
and bathed my mind in the luxury of my surroundings;
thought I had nothing to tell.

But to forget Varanasi is to forget one’s name;
forget to breathe; forget how to cry.
I saw the Styx
and on both sides, hell.

 

Copyright © J E Emberson 2007