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Ashes & Marigolds - A Varanasi Portrait

Monkeys play in the limbs of banyan trees 

while fish swim through the thick body of the Mother

swollen and grey  with ashes and ribcages

pregnant with the purified bodies of her children


They’re on their way straight through 

spinning around again

and again

and again

towards the gates of Nirvana


If they’re lucky. 

If they’re clean enough to make it in.

Varanasi simmers below in the scorching sun of Indian summer, 

perfume on her neck like the smell of piss and rose water 

potent from the sweat of her own concrete heartbeat

the heat of her own heartbreak

the fire of a hundred thousand prayers


And Marigolds lay scattered like battle on the ghats

A war waged by lost men seeking salvation in her body

marked by a shield of torn turmeric cotton

and a smoke clouded smile

for the Gods they hide behind


and poker hands lose a days worth of work

for nothing but a golden moment 

worthy of a better mans recognition

and the glance of an imaginary woman


but they cant touch her
they cant even see her clearly

through the whiskey in their eyes

and the sadness on her face that renders her



Dogs bathe in the shade, 

royalty of their own plastic castles, 

while men bathe in the river, 

hoping to emerge a little better


And this place has got me by the soul - 

reflecting it back at me in a way that breaks me and builds me, 

shakes me and bites me

until I throw my head back ferociously and say… 


…nothing at all.


I just open my mouth and take it all down

drowning my voice out

with a dangerous chaser 

of bones and soul-filled water 


I shake like the dogs on the street, 

barking and howling inside of myself 

just itching for a little piece

of space to call my own somehow… 


and this is what its like

an alien in a world of color and texture, 

a world of big Indian eyes so endless I can hardly look, 

fearful that I might fall 

and get lost 

in the ancient alleyways that catch me




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December 13, 2016

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