Everywhere At Once, Singing
In a canvas-capped jeep,
We climbed from New Jaipalguri
Into the foothills of the Himalayas,
Traversed the switchback Z’s
Through the terraced tea fields of Tazo.
At a jeep-stop tangled with jasmine
We shared chai with sadhus,
Warmed our hands on the steaming cups,
Pressed our bare feet into the ashes of their daylight fire.
We broke through the clouds in Kurseong,
Shivering in our scant Calcutta clothing.
The fingertip village scratched at the blue sky.
Little children in neat school clothes
Poured from a cross-topped school.
Their round brown faces and
Pink cheeks gleamed in the sun.
One rupee? Candy? Sir, Madame…Pleeeeeeeaaase!
The jeep stopped. We stretched our knees.
The blue sky was blinding.
Kachenjunga, the big peaks of Nepal
And Bhutan, they too were scratching.
And the angels tugged at my pants,
And my attention was everywhere
More mysterious than mercury,
Is this silver surfaced river—
The life-force of Varanasi.
It coils around the city,
Takes ashes and bodies,
Gives ablution, cools the dry hooves
Of water buffalo,
And changes color with the sky.
Between morning and evening Puja,
Between the choke-to-death heat of summer
And the drowning floods of monsoon,
Between the rivers Varuna and Assi,
Amid the parched brown grasses and dust
Of Uttar Pradesh, it flows.
And at night it flows black as coal,
Diamonds shimmering beneath its surface.