To maimed beggars with ingratiating smiles,
to women holding drugged babies
plying their pitiful trade
under the sway of hungry demons
I say, “No, leave me alone. I am
on my way to another place.”
To unending noise: trucks spewing fumes,
honking horns, hawkers shouting holy names
to sell their trinkets
I say, “No, stop, be quiet, quiet!’
The howling of emaciated strays
joins fervent devotional voices, ‘Shiva,
Shiva Mahadeva – Allah Ho Akbar
Great God we praise, we implore You.’
Throats and hearts throb with the mighty hum
The silver idol gazes through luminous eyes
with eerily penetrating sight.
Dark spirits roam country and towns,
fear of the evil eye terrifies.
From afar heads of state come calling
to court the sleeping giant
covetous and leery of its massive footprint.
Orphans’ brilliant smiles
surprise with hopeful innocence<
belying inner brokenness.
Clad in precious silks the Entitled
sport faces frozen in disdain.
Yet a new generation is hearing
the many cries of despair
and responds with compassion.
These harbingers are standing
on the threshold of a Golden Age.
But in this very moment –
I long for a measure of the familiar,
of order, clean cool breezes, sanitary silence
where I can say, “Yes, yes.”
I feel limp like the greens
in street vendors’ baskets.
My senses are raw in this India
land of scorching sun, of sages,
ancient wisdom, desperation and graft –
a place that churns poison and nectar
from my very soul.
Its relentless chaos pushes me
beyond my “no” and “yes”
into the unmasked naked Here,
the uncompromising Now –
where all resistance is futile
and my judgments scatter in the wind
like the fine ever-present dust
of this harsh, sacred earth –
this land of Avatars and holy ones.
Indian Literary & Arts Magazine | Author | Monika John’s writings have appeared in numerous magazines, anthologies, e-zines in the US, UK, Kenya – most recently in Kindred Spirit UK, Light of Consciousness and Dream Insight US, Kikvetu Journal, Kenya. Forthcoming in Poetry Pacific Canada, Balloon Lit. Hongkong.
The poet obtained a M,A, Lit. from the University of California, Irvine and a J.D. degree from Loyola University, Los Angeles. She practiced law in California until moving to the US Pacific Northwest.