The River and the Road

I have trudged up here before

and felt the sharp wind in my face,

scratching, scratching.

What was once the river is now the road.

The tar is pimpled with heat,

studded with small pebbles

that hurt my feet.


I face the sun

in a scorching daze.

Further up,

by the grand fort

at the edge of the walled city--

I was once drenched to the bone

by the intemperate monsoon.

The Yamuna in flood,

swelled with passion.

There is the crumbling monument,

once some Nawab's mansion.

On summer nights,

with the quarter moon dangling

like a luminous pendant

in the hazy sky,

laughter floated out of the casements,

and anklets tinkled expertly

keeping time with the tabla and tuneful sarangi

until the nautch and wine

fired the blood with unspeakable longing...

My body burns

I feel each cell catch fire:

tiny flames dissolve into warm-spots;

spreading through reluctant sinews,

they impel. I thump past the ramparts,

on and on, to the beat of my blood,

incoherent thoughts flashing

like elusive fireflies in the brain.

My stomach churns, forehead melts,

drops of sweat, skin coloured

slide down, burst into the eye...

Stung, I blink.

Not far, I see cars speeding;

I eat their poisonous breath, gasp;

in the calves, the blood freezes,

becomes knots of lead.

Two hundred years later

where will the river turn?

What will be of this road?



I re-enter the city.

My belly belches a protest.

Another run nears completion.

After this insane perpetual motion

when will home come?


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  Copyright © 2005 - Makarand Paranjape