In one section of Mysore, India, sandalwood intoxicates.
Orange brown carved statues are sold in shops
and on blanket covered sidewalks
laden with incense and trinkets—
by street vendors with betel worn teeth
treasures and relics of Indians’ lives.
The shops hold a dazzling display of carvings
along with soap, oil, perfume, and lotions
incensed to lure travelers deep into the store.
A man puts his hands together in greeting,
bows, and says, “Change money?”
He ushers us into a hanging maze of carpets
and offers a rate far surpassing
the current exchange
from dollar to rupee
obtainable in government banks.
My heart beats wild
in this room behind rug walls
sandalwood seeping into my pores.
Money changes hands
and I leave the shop
a serene sandalwood Buddha.
Filthy feet carry the child
of a street vendor to my side.
A monkey wearing a dress
dirtier than hers
hangs on her shoulder.
She wants to see my purchase,
and share with me the wares
spread out on her piece of ground
Nodding a figure eight,
she inspects the sandalwood Buddha
then laughs when she hands it back to me
and I close my eyes to inhale deeply
with Buddha pressed against my nose.
Her monkey screeches
as I pull bananas from my bag.
He jumps from her shoulder to the ground
and eyes me suspiciously as he peels.