22 December 2009

India

I.

Young woman me, fashioned
herself a hippy, flowers bloomed
 from the tops of many intricate braids,
above bare-footed skirts that swept
the Earth when I passed.

The downtown Import Depot
drew me in to its incense laden air
where I rifled through stacks of
tapestries to find the perfect hanging
for my first dwellings’ walls.
There it was: a rooster red and black
in the midst of a repeating paisley print
-the tapestry that drove me to India.

After watching it breathe for years
on walls that defined my life,
I wanted to visit an ancient
place where people understand
that all things are
infused with life.
I believed that spirit
dwelled in everything:
Trees, books, houses, words,
and in the air that made looks
between people
possible.


II.

Five years of double time and scrimping
paid for a 23 hour flight to Mumbai.
My travel bible, India by Lonely Planet Press
illuminated lodgings, customs, restaurants,
temples and travel routes.
It promoted packing one or two outfits
and stuffing the rest of your backpack
full of toilet paper before leaving your homeland.
Toilet paper in India is scarce
and expensive.
I appreciated the beauty
of buying trippy clothes
to fill up the space created
as I wiped my way through India,
a country teeming with life.

Trains entered a central station
in Mumbai through a railbed
parents lowered their children into
to defecate.

Rats scurried
from possibility
to possibility
along tracks
tunneled by
low cement walls.

I needed to pee. Badly.
I entered a public toilet
under the girl icon.
A mountain of shit
with an apex
higher than I was comfortable squatting over,
grew from each porcelain bowl on the floor.
A quick scan showed no number 10 cans
usually utilized to flush the waste down the bowl.
I hiked my skirt to pee in the corner.
While hunkering down,
a dark skinned Indian woman
in a dirty sari came in.
She surveyed the room,
then smiled at me,
one front tooth missing.
She squatted
in the opposite corner
of the room.

I finished and offered her toilet paper.
She laughed, swinging her hand toward the door.


III.

I took the train from Mumbai south to Mysore.
On the upper bunk of the berth,
across from me,
a man with wild dark hair
escaping from a skull cap,
wrote frantically
for more than four hours
into a spiral notebook.
He stopped only when I asked
where he was from,
he looked up and said “Spain.”
then continued at his task.

The train made a tea and pee stop
at a depot in a small village
with more cows than people.
Pink and yellow blossoms
stood out against the coarse white chests
of mooing beasts.
A man with a monkey on his shoulder
vended tea from a tray.
The tea was sweet
leaving a ¼-inch of sugar
swelled in the bottom of the cup.
The monkey danced
for change or bananas.
Another man sold stuffed armadillos
from a loose fitting bag
slung from his shoulder.

Six more hours until my stop in Mysore.
The couple across from me ate
a curried concoction of lentils, beans and rice
from paper cones pulled from their bags.
Above them, the writer
began to eat
page after page
of his own words,
one at a time.

Several pages preceded
long swigs from a quart-sized canteen.
Let the water wash the words, I thought,
and caught his eyes,
calm dark orbs that dared me to speak.
His intensity frightened me so
I broke away and talked to the couple
about train travel,
and the amount of sugar in tea.
The woman’s head
bobbed loose on her shoulders
while she lilted stories
of their daughter in Bangalore.
Every now and then
she stopped,
and looked up at the writer,
relentless in his feast.


IV.

At a dry goods store
in Mysore
with western saloon style doors,
I purchased a carton of tea.
Inside the box, a small
cello-wrapped toothbrush
lay buried in the leaf.

I laughed aloud
and the clerk looked puzzled.
“Sugar,” I said
then turned to go.

Every atom
in my body
shifted
when I stepped out
and the Spaniard stepped in
through swinging shop doors.

Outside, I stilled
and listened to the wooden doors sing
beating time to inertia.

I looked behind me
to see the word eater
do the same.

His eyes burned holes in mine.

“The doors,” he said, “Did you hear them sing?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~
Thank you to the poets from Writer's Island who sotp to leave words on this piece.  Click the link for more takes on the prompt.

7 comments:

Lela said...

I like the phrase, " As I wiped my way through India," It made me smile, whimsical. I also like the way your writing flows. Interesting idea to break it into parts.

Mary said...

Wow, that was quite an adventure. I did know people who had the problem with the toiletting facilities / sanitation in India. I would have a hard time, but I suppose it was all part of the adventure.You should interject some photos with this poem!

If you want to visit my blog, and I hope you wil, you can send me an email at dixibear@aol.com; as I am opening it up only to people with 'permission,' which is all poets!! Or maybe, if I have found your email address, I have invited you already....

Elizabeth said...

Great pacing in this piece. Great sense imagery, and I knew, lol, the word eater was gonna end up at the end. Had too, lol. Liked everything about your poem, but then I usually do.

Elizabeth

Diane T said...

Wow, what a long journey! Brilliant, though. Great writing!

Stan Ski said...

This is great - I recognise all of it and more from the time I spent in India (Goa/Mumbai) in '98
I had this to say: INDIA

Jingle said...

wow,
you have such detailed observations of life in India,
it must be fun to snapshot these.
fun journey.

Jingle said...

http://itistimetothinkformyself.blogspot.com/2010/08/between-u-and-me.html

here is my entry for journey…
thanks for the feedback!