Dried fishnets on the shore
and funeral ghats surrounded
by spectators and bursts of orange
marigolds. Who were these once-people
displayed now so openly on
funeral pyres for anyone to see
their last moments of earthly intimacy.
Flesh once like ours turned into black coal,
limbs once like ours turned into whispers of ash.
Dreams once like ours turned into eternal atoms
recycled back into the waiting arms
of mother universe who will toss us
back out again. Atoms once like ours
encased in flesh, invisible to the naked eye,
reborn somewhere. Someday.
The Harishandra and Manikarnika cremation
ghats flame day and night with bodies
wrapped in gold garlands. We peek
at the once-faces of the dead resting
on their smoke pillows and wonder at our own ends
and who will see our death face. But we are
tourists and quick to move on. Quick to dip
into the Ganges for ablution that conveniently
offers a lifetime reprieve of regrets.
Tourists in our half-lives,
we sit on the Harischandra ghat
watching the river because we’re tired,
because Buddha sat near a river
and maybe we can learn an easy secret
or think a Buddha thought like he did.
We offer jasmine petals and sandalwood incense
to flatter an afterlife we don’t believe in,
listen hard to the sound of the Ganges
like it’s a language we never learned,
hoping for a word or two we can understand.
The Ganges River flows north towards
the North Star, but stars die.
I don’t like rivers. They’re never alone
and always move on. I trust the ocean
with its lonely waves reaching out for me.