Poetry

Public Cremation

 

 

Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu
 
 
 
 
 
No promise of grey in your hair, now basted 
 
with damp hay. Your face fleshy, healthy. 
 
You were young, rich. Hard to tell if you were good. 
 
Nobody is crying. Where is your mother?
 
They, your cousins and uncles, dip your smooth 
 
feet in grey bilge, the smog-trickle of Bagmati River.
 
A crowd leans toward the death spectacle 
 
over a bridge that pigeons sail under. 
 
Upriver, a woman washes her feet, carefully.
 
They wrap your dark penis in cloth. Each 
 
touches your hair. All part of the ceremony. 
 
Nobody minds when a tourist cuts in to snap 
 
a pic of your face. Monkeys slide down 
 
a temple roof. Boys hock a loogie over the ghat. 
 
Nepali pop shrieks on a cheap radio. 
 
They find a note in your pocket and examine it. 
 
They lay a torch at your throat. Ashes and 
 
butterflies issue forth. Sadhus – the dead ones, 
 
cohorts of ghosts, stoned gods, thinking as stones 
 
think – walk about as if lost. Your thighs 
 
are ash, your robe butterflies. Your toes boil. 
 
That which was dark and alchemical turns 
 
to flies, butterflies, your thick hair smoke 
 
and your eyes butterflies. Your foot is yellow 
 
and your thigh bone surfaces. Hand open, 
 
palm charred. Your ribs are revealed. 
 
When two monkeys begin humping in the ford,
 
the crowd laughs loudly and without malice. 
 

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