Three Poems










Dha, where the arrow landed

in paradise




Unclear in legend – when the shaft flew from his bow

did it pierce a green-bellied valley

hung low and heavy amid Himalayas,


or spark and scrape to a stop in a lucky crevice

and sprout amongst fossilled rock, dropping

the first apricots into infertile granite?


A valley cut by mighty Indus, mother of rivers

swallowing seeds and accidental offerings

indiscriminate in her hunger and her embrace.


And later, after the truth of the beginning

is no longer important, and apricots and apples

overflowed from streams


screams from Kargil ricocheted through trees,

across roofs heaped in blankets of orange,

apricots drying for winter, a mountain no different


from any other marks the border with Pakistan.


Stillness in the ruin of rose gardens

bombs lobbed over heads neither Muslim nor Hindu

but collateral damage, echo of spinning prayer wheels,


the grandmothers, hair down to their knees and looped

back up again, grey in the roots and black strands

saved and woven into the ends, scrap of youth –


they remember this old sadness as they drop apricots

into baskets and ancient coffee tins,

flowered hats balanced over braids.


One young man makes jam all day long in the summer

another smokes pot down in the apple trees

a monkey child eats grapes in the canopy


none of them legends yet.

Everyone claims they can’t remember

the old stories, but a faraway focus


comes into a father’s eyes as he rocks

the sheep-hide full of milk to make butter,

rhythmic roil of back and forth –


shh, shh, shh,


this is the story of how the arrow landed 

in paradise.


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