from the shores of the holy ganges
The sadhu squats low on the ghat.
Ochre robes lull in your water as he scoops.
Three times bending and three times scooping.
Just before dawn.
Day brings rich paradox.
Crowds come alone for their baptism. Others wash,
the thwacking of saris wave the boats on.
Your gentleness laps destitute steps.
The noontide herd of rickshaws and cows approach
There is little room left to honour you. Still
men and women bow their offerings in
Still, you welcome them, their brass vessels,
their minute vibrations and prayers.
You welcome also, the disoriented strangers
with their wonderment in camera bags.
It is long after dark now. The smell of flesh tangible
from the pyres offering their dead.
Red shrouded women and men in white
sit upright as the flames contort.
And they, the richer
are the fortunate ones.
You welcome them on their makeshift rafts. You mourn
for those left on the ghat. You weep
for those too poor for you
to carry them on their final journey. Still
Something About Her
‘So another girl eh?’ (nothing special, better luck next time)
Born on time and in the natural way,
her father held her screams and wondered,
waiting for her mother to return
with fifty-three stitches, drunk on anaesthesia,
he wondered what exactly was the natural bit.
She grew and its name began silent. Watching,
she waved and clapped and curled, and
its name took voice and became
Misery. Waking her one day with screams
it made plans to never leave. Her father bewildered, busied;
her mother’s days full of grieving minutes.
Age four, its name was Insidious. She grew
quiet and gentle and curious. And tired
at ten o’clock with a swollen belly full of fear.
‘Toddler diarrhoea – she’ll grow out of it. Try cutting
out sugar. Wheat. Dairy. Try cutting
She stood at six, rotund and weary beside siblings, exuberant and
thin. Her parents listening to more specialist talks of
calories in and out until one listened back and
looked. Ten by fifteen centimetre homogeneous neoplasm.
Caught out by a scan but not yet given
name casting her mother and father mute.
Not pretty enough to don the glossy hospital
newsletter. Overlooked for the blonde angel
with the club foot whose mother grimaced and asked of
the scar dividing her in half.
G a n g l i o n e u r o b l a s t o m a:
a benign word with malignant intent.
Brave and strong, she endured legal Special K and
sent letters to her friends. She asked its name, the
lump in her tummy that shouldn’t be there and ate
the first Icy Pole like a banquet. Mother held her hand and
sister cartwheeled. Her father devoured
information and hope like a sunrise knowing with a
ferocity that despite the lifelong
monitoring and no guarantees – she will survive:
There’s just something about her.