Posted tagged ‘I used to call it Benares poem’

I Used To Call It Benares

February 14, 2016



I Used to Call It Benares

Then there was the man
who made me want
to swim out into the Ganges,
though my first trip to Varanasi
had included a boat ride
by a floating dead cow, its ribs picked
to a flicker of flesh
by what I poetically want to call
carrion crows.

But he was cool (the man)
and I was not
and it was hot enough in Varanasi that visit, the smoke from the funeral pyres
something we black-coughed regularly, he wanting
to see, and other

that in the heat of even
the non-burning ghats, in the ochre orange
of the non-embered steps, the banks
of beggars and those
who could unclothe without revealing
anything, I swam out far enough
to reach ripple,
and though I pressed my lips tightly together
in a way that we were not
for long–or maybe, honestly, too long
for it was a relationship that ever
took me
to a brink–I have never
felt water so silky at any other time
in my whole life.

I still can feel
its caress on my lightly haired arms, the way the drops glistened
against a sky stranded
by heat, dust, smoke, and a pulsing
certainty, or will
for it–

how to survive this something one spends years
trying to learn, accepting too
a beauty–

Very much of a draft poem for Magaly’s prompt on With Real Toads, 

As a process note, Varanasi is one of the most holy Hindu pilgrimage cities in India; and the Ganges, a river that runs through it, is considered a holy river.  Ghat is the sanskrit/Hindi word for river bank, and is what the various parts of the banks of the Ganges in Varanasi are called; these include Manikarnika Ghat which is a cremation ghat, also called the burning ghat.   Photo is by my daughter, Meredith Martin. 

The poem has been edited since first posting and is still (probably) in progress; as I’m still not happy with the close–agh–but don’t want to “unpost” at this point.