Dancing at the Tip of Shiva’s Trident

Standing there in the middle of the smoke of the dozen burning pyres

watching the men of the families of the dead do their death rituals

feeding the flames with straw and powder

I feel the life and light of the world around me

in the bodies of the living

in the life of the fires

in the spirits that lift up to heaven in the smoke

leaving the body behind.

It doesn’t matter, it is just matter.

This is life looking death in the face and singing, “Rama nama satya hai!

until their throats are sore

dancing the body with drums and woodwinds down to the Ganges

these people choose to cry at home

then sing and dance in the streets, leading the body of their love down to this river

then spend three hours quietly feeding the flames

using their own hands to take care of their own dead

until there’s only a bit of bone left to be raked into the river that outlives us all.

So many things strike me about Varanasi

so much beauty surrounded by so much poverty

making the beauty more beautiful and the poverty more impoverished.

The sight of a little boy flying a baby blue kite deep into the blue sky

high above the burning bodies below

the men bathing down from the burnings, washed in smoke

the cows basting in the smoke

probably the only place in the world where cows lounge in people smoke

sitting around as if at their cow barbecue, waiting to eat.

India is a dream.

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4 thoughts on “Dancing at the Tip of Shiva’s Trident

  1. irisoniris

    I’m Asian, and Indian mythology is like second nature to my writings that I barely notice it that I’m making references, from the most obscure to the most straightforward, until later, when I re-read my own stuff. This was refreshing, and the visuals in the language were a good treat. I also loved the “if you want to bring it to life, I recommend reading while doing an interpretive dance. For the haikus, let me suggest the two-step.” It made me smile. That was an extra charming touch. 😉

    Reply
    1. cottonbombs Post author

      Thank you very much! I am always inspired by the beauty of Asia. When I can’t think of something to write, so often my thoughts meander down the Ganges. I am happy you came with!

      Reply
  2. LilMissJoan

    Love the poem. it was enchanting in a way. took me to places my mind has never been. great job, glad i stumbled upon you.

    Reply

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