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.