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Poetry #230
(published June 9, 2005)
Time Passes And Passing Leaves No Trace
by Ashok Niyogi

We made a shortcut
Through nascent paddy fields,
Terraces into the sides of hills,
We splashed across in sandaled feet.

Ten, maybe fifteen leeches
Stuck their suckers onto ankles,
Between toes,
And gorged themselves
Until they were almost as thick
As my little finger.

All we did was carry common salt
Which we sprinkled on their bloated forms,
They would disintegrate,
Leave a blob of blood,
A red weal that would quickly heal,
And a shred of inconsequential skin
On the soggy mud.

Life was uncomplicated then.



Warmed up brandy and Cuban cigars
Chased by Vodka in a crystal shot-glass,
One dollop of caviar topped up with a cherry,
And tankards full of Nevsky beer.

Trees are barren, they wail with the wind,
Soon it will snow.
Gentle giant flakes
Wafting down through the up lit Moscow,
The chipped pavements, the cracked roads,
Hydrants leaking steam from hot water pipes,
They are all overwhelmed by the chaos of Yeltsin,
Ornate chandeliers in incredible metros,
Blink at pensioners and war widows,
No one knows why in Chechnya,

Flowers bloom and wilt away,
Despite 'plant food'
In poly packs.

Nothing much more happens anyway,
Life is full of twinkling stars.



The topography of my split-level living room
Flashes through my urgent mind,
I must quickly negotiate one more step
To reach the basin in the bathroom.

Blood corrupts marble and the varnish
On teak-wood doors,
But washes away from porcelain,
I must vomit in the basin.

No common salt remedy now,
They must band the esophagus,
I have a 'gusher' so they must rush,
Must force the blood to coagulate,
The scab will leave a scar,

And of course they must pump in,
A basin full of somebody else's blood.



I sit in the geometric center
Of an absolutely windowless room,
Just the floor, the ceiling, and me
The walls are hostile aliens,
In slow motion they inexorably close in.

The air is fetid with my breath,
With occult blood the floor is red,
The color of red-oxide on the Golden Gate.
In this lull before the ambulance comes,
I illogically think of leeches
In paddy fields.

No holding of adolescent hands,
No poetry near the memorial
Of Queen Victoria,

It is like a circus winding up,
Packing bags, coaxing animals into cages,
Hectic activity near railroad wagons,
Complicated manifests to check through,

Life is stuffed with inventory now.



Hospital visitors have dwindled to zero,
The nurses and doctors are disgusted
At life with its guided tour to death,
They wish they were treating cancer instead,
Not something self inflicted.
The needles in my arms tell my head
That that is how it should be,
But I need the poetry of Bukowski.

There is no blood,
So leeches avoid me,
They can't possibly gorge
On my poetry.

The wife is like Quixote,
Lancing windmills of the mind,
Sancho Panza shall we sit
By Lake Elizabeth,
And surreptitiously feed the geese.
We talk of the Mongolian Olympics,
And plan to go this June.

But before that, I must go to the Ganges,
Meet it where it flows out from the hills,
Stand in the fast, shallow, cold water,
And perform mandatory last rites,
For my father who died a year ago.

You go back to Shanghai,
Be with your uncle for a little while,
These Nevada hills are anyway yellow,
We will meet in December and gaze on the green,

Let life go on,
Until then.

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