Monday, 7 May 2012

It rained in Giza! and on the prints


I.



It’s already midday where they are, and my dawn
here is speckled with rain, drunken birdsong
and children’s laughter.  Moisture’s suddenly on
my hair, and beaded in places it doesn’t belong.



And the lotusprints I’d talked about the other day?
already made something less, I can hardly see
where the men had stopped, and then moved away
from my door, away from all that’s mine and me.



Their soles left marks because most of the yard
was unkempt, silksoft earth’s my garden.
Men leave no footprints where the soil is hard
or lush flowers bend under their own burden.



Oddly holy-looking lotusmarks by my door
Wiped out by a holier rain. Not there anymore.



II.



You too must have heard the stories just like me
faintly sacred, without pinning their exact source -
some tramp comes to the door, then turns to be
an evil tempered brahmin without any remorse;



the old, stooped man who came to the saint’s lone cell
and he washed the gnarled feet, and to his awe
under the dirt were twin wounds he knew too well
to admit any doubt about what he saw.



You know the stories, the almost-myths and tales of old
the holyfolk who came in their humble guise
and touched a life and so changed it manifold
and you bear in mind what a knock at the gate implies.


Of course there are myths too hard to believe.
But you check their feet when they come. And when they leave.



III.



So you burn the lamps and keep any wicks trimmed
low and straight, so that your flame is a shapely blue
at its lowest point when the light is finally dimmed;
and you pare the breeze for its secret haiku.



You give a guarded welcome to the destitute,
the tramps and holy men, wonder who they are -
prophets or kings in disguise over some dispute
and you watch their feet for any unusual scar;



and yet they come and leave, and only when they’re gone
you notice their footprints - a sacred lotus mark
and then it rains a little in the desert, just at dawn
on the two-faced join of the light and dark.



It's a gift, this sudden relief of unexpected rain
but it means that the lotusprints can’t remain.



IV.



And so the vague sacredness that comes your way
leaves you too, unbeknownst, and a precious rain
washes it off, its faintest trace, spatters it away
in a brief dance of sand and liquid, a different stain



marks the garden now, a shallow wetness of the earth
not enough to even pucker the air with its smell
but there’s a sense of loss, though the exact worth
of lotusprints against desert rain is hard to tell.



Much of the morning is spent in futile rehash
should you have looked more carefully at the sleeping sole?
A little more mindful and this sudden splash
of rain would fall but still leave the footprints whole.



The rain’s dry now, the morning chores are almost done
as you think - will there be another lotus one?



V.



I do know exactly where you are coming from
we of the complex-simple life, a little out of touch
with soles and tales, who guardedly welcome
tramps without reflecting too long or too much.



We of the easily forgiven mistakes, the casual slips -
looking at the wrong side of feet of an unknown guest
just a resting point for holy men on their trips
touched once, and then brushed aside at the best.



And even the marks that we would hold as souvenirs
washed off by a shower where there’s never a drop of rain,
every cosmic sign and slight made amply clear
each snub a blessing so that we can never complain.



We know this too, if there’s a second chance, a repeat -
it won’t be a lotus, or it won’t be on the feet.



VI.



It’s past dusk where I am, and the brief dawn rain
has left not a single sign for its twilit twin
a dry sky, an empty garden, another mundane
day draws to its dry close, and a night begins



I remember to turn on the lights by the gate
in case a mystic man should decide to stop
but just like you, I know that it’s a futile wait
brushed twice by holiness is too much to hope.



As I turn back I notice the desert has bloomed -
a small blade of green, probably a weed
not a lotus, or a rose, nothing perfumed
just the first shoot of a long forgotten, hidden seed.



And I can’t be troubled to find out if this blade has grown
As a gift or snub, enough that it’s here when the prints are gone.


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