It has its own pockets in the backpack
and carries its stuff quite independent
of what you might want – the old cobbled lanes,
the bridge over the darkening blue-black
river at dusk; and petrichor; the ambient
shapes of trees weeping softly in the rains.
It’s one of those bags that unzips down its length
and expands to fit in all manner of things -
stuff you thought you’ll never need again:
a foreign square, the citizens out in strength;
the lilt of the azaan as it parts the evenings;
a public bath awash with laughing women.
Each departure is a rehearsal of sorts
for the final one with zero allowance;
you sort the stuff, prioritised, precise,
pack just the tent and its vital supports.
You shed things as you go in accordance
with the scriptures and what the wise advise.
Yet in some pocket of memory, or flesh
a small coin, some stubs of minor events
are overlooked and travel everywhere;
what you thought you shred tumbles out afresh
and the morning’s raw with what it represents
to trash it again is more than you can bear.
So you put it away again in some flap
where it won’t obtrude or escape meanwhile;
thrust it deep behind some or other task.
The minutes move in tiny tip-toed recaps
and your eyes are moist even as you smile,
but you say, “It’s nothing!” if someone asks.