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Saturday, November 5, 2011

The River Becomes by Susan Adams

The River Becomes (Poem) by Susan Adams

The River Becomes
Landscape is a slovenly
hot, dirty white.
The Ganges font
in the foothills of mountains
waits like a clock,
a dust bitten scar
of haze and cough
where Brahmin cattle
heat-stunned dull
cud their lives.
Crows nit backs
their call cracks air
then stumbles to a warble
with throats too parched to care.

The jeep juggles a narrow causeway
heat-limp hands greet our arrival
their saris have eyes, stop sun and flies
hide leprous wounds from flinch
in others eyes.
Men squat in dhotis and shirts
handkerchiefs knot corners of heads
children call 'Aunty, Aunty'
no sense of taint for their future
just laughter.

My room is a string bed, ceiling fan, granite floor
blades beat cool to reach corners
a bucket shower, cold, over raw hole
meshed windows halt flies, give entry
to live drain smells.
We gag, hold cloth under noses.

Days are a medication of slow
Lulled, loose shapes on deep verandahs
we expand sunsets
table tennis follows fire-cooked meals
books read, candles are light.
We edge towards the rains.

It happened like they said.
I was lying on my cot half naked
water coddled the hollow in my chest, hot.
It was raining in the Himalayas.

The sound distant. A roar travelling.
Gods' negatives on the hurl.
We race to the dried rockbank
nothing on the other side
but noise is riding on echoes in our ears.

Fear arrives before the water. 
We stare up at mountains
I have no idea how it will be. But short.
A dirty, yellow trickle as wide as the riverbed seems frivolous
frothed hissing on hot rocks slow motion fast.
The push behind has power,
retched boulders hurtle past to the plains below at sea level.
Massive muddied flow wipes through
the causeway is balsam to breath
one piece at a time broken
concrete slabs of jagged metal
arched like cards to a temple
but a channel made.
River rides its sky.

Sunita, 7, solders herself to me.
We are all transfixed by the chaos
Grover alive with excitement, palsy-bound to wheelchair
but eyes are sparks in his rolling head
and children are springs on screams.

Over so soon, much destroyed, muscles shake.
The force that rearranges land so fast
is humbling in grandeur.
River takes control,
a boundary that cuts and isolates
with ownership of deep clear water.

Boulders took our electric wire and water pipe.
At times men wade the crossing bikes on heads,
mugs collect rain as 'Jungly wallahs'
arrive with snakes and charms.
Heat leaves, river dries to a trickle
lush fades, peace layers valley.
The cold. Then heat will insinuate to a harsh scorch.
Planted, seasons move around me.
All will repeat.

Author’s Bio: Susan Adams, an Australian poet, has been published extensively in anthologies, online, and print literary journals both in Australia and internationally. She has been read numerously on ABC Radio National.  Recent publications have included Eureka Street, Nth Position (UK), Great Works (UK), Eclecticism, Sugarmule (USA), Bacopa (USA), Hecate, Social Alternatives, Ascent Aspirations (Ca), Cordite, The Chaffey Review (USA). She is preparing her first collection.

This piece was written during her year in Dehra Dun, India .

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