Poems By Daniel Thomas Moran
Boating Through Jabalpur’s Marble Canyons
We were eight
in a blue rusty boat,
Rowed slowly through
the up river canyons
of the Marble Falls, pulled
by three pair of slight men,
and another who pointed put
the details in the stone cascades.
High on a ledge, a small boy
and a smaller one as well,
yelled to us words that became
lost among their echoes.
The guide said the elder boy
would jump into the river
for 20 rupees (a nickel).
Thoughtfully, the offer
was considered, then
I said, tell them both
The Marble Merchant of Jabalpur
On that dust and stone hill,
high above the Marble Falls,
the marble merchant squatted,
the way men squat in India,
bottom against the dirt,
knees pressed to shoulders.
Beneath his tarpaulin, were
his five shelves, displaying
his store of stones, each
a proper fit for the palm
of a man.
I considered him and his stones.
He studied me as well,
the way a man studies a man
who has something to offer.
One by one he proffered each,
Writing on his open palm
the price of them. First
one hundred-fifty rupees, then
one hundred, then seventy-five.
After we had our dance, I
chose the one which spoke to me
with the clearest voice, and
handed him 150 rupees.
Agreeing, as we must, that
In consideration of fine rocks,
between men of will and willing,
One should not quarrel long,
or fail to strike the bargain,
over an issue of fifteen pennies.
This, our final day
in Delhi, the air
over the Palika Bazar
Has filled my lungs
with steel wool.
Every step, a man
with things to ply.
The small boy with
strings of tiny beads
presses us for ten rupees.
On the ruddy street tiles,
men with raspy brooms move
dust from place to other place
A well draped-woman
with a plump baby, begs
the white faced strangers.
It has been said by some,
The Hindus worship
a thousand gods.
Here on Janpath Street
there is but one god,
Folded in half in
the pockets of tourists.
mantras, to coax
the god from his temple.
The Kingdom of India
India is the kingdom
of a billion tiny efforts.
By wooden cart pushers, and
one-handed ditch carvers.
By rickety pedal cart climbers.
All those who dance with the traffic.
and the beggar with the basket of cobra.
In India little is spent, nothing wasted,
by them who feed all those who eat.
By the ones who coax the wells, and
those who scratch at the dry earth.
In India, even the dogs have their places.
Snarling for what little remains, or lying
out along the roads stretched in sleep.
In India, there is always one more
tiny space which could be filled.
And though the air holds its weight, and
the passing waters weep their pain,
In India these are the holy places,
of all the many gods who keep watch,
over the conversations of men drinking tea.
India is the puttering three-wheeled taxis,
clotting the roundabouts and lanes.
The Indian men who fry Indian things,
Boiling the sacred water and the ghee
in great dented vessels and kettles.
The drivers of groaning buses steering
their travelers through the chaos.
India is the tiny hands of the thiefchildren
of the monkey-god, Hanuman.
All the lungs breathing of that blue smoke
which curls and lifts out of every crevice.
The bony shoulders of memory
that bear the soft weight of long silk drapes.
The ancient din outside the ancient walls.
India is carried on bicycles stacked
with burlap sacks, thin lengths of wood,
all that is precious, and all collected things.
India it is the gathered pastel women
who reclaim the old bricks, while babies play.
Bald-headed loin-clothed holy men, and
Dirty urchins who hawk ten rupee necklaces.
It is khaki policemen and palace guards, and
the monsoons of uniformed children
who pour from the doors of schools.
India is the old ladies stringing wedding garlands.
The bony-hipped cows grazing the trash
The ten million machines with two wheels and three.
The sunrise always muted by yesterday’s haze.
India is the overflowing trains, set
on endless miles of creaking rails,
conveying all things which must be
gotten from here to somewhere else.
For India must maintain its motions, and
also its rare places of deep stillness, all
the voices chanting mantra praises to the invisible.
And India is the magnificent marble mausoleums
set among dilapidated shelters of the living,
India is the shop window teeming with brass,
and the pastels which color everything.
The crisp bleached linens of the mahogany old men.
And the mother whose babies are born hungering,
India is the bride whose groom arrives dancing.