Fragments From Three Cantos

Hahaha, he laughs, the bald boy, veteran rag-picker sitting on a pile of junk, toes splayed.
Around him strays snarl or sleep, his pets, his messengers from the world outside, bound
to this dump by its bounty. There’s nothing you can’t find here, he laughs, this mini lord
of litter, here’s a part of a ladder to dreams, a broken keyboard to miracles, a magic shoe
with a hole in its sole, a silken bra of torn desires, and mountains of bags and more bags
that leak their stink as joss sticks offered to me. The city’s memories are strewn
at my feet like flowers of pus. So much waste and so much want like the cut-up girl
in that bag near the car parts, she’s refuse now ‘cause she refused to sleep with him.
This is my kingdom come, this is your kingdom come; come, don’t refuse your part of it,

I awoke to rustling and smoke swirling from dying campfires. The festival ground spread
like a cremation ghat deserted; I looked around, I too was deserted, the sky fell flat
on the earth, on the sacred river flowing like a distant snake. I stood and looked around:
debris everywhere. Plastic bottles, rags, single sandals strewn as families left in haste
so as not to awaken sleeping ones, like me. Shit and smoke and the rustling everywhere
as the cold breeze blows. Rustling billowing plastic bags that skitter across this desolation
like abandoned dreams. Into this desolation I must enter, not as mother, not grandmother,
nor aunt or sister for my womb’s a shriveled bag, an empty purse; I walk now as refuse
that has refused the world. In this rustling I will make my home, become rustling,
a torn plastic bag. For trash is the renouncer’s last desire, the last touch of homeland…

Still waters run deep they say, but it’s a lie, floodwaters run deeper. See me, a giant tree
stretched horizontal across the land, my branches cutting up suburbs, my girth spanned
by bridges I’ve swallowed because somewhere else too many of my kind — the vertical
variety — were carted off so the earth slipped and fed my greed and I spread
like washed rain over windshields, blurring everything.

I spread, a slit vein over embankment, a slit vein through streets.

I climbed the dainty stairs of houses, pushed cars along and felt them turning into rust
inside me, and still I flowed, running deep and poisoned by a thousand desires.

And, like you not satiated though I sucked in a thousand things then abandoned them
along my shining path shod with inverted stars that float above streetlamps submerged.
But bags bother me: bags that float carrying the rubbish of a city, this refuse that refuses
to sink but blobs over my body like a wig of undulating synthetic hair.

When I recede, for my time too will come, I’ll festoon ledges, trees, windows, neon signs
– you name it—with torn plastic bags, I’ll leave the city’s secrets fluttering high;
as I die down I’ll mark the city
with it flags of life, its trash.

* old widows were sometimes abandoned by poor families at sites of large religious melas

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