Buddha Considers the Baraois
The baraois, they tell me it’s called here,
Or used to be called, the sudden gleam
Of mackerel shoaling under a full moon.
A phosphorescent swelling. There, then gone.
Used to be called, they say, because now
There are no fishermen watching for signs
And there’s nobody now, they tell me,
Who walks the cliff at night and knows
How to look for it, or even knows the word.
And I think of those high places I have been
Where nobody now listens for, or knows
The word for that tiny flow of meltwater
From the slope above, that tells the snow leopard
Has paused awhile, then silently passed by.
My Lord Buddha of Carraig Éanna
It’s to keep the bay level, I joked,
As I nudged him into balance
At the edge of the cliff, his bland
Garden-centre smile facing out to sea
And to Carraig Éanna, its silhouetted
Birds, and its occasional almost-strain
Of old stories recounting themselves
Among the indifferent heads of seals.
He has settled in well. Some two
Or three winters. Stirs himself only
For the approaching lawnmower, sinks
Easily back into where he was.
Two or three winters. Storms foreseen
And unforeseen. The moulded folds
Of his robe bear hints of lichen.
The smile is softened by weathering.
From my window, his shape in the light
Of where he is between sea and sky,
Between field and shore, assumes
Today that he has been here forever.
Equanimity, now and again. Equilibrium.
O My Lord Buddha of Carraig Éanna,
Your plaster-cast presence is welcome,
Rooted in all this betwixt and between!
Of Time and Tide
Skellig grew ethereal in our wake
As stone became shimmer in the heat.
But the gravestones in the high monastery
Wedged themselves still in the open earth
Of memory, their shadows reflecting
On the low-tide harbour where we landed
And climbed the iron ladder to the pier.
So much for the evening to reflect on:
Such distances in time, such tides.
And then, next day, to London, over
And back, to a funeral, to attend all
The ceremonies and return to the exact
Hour in the time it takes from one
Full tide to another. And I still cannot
Fathom it, nor take the measure of a span
When no man waits for time or tide
Nor takes note of his shadowself
Straggling in his wake, falling farther
And all the time farther behind, behind
Time itself, stranded between tides.
for Prashant Timalsina
Everybody’s feet, they say, should leave the earth
During Dashain, and walk the air like the kites
That spool themselves all over the expectant sky.
And so, as goats were brought in droves from hills,
And buses, packed above and beyond all reason,
Swayed their ludicrous way towards villages
All over Nepal, enormous arches of bamboo
Rose and bowed to be tied in graceful support
Of the festival swings built in every village.
In Chaudaridara, inadequate with a camera,
I sat in awe-struck envy of the young
Cavorting in sprung rhythm above my head.
You want play swing? you asked at the high
Point of every arc inscribing the waiting sky,
And I drew back with a timid, earthbound
No, I’m too old. Children and the cool teens
Eyeing one another laughed. But for this week,
You persisted, old man also can play swing.
And the gods know I did – the camera has the proof –
While my legs, amazed at themselves, lifted
And pointed towards the light on distant hills.
I give these words to you as tikka, in gratitude
For your seven-years-old wisdom, dear Prashant,
Who taught me how to walk the air again.