He wasn’t prepared for the foul smell,
the oily exhaust from the open taxis,
the women washing clothes in the fetid fountains,
open city sores with sandstone steps.
Those hoards of incessant beggars,
the albino who pursued him through the market stalls,
Lucky for you, lucky for me!
He wasn’t prepared to see a child
sitting in the street with a broken arm at ninety degrees,
an old break that was never set.
He sat in the courtyard of his hotel soaking in the quiet,
sipping tea in the alyssum scented evening,
waited on by gentle men in golden kurthas.
He saw himself on a mountainside
looking down on a woman brushing her hair far below him.
The higher he went the more his dreams merged and night became day.
The woman offered herself as the Divine,
the horned tahr with its shimmering brown mantle came with an amulet for him,
the writhing bad gods danced to drums in the firelight.
Later, after the altitude and the notorious rakshi they drank from jeep fuel cans,
home came no nearer, only the mother of all headaches,
like vise grips tightened to breaking on the brain stem.
The morning brought the world back intact,
the slatted light through the hotel windows,
an angry sun that heated each crevice and hallway.
The trip though the city leveled down to the lowest places–
an indifferent royal palace, a wall of littered noise,
and then…a chorten with languid eyes looking down at a movie set,
a movie with interchangeable characters, alive, asleep, alive.