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1: Afghani Bazaar

A Sightless musician
Singing Dari to himself
is
Wearing a drab brown
hand spun
Long shirt to his knees
Full baggy pants
Sturdy shoes with us tire
Treads
Sits among others
Drumming Down the sun
Under the vaulted roofs of
The bazaar in Heart
The streets just big
Enough for a donkey
Or a camel to pass
The merchants sit behind
Burlap sacks of spices and
Fruits
The smells reach around
And grab you by your throat
Camel dung tobacco sweets
And spices perfume the air
While nimble tiny fingers of
A boy of five ties knots in
A magnificent rug that will perhaps
Someday grace a
Park Avenue Condo or lay
On the cool tiles facing
An Ocean
But By that time
The sweet smiling
Nimble fingered
Boy will have
Become a musician
Drumming down
the sun he will
No longer be able to see.

AfghaniBazaar-rug.jpgAfghaniBazaar-boy-1.jpgAfghaniBazaar-boy-2.jpg


2: Casablanca Gone East

I wrote this 5 years or so back after not being in India in about 25 years,it was after my first visit ever to Calcutta,a shithole memory I shall cherish,till the next time

CASABLANCA GONE EAST

the getaway from calcutta was indeed memorable

sort of like the escape from the black hole
the ride to the airport was like being in a high speed chase
as far as my maniacal injun taxi driver saw it
squealing tires & a cloud of dust as we departed the hotel
was my initial sign that a liesurely ride outta town was out of the question

zigging & zagging,continual horn honking,near miss accelerated 2 lane changes
cutting off trucks,buses,cows , dogs & the other indianascar
participants that were also driving amok.left turns from the right
lane at full acceleration
"say jagdish" (real injun name) "you can slow it down
i am not late for my plane"
'BRAKES ARE FOR PUSSIES!!!!!"
he floored it
threading between a bus and car (i thought i spotted the bus driver blindfolded)
paint smears were traded ,and the race continued

some pedetrian in a crosswalk was cicrcumcised by our too close pass
poor bastard never knew what tipped him
became a moslem on a traffic island
"ALLAH BE PRAISED"

AND THEN IT HAPPENED
2 tourist buses entered the competition & the pace picked up more
now we have drivers yelling epithets from bus to taxi at one another
oh no! six kilometres to the airport
yikes!!!!!
now the odds for a favorable airport arrival
were dropping faster than my stomach
the bastards in that bus are german tourists headed to the same
international terminal as me
we're all doomed
as the race accelerates I hallucinate on the blitzkreig
coming to a screeching halt
 we arrived simultaneously
at the airport
it was a photo finish
we all survived
but i definitely knew
i was on my way out of calcutta
and it was midnight

the airport waiting room was like greyhound bus station gone wrong
terribly wrong
the air conditioner turned to the coldness level of a meat locker
my breath was visible from the chill
and the denizens of this place
nouvue riche injuns (lap top,mp3,telephone+all simultaneously on)
the Macau china nerd team
and massive amounts of germans for a lufthansa flight
back to the motherland
ambience of a bar inhabited by bogart & bergman
but there was no piano
and I definitely did not want to hear it again
"OF ALL THE DIVES IN THE WORLD & YOU HAD TO PICK CALCUTTA"

not enough seats for those awaiting the plane
getting up to go to the toilet immediate seat loss
anyway i was not that keen on heading to that  "rest room"
kind of literally entering the bowels of hell
3 hours later boarded my flight

as we taxied down the runway
out the window i bid aloha to my 2 week fantasy adventure
and waved

2 hours later landed in bangkok to watch the sunrise
arrived where i stay
entered & was immediately siezed with food poisoning
wretched away the entire day & thru the night

"do i know how to whistle
 when i think of calcutta
i just pucker up
& blow chunks"


your roving
despondentELEPHANTTOW.jpg


3: gods galore!

don't put shiva in the bedroom
he will only bring you grief....
he is a most destructive god
tho' his rage is swift and brief

saraswati's good for yoga
she's the holder of the muse

while laxmi is the goddess
for good fortune and good news

ganesh is for the doorway
he will keep your sins at bay
but he must be bought on tueday
and someone else must paY!

brahma is creation
he loves the butterflies
that swoop with animation
then sail away to die.....

hanuman's the monkey god
he's good for yoga too....
as you twist and turn upon the ropes
you know he's close to you..

krishna is the lover
who likes to go to war
both sides of the yin and yang
with cowgirls by the score

arjuna was the brother
who seemed to have more sense

govinda was another
their beauty heaven sent

drona was a marksman
who held fast to his bow

while sweet parvati loved no other
than the shiva that we know


4: Women unlocking mysteries

felucca's slice through  the Nile

the same boats that

the  Egyptian Gods

took  to their afterlife

but

not far away

 

 Shisha Water pipes

 

blaze

the exhale a cinnamon  haze

curls and   fills the air

The water is clear

 and bubbles

The mona lisa smiles

 are on wrinkled faces

Enjoying a quiet moment

Away from husband and relative

Prying eyes

 their abas

Like a black pool of water at their feet

Their almond eyes sing stories

 that wish to be told

 

Far away on the red china sea

The women in their sanpans

Change flags as they float into different boundary waters

they change their attire putting on the simple blue

everyone wears

they rub off the color they are one of the

thousand drops in the ocean

 

that remembers their

eye

 

Still further away

Half naked old women of Varanasi

Bathe themselves in the Ganges The Holy River

Next to a bloated dead cow

Yet they live

Eek out a living with a few paisa

that they offer to the white pasted sadhus

 

with gnarled hands

 that have turned into claws

 

 

In London  Other

Arab women shift

themselves like their sisters

in their home country

 they smoke shisha as well

Their faces uncovered

they are young

and under their aba a satin

dress and heels ignite

 their spirit

and some day they

will vote and drive

 

 

jump backward

 

 

I fall in line with the female Israeli soldiers

I am invisible they laugh and play

paint toes talk fast

so I do not understand everything

but we all know

going into battle they could die.

 

I have gone far from Brooklyn

And found myself

 

Cooking over Chula stoves in south India

Grinding peppers in a mortar in Goa

 

Looking for herbs in the Himalayas

Finding blue mushrooms

That turn yellow from the forests

Outside Chamba Valley

Eating Mo Mo ‘s from the ladies

With aprons

In the Tibetan tent

 

in Bodh Gaya

 

Listening to their gossip

 while

Walking around

saying prayers and moving

the prayer wheel

 

i have learned to dry pumpkin seeds

and slit their thin skin

with my fingernail

by an old Iraqi woman

i have roasted an eggplant over

 an open fireon Bezalel street

carefully peeling away its

burnt skin

from a survivor

of the concentration camps

who had hollow eyes but

knew how to cook

 

i have held the other side of the pot

and emptied a huge soup

with a Brahmin cook

 

and learned to stir galangal

into a broth by

a fat ibu in Indonesia

 

laid frangapani on doorsteps in bali

and wore an invisible head dress

 

that was taller then any door

for Tibetan teachings

 

unlatching the doors

of mysteries when i found them

 

i learned to rest

and be nourished

by the smallest of things

and the most wonderful stories

that went beyond any traces of time.

 

i am aware now of my

own mortality

and i rush to write everything down

while i still remember

so i can enjoy them

yet again.


5: Yellow woman chicken curry Penang style

In some countries the recipe handed down from mother
To daughter
Is silence
They are assaulted by
not allowing their imaginations
To flower and they endlessly
Repeat themselves with
Self-revealing gestures
Forged by obsession to speak

All women in all countries are full of opacities
and self Contradictions like all other
human beings but
It is their lightening hearts
That can't be silenced
That turns up in pots of soups and stews
That they cook with and
Wit and insights
While making a soup or chopping an eggplant
Or inhaling the fresh herbs pulled from their gardens
Then they are
Suddenly they are transformed
Their hands become the master
And their imaginations are that
Of a queen.

And so begins the story of the yellow queen
Who by destiny has ended up
Without a husband
And many children in a small store
In the Indian section of Penang.
She sits on embroidered cushions
Her face an uneasy color of gold painted
And powdered by turmeric
She sits among her long scarves
Her black goddess statue
Festooned with marigolds
And 24 karat gold necklaces
Indian salvars and kameeszes

The air is heavy with incense
And children run in and out of the store
I have come for long black hairpins
She has none but sends one of her sons
To fetch some for me from another store

I wait and as I wait
she watches
She offers me a seat
And says you have no one to go back to
I’m startled and my mind runs to all the
People I will go back to
But she says again you have no one
Not one special person
No I say... not one special person.
She smiles and invites me into the back
Of the store
Where she begins to cook
A chicken curry

The kitchen is full of jasmine, sandalwood,
Coconut and curries pungent pepper
With the Added borrowed exotic flavors
of Malaysia and Thailand
the Lemon grass and coriander roots
reach my senses along with
Memories of south Indian mountains
The trees, the winds and the drone of the sarod
The call of the venai

Here in this cramped store in this cityscape
Watching this ample women draped in a sari
I was able to conjure as she worked with
The chicken, the chilies and the palm sugar
Slicing bits of galangal and ginger into the pot
And as the onions cooked I could hear
The sounds of the rivers running from the
Mountains into the parched cities
I sat there in her kitchen in
Back of the store watching her throw a
Pinch of this and a dash of that
Cooking by instinct

All the while asking me
what I would do if
It were my store

I told her honestly it was cluttered beyond
Belief that I would empty it all out and start
Again and make it visually appealing
She said how?

we let the food simmer as we pushed
Racks out of the way and made an entry way
While I took scarves and hung them from shelves
I did this and she went back into the kitchen
While her children worked with me
After an hour she came out and sighed
Looked around smiled and said
I am sick
I will die soon

They need someone
they can not do it alone
There is no one
And you have come
I will call and tell them
Suddenly the children came in
young and old
All bowing and kissing my hand
As if it were all preordained
I sat there startled
She said not to worry we will find
A place for you to live
And you can continue to teach

Our friend is in the ministry he can arrange it
Suddenly there was a great sense of solitude
And responsibility settling on my shoulders
She was bestowing me with her life
I was a stranger;
I just wanted a few long hairpins
Now there were to be the incessant pleas children
The complex negotiations with stores
The cacophony of life
I looked at her sweet eyes
And powdered yellow skin
Her lovely silken sari
The 24 karat gold necklace
I smiled and smelled the chicken
In the other room

as we went to eat
I said you offer me a full life
But it is not my own
Think about this she said
just consider

Just consider it's
Another life not yet lived.

THE CURRY
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup coconut cream
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon palm sugar
2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed
3 shallots, peeled
2 coriander roots, scraped
3 green chili, stems removed
10 slices galangal, peeled
3 kaffir lime leaf
8 ounces mushrooms, cut into bite sized pieces (Chanterelles, straw, oyster or Button)
1 lb. boneless skinless (organic please) chicken thighs or boneless skinless chicken breasts , cut into bite sized pieces
3 Tablespoons hot Indian curry
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1/4 cup green onions, thinly sliced

1. In a 4 quart saucepan, heat chicken stock, coconut milk, coconut cream, salt and palm sugar to boiling.
2. Meanwhile bruise lemongrass, shallots, coriander roots and chilies using a mortar and pestle.
3. Add to boiling stock along with galangal and lime leaves.
4. Simmer slowly for 20 minutes.
5. Strain out all solids.
6. Return liquid to pot and add chicken and mushrooms.
7. Simmer until chicken is cooked.
8. Add fish sauce and lime juice.
9. Stir to incorporate.
10. Ladle into bowls.
11. Garnish with cilantro and green onion

"All life is wild and fiercely unpredictable"
i remember reading that and thinking
how true that was, although confined
to our habitats and suddenly there is
a portal a possibility to try another life on.

one that will erase the other
my ferry would be leaving soon
and we would roll away from the sun
Thailand was close by
and i would rejoin the life i left behind.

Yellow-woman-chicken-curry-Penang-1.jpg


6: crow remembering

remembering .............One crow vignette from Benares

Old man Sadhu coming from
The Kumbah Mela
Covered in ash
Naked and top knotted
With streaks of red on
His forehead
Is crowned by marigolds
And wears his beard down
To his chest
His feet rough cracked and
Polished from walking from
The Gangatori in the snow capped
Mountains
Following the river to its holy
Place where it rests in Benares
He sees only god
I henna haired fresh from Bodh Gaya
In Bihar and a month of meditation
Living in the Burmese Monastery
Arrive in Benares the same time
As the sadhu

I sit under a big tree with folding
Arms sipping thick dark sweet milky
Chai at an improvised stall talking
To other travelers and I remain
There until the heat passes
And make my way down to the
River as the sky darkens

The Sadhu stands near me
And asks in a perfect British
English
If I had come to pray?
I told him I was a Buddhist
Fresh from Bodh Gaya
He smiled like an old grandfather
A naked saint Nicholas
And said
That is good

Then gave me instructions where
To get a boat for the night with
The finest view of the river
And added that spiritual truth was
Only available through meditation !
And then just as suddenly as he
Appeared
he was gone

I thought I glimpsed him as he
Melted into the crowd of the
Hundreds of thousand pilgrims

Someone told me that he must
Have been an important sadhu
Judging by the huge red tikka
On his head
But I suspect under the
Clay that covered his body
That he might be an
English man

Either way he gave me
Hell of good directions
I had a great boat a wonderful
Adventure s that came
from living there as i
woke up to the prayers
every morning
and ablutions of thousands
of pilgrims

but it was his smile
that remained
Long after he was gone
like The
Cheshire cat.

crow remembering

benares-remembering-x550-1.jpg


7: A days walk up the street

A days walk up the street in Penang

In this part of Malaysia

on the verdant island

of Penang

Live hundreds of Tamil

Indians

With their cultures

Lilting cadences

Their saris and brilliant

Satins

Hindu and Catholic shrines

 

Here you can eat on banana leaves

With your hands

Or at elegant north Indian

Kashmir restaurants

but the streets are

peppered with kiosks

or tiled floored

little restaurants

 and my

favorite is at

a corner

the

Open Cafe'

where i order

my morning lassie

Delicately flavored

with rose water

and I sit and talk with

a Catholic Tamil owner

and watch as his squeaky clean

Image remains unruffled as the

Riff raff fills his store

He smiles and beams

I sit and talk with him and

he offers me a rich

cardamom

spiced tea

He calls a woman out from

Behind the curtain

where she has

been watching

and introduces me

to his beautiful

young wife

whose arms are

 covered with bracelets

and an amazing

 amount of hair

She smiles she

only knows a few words

In English but manages

 to say

I cook for you

The merchant laughs and says

Yes another day

Then whispers that she is

a wonderful cook

and arrange a time when I

Will eat with them

 

I leave the shop and walk along

The cement streets colored with

Chalk good luck mandalas

that Hindus have done

in an early morning

Propitiating the gods

The music saturating

the street is

From harmoniums\and sitars

and as i

I pass near a Chinese

temple where

Girls in short skirts

Eye the handsome

huge eyes

of the

Black skinned

Tamil boys

I smell the fragrance

 of India mixed

with the heady

aromas south Asia

I watch as a frail

Indian beggar child

cleans out

The votive sands at

The Chinese

Temple

where

 precious

Firecrackers

are set off

and

the Indian

child is thrilled

and admires him

I watch him as

glee covers

his face as

they explode into

The air

Oh the joy in the

child's eye fills me

up to as i slip

some coins into

his shirt and he looks up

and

radiantly smiles

surprised

and i smile back

 

Satisfied I walk

towards Chula Street

Then on to the market

to buy food

and

to watch

the never ending

circus of

Foreigners getting

drunk or stoned

at the local

reggae club

I watch while the

Indian guys hit on the

Swedish girls

Hoping for some

lessons in sexual aerobics

or maybe just a chance

to stroke

all  that golden hair

The Swedish girls sit

smiling in tight

tank tops considering

the possibility

I watch the Chinese boys grow

Red in the face

as they drink more beer

Than they can manage

This at the same time

the call to

Prayer resounds

from the mosque

And Faisel  and Chmed

Answer the calls to prayer

From the minaret

right next to the bar

And I am filled with joy

Yet again at all the

cacophony

And I celebrate

My self a Brooklyn

 Jewess poet

Enjoying the nuances of

The salty hot

delicious flavors

of this days

simple journey

up the street


8: The crow cooks from Brooklyn to Bombay

Burlap Bag of spices

 

brooklyn to bombay

 

Years later as I meandered

 among the burlap

Bags of herbs and spices

 in the souks of Asia

and the markets of

Mexico and Bolivia

Under the canopies

 of stretched and tattered

burlap or lined hilly streets

In my mind I could remember

and

 

Run my hand over the beans,

 yellowing them from the blessed

ancient Indian root Haldi

laughingly noting it

 is now a recent

healing discovery

in the west

but in India learned how

to grind it with vinegar

to make it sing.

 

Inhaling the finely

powdered Amchur

from the

mango, the achiote from Mexico, the galangal

from Vietnam,

admiring the colors of peppers

black fat ones green red long

skinny and biting like a birds

beak

and yellow the color of

the mornings sun

,the textures of ginger and

the contorted roots of Thailand

the sweet contrasts of cloves

in Java  and  the huge balloon like

garlic in Bali

then

dreaming and inhaling lemon

 grass for my tea

all with the

the sounds of

the market in my ears

reminding me of

shopping as a child

with my mother

but instead of barrels

of kosher pickles

and the sounds

chickens to be killed

now it was bicycle rickshaws

and oxen hauling rods for buildings

and carts and bicycles overflowing

with food

firewood

camels waiting,

taxis waiting,

 different places

different alien sounds

 piercing the air

Hebrew, Urdu, Tamil, Konkani

 Bahasa Thai and Mandarin

From each culture I learned how

To mix the flavors of herbs

 and flowers

always

Expanding what I knew

For example

Adding a Goan spice

To my stew transforming

It into a Vindaloo

Giving it pungency

I learned to manipulate

flavour, texture, marinate

the spices into pastes

and masalas.

Remembering the gigantic

Corn of Bolivia

And learnig the different

papalos

 

 So many kitchens I have

Cooked in some with

Firewood, some with gas

Some electric

But my favorites

Were always those

On the sand

Or those made

Of clay

That sometimes sent curling

Tendrils like pigeons

Into the air along with

Spits of fire to tell others

That my fire was on

And was open

 Today in the flatlands

 

I continue to

translate Dishes and

reinvent  foods

from my travels from

Brooklyn to Bombay


9: Latches to be opened

felucca's slice through  the Nile

the same boats that

the  Egyptian Gods

took  to their afterlife

but

not far away

 

 Shisha Water pipes

 

blaze

the exhale a cinnamon  haze

curls and   fills the air

The water is clear

 and bubbles

The mona lisa smiles

 are on wrinkled faces

Enjoying a quiet moment

Away from husband and relative

Prying eyes

 their abas

Like a black pool of water at their feet

Their almond eyes sing stories

 that wish to be told

 

Far away on the red china sea

The women in their sanpans

Change flags as they float into different boundary waters

they change their attire putting on the simple blue

everyone wears

they rub off the color they are one of the

thousand drops in the ocean

 

that remembers their

eye

 

Still further away

Half naked old women of Varanasi

Bathe themselves in the Ganges The Holy River

Next to a bloated dead cow

Yet they live

Eek out a living with a few paisa

that they offer to the white pasted sadhus

 

with gnarled hands

 that have turned into claws

 

 

In London  Other

Arab women shift

themselves like their sisters

in their home country

 they smoke shisha as well

Their faces uncovered

they are young

and under their aba a satin

dress and heels ignite

 their spirit

and some day they

will vote and drive

 

 

jump backward

 

 

I fall in line with the female Israeli soldiers

I am invisible they laugh and play

paint toes talk fast

so I do not understand everything

but we all know

going into battle they could die.

 

I have gone far from Brooklyn

And found myself

 

Cooking over Chula stoves in south India

Grinding peppers in a mortar in Goa

 

Looking for herbs in the Himalayas

Finding blue mushrooms

That turn yellow from the forests

Outside Chamba Valley

Eating Mo Mo ‘s from the ladies

With aprons

In the Tibetan tent

 

in Bodh Gaya

 

Listening to their gossip

 while

Walking around

saying prayers and moving

the prayer wheel

 

i have learned to dry pumpkin seeds

and slit their thin skin

with my fingernail

by an old Iraqi woman

i have roasted an eggplant over

 an open fireon Bezalel street

carefully peeling away its

burnt skin

from a survivor

of the concentration camps

who had hollow eyes but

knew how to cook

 

i have held the other side of the pot

and emptied a huge soup

with a Brahmin cook

 

and learned to stir galangal

into a broth by

a fat ibu in Indonesia

 

laid frangapani on doorsteps in bali

and wore an invisible head dress

 

that was taller then any door

for Tibetan teachings

 

unlatching the doors

of mysteries when i found them

 

i learned to rest

and be nourished

by the smallest of things

and the most wonderful stories

that went beyond any traces of time.

 

i am aware now of my

own mortality

and i rush to write everything down

while i still remember

so i can enjoy them

yet again.


10: widows of varanasi

The Widows of Varanasi

Remembered only in the retelling

 

 

They sit huddled in long rows

Like birds on a wire

White shredded saris

Bones jutting out from their

Dark sun stained skins

They live in a world

Oblivious to the omnipresent

Dangers

Consecrating moments

That are dimmed by time

 

 

Little or no food, they are exploited

By the parasites that comb the steps

With no communication they sit silent

They sit waiting

for the next round

Of life while this one is finished

 

 

They eat a few grains of rice

Wash themselves in the holy waters

Their voices quivering and cracked

They sound like the birds circling

Above who wish to pick clean

Their bones

 

 

The widows sit full of a life time

Of Stories now abandoned

Alone and sometimes reaching

Into forgetfulness for the jewels

They once wore and

For the children they patted and

Nursed

All long gone before them and now

They sit with the scraps of their life

Gathered up and stitched together

In their minds

 

 

It is the only warmth they have

On a cold Varanasi river night

Where they burned their husband

And they were forbidden to jump

On the pyre the old way

Now they sit waiting suffocating

With lives not lived.

 

Geetu had married at twelve

Born two sons and a daughter

The girl they had sacrificed

To the bridge that bound

The two villages

She had watched as her

Husband had taken the

Bright eyed one that she

Has secretly named kamala

To the villagers and her

Heart screamed out but

Life flowed quietly on

 

 

She had born two sons

Her husband had glowed

as they followed him

Into the fields

Grown strong they worked

And daily she made their

Chapattis and cooked their rice

Walked long distances to the

Well

Chatted with friends

Swept the dung floor

Made the fire

In their mud and thatch hut

And remembered

The daughter each

Time she crossed over

The bridge

 

 

 

Now they were all gone

Layers of grief and indifference

Crossed he face

As she peeled back her loneliness

She had paid tribute

To the deities that her

Family would be spared

The horrific violence

That passed between them

And their Muslim neighbors

Women she had helped pump

Water for

 had husbands

That were sworn to kill

 

 

She prayed, she adorned

The statues but

The gods had not answered

They were all dead

 

Some fragile momentary balance

Crossed her face

And shunted between her eyes

Her hand reached out for mine

A bony claw with paper skin

It held the grains of rice

she managed to save as a an

Offering that her long

Wait will be over

And her death come quickly

 

She asks me to put

her few rice grains

into

The bowl of the white ashen

Sadhus or the orange monks

That pass by her on their

Way to the river to pray

They pass her but do not see

her

She has already turned to

Stone

 

I return to my houseboat

And wonder how this culture

Manages to organize its rage, its

Chaos, its elegance, its religiosity,

Its pirouetting of castes and

Its ornate philosophy without

Hearing the echoing

beat of this one

Single heart of

A widow

That lies at the very

Foundation

The stone on which

The cultures

dreams

Are chiseled.


11: Sri Lanka a crow remembering bashkajacobs

A restaurant in Hikkaduwa

 

The Cool Spot is a ramshackle

Building with a worn out porch

It is painted an odd color

And sags in the center

And is covered with a moth

Eaten screen

The flies are bored

And cling to the ceiling

Fan which doesn’t always

Make a full circle

And usually stutters

In place before pushing

Itself on

 

There are Two rooms

And for some unfathomable

Reason

The chairs and tables are

On a ledge

Precariously balanced

 until

A customer comes in

And stabilizes them with

Weight.

 

There is no menu

But the owner rattles

Off what food is available

Because he is also the

Supervising cook

And the owner of an

Almost white apron

covering his belly

that seems to move of

its own accord.

 

His sous chefs are two

Pretty Sri Lankan girls

With smiles that would

Make toothpaste

 advertisers

Sigh.

 

They cut, stir, chop,

Scrape and seed

The girls are the color

Of coffee with cream

With warm full lips

And their skirts are short

And faded flower

Cottons but best of all

They giggle

Mirth tumbles out of them

As they watch the foreigner

With their almond eyes.

 

Their legs are long and spindly

As all the other Ceylonese

But these are Indian Tamils

And if you look at them

You can almost hear the sound

Of South Indian bells on

Their feet

 

Here in this cool spot kitchen

The two cultures have

Come together

Here in this kitchen there is

No war

 

The lazy easy Sri Lankan

Character is bolstered by

The work ethic of the Tamils

 

And with a flurry of hands

The food is served a

Wonderful pumpkin curry

 

I tell the owner I am writing

A cookbook and he invites me

Into his kitchen

Where I make notes as

The girls laugh

 

Then slowly in faltering

English one dares to ask

About my eye lashes.

 

My eyelashes?

Yes, is it the fashion

To wear them short?

And do I pluck them?

Is it the modern way?

Because they could clip

Theirs too.

I almost faint with shock

roll my eyes

When I realize they are

Absolutely serious

 

I look at these two beautiful

Young women in this ramshackle

Restaurant serving magnificent

Food who want to be

 chic and modern

They stand waiting

 for my answer

Their long black hair

 adorned with jasmine

With the longest lashes

 I have ever seen

And say enthusiastic

 Should we cut?  Should we?

They are in fact the

Dream of every new york model

Who carefully pastes her lashes

One by one for

a photo shoots

I think of my sparse

 colorless lashes and

laugh and

Say no, you are beautiful

 just the way

 you

Are.


12: A quiet day outside of Taipei a crow remembering by bashka jacobs

Just a quiet day

Sitting in the hot tub

Fed by a sulfur spring

Outside of Taipei

Looking out of the long open windows

The waves of grass

Covered the mountain

And moved like swells in the sea

There was no wind in our faces

Just the biting steam

Warming our bones

The wealthy house of a friend

Of a friend

Who included me

In this retreat

We sat

All women

Silent

Quiet but fully awake

Naked

Birds without feathers

Exercising their slim elegant legs

Beating them in the water

 

 

In the center of the main room

Stood a wooden gazebo

That was almost all bed

It was here

That the food

Brought from Taipei

Was unwrapped

Smelled and eaten

With laughter

We stretched our bodies

On the coolness of the floor

And took deep breaths

As if it were to be

Our Last

 

 

The women

Dressed with simple elegance

Had nothing much

To say

I watched and admired

Their middle-aged beauty

Serene and uncompromising

But their eyes

Revealed shadows

Of long past journeys

Through bleakness and squalor

Journeys only hinted at

In stories

Briefly shared

Of the sharp strangeness

Of another time

Stories they carried

As black haired women

Concubines

With tiny twisted feet

That could only sway and hobble

Exciting the men

To desire

Mothers betrayed daughters

With the bindings

That would cripple them for life

 

But that was long ago

Their mothers’ mother mother

Now they sat

With their foreign teacher

In sneakers

And laughed


13: Kabul by bashka jacobs

 

  Kabul a grey city of red earth in a landscape of pitted mountains. Standing at the edge of Kabul looking towards the sky I saw a camel caravan      come out of the dust              faces were covered                but I could easily                 make out the shape of a thin women                           wise breast was covered                       with metal coins                        that heaved with every breath she took             her face was partially covered                       and around her like a pool of blood                   lay a red cloth                     she smiled her eyes crinkled with dirt             and my feet went like water          and I blushed              I was in the presence of a desert queen                 she saluted me                acidhead hippie               escapee from san Francisco’s haywire children of  miasma colored dreams                                       I stood and watched as the mist burned away and could feel beneath me the  rhythmic  chant of animals and men dismounting                       it rolled into the earth  like a murmur and a roar I had never heard before                            and my mind  tangled with the vision  like a hibiscus vine that clung to             the minaret where                       the morning calls to prayer brake the silence at five a.m.                                            She commanded the camels and their riders with a wave of her hand and the noise dissolved              just as night suddenly shrinks back in Kabul and your bathed in the stunning white of fresh mountain air                   she stood                    among the odors of food and fire and made her way towards me with her layers and layers of cloth                  she came close enough me that I could inhale her                     and her short bitter laugh             she pointed to my large square Woolworth earrings             and I undid them and held out my hand in an offering                                   she in turn unfastened what I thought to be her dowry around her neck and  put i on me so it lay                on my chest like a coat                    of protective  mail.                         The audacity i had felt in my green leather boots                  the power of my to the floor white rabbit coat that i had crossed the Bosphorus in and threaded my way thru Iraqi, Iran to reach Kabul                suddenly was lost only wonder was left                             I continued my roll towards India like a thistle on the wind   suddenly awake touching like            a talisman the necklace and the spirit from a women                  who began my teaching   of endless change


14: Drinking Chai and The Giant Buddha of Bamijan

 

Bamijan Afghanistan

The Giant Buddha and drinking chai

 

 

In the valley of the Hindu Kush

Below the purple and white

Peaks sits a place of dark

Rich colors and

 Quiet  that surrounds

The Standing Giant   Buddha

Carved in stone

Among the caves

Where monks used to meditate

The Buddha no longer has

Neither its head nor its hands

He has been blinded by

Muslims over centuries

 but he continues

To stare all seeing

Beyond time.

 

how many days i returned

there to sit near the feet

of the Giant Buddha

listening to the stillness!

tribes people walked by

with their animals

unseeing not noticing

yet

the thin air of the mountains

sharpened

your senses as you moved

among the starkness of the

landscape that i likened to

the moon.

we were all tiny motes

next to this paean in stone

that had lasted it seemed

since time began

everything around the giant Buddha

had dissolved long ago into a well

of oblivion

yet there he stood

Despite the violence

serene!

 

 

 

 

It is here in this village

 

We sipped tea from

A samovar

And watched a small

Man dance until he became

Both a bird and a women

Egged on by rude soldiers

His frail body metamorphosed

Into such sweetness of ethereal

grace

We never noticed until

Later that he was bald

And toothless

So complete had his

Transformation had been.


15: Bombay Slum by bashka jacobs

Another design

Bombay Slum

Small fires in the city streets

Send curling smoke

Between the dense buildings

Making a funnel that moves

On the wind

Debris and dumpsters

Provide living space for

The old men with

scars

And the rats that become

Pets and do the scouting

For bits of food

Long lies wait in

The burning eyes of

Children that can not

See the resurrections

Distorted by hopes of

Some voyage

They are unable

 to contemplate

The ends of

thier many

lives but they

see the distortion

of every day

as they beg

for

 garbage

 it is the time

of beginnings

a few paisa

for these dirty

unkempt

children of the slums

 dressed in

 once white rags

they haul thier treasures

past thier paper

shack homes with

bits of corrgugated

 iron with

the smells of

jasmine mingling

with the stench

and flowers on

the makeshift alter

they

walk these

children gingerly among

the debris and the

people who crowd

thiegh to thiegh

women carrying buckets

of dirty water

 

men begin the smoke

for the

evening meal

crouched

on thier haunches

they move among

 broken limbs

turning corners

with

Lobeless ears

Like scattered sea shells

Listening to music

Like colored spirals

dispersing in the

wind

they stare at

the skies and

the ocean

they sing at the

upcoming storm 

a sound so simple

full of joy

that

it makes me weep



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