Hewn from the granite mountains,
each petal edged in frail white
carved across millennia, you were witness
to the graceful pronghorn as they made their way
through the Piute and San Jacinto mountains.
You mourn the shrinking grasslands,
scarce desert tortoise, forests of Joshua trees,
and sunshine amidst vast silent spaces,
the wild valleys of a vanishing frontier.
You long for a time devoid
of the footprint of mankind,
of telephone poles and fences.
The Last Bird
In the trees, along the lake,
countless water birds
breed in the winter months.
Snow-white egrets resting
beside soot-black cormorants,
the mighty open bill storks lived peaceably
next to the small white ibises,
the purple night herons.
The common sparrows twittered,
busily hunting for dry seed
and nesting twig.
In the autumn, after the rains,
beyond the yellowing grass
gleams the rich dark green
of the lofty sal.
The fiery blossoms of the
flame of the forest disappear.
May-awe screams the peacock,
displaying its splendid feathers,
fanned out before adoring hens.
Those forgotten sparrows bathed in the dust
collected beneath overhanging branches.
Mumbai city attracted the screeching parrot
that scolded from the burnished brown
of the gulmohor tree.
Grey pigeons goodo-goed,
awkwardly encircling each other
along dusty ledges of rusted windows.
Crows held a caucus in the evening gloom.
Sparrows drank off muddy water
gathering along the dripping eaves.
Then the river waters rushing through
Manac’s spectacular gorge
Sanctuary grasslands that sheltered
the chukor partridge and the sarus crane
Leaves of the city’s gulmohors
the garden guavas, house of the green totas
And then the birds were gone.
Only the dull sparrows,
unnoticed amidst the dustbins
a last faint song.
A Scattering of Stars
Supposing that abruptly you learnt
how brief your life was to be, a year
left in this veil of reality,
what would you do?
A woman of consummate morality,
hers is a sunny life, rewards of work,
love of family, the warmth of friends.
She believes that men are intrinsically good.
She knows that for some there is a world
of darkness, but it has not touched her.
Disregarding prayer all her life,
she lives it quietly instead.
Her mind becomes a tumbled jumble
of unfulfilled desires and disbeliefs. What
if it were not true? Could she spend a week
amidst the tangled golden waters of Kerala?
Did she have time to read the holy Vandidads?
Whom should she tell? Seek out a habit of prayer?
Recount stored memories, to leave behind some mark?
She chooses the precious familiar,
a world reflected in her beloved’s smile,
the neighborhood evening walk,
and daily bread.
On an eternal orbit, her life span
is a tiny speck amidst a scattering of stars,
here, and then gone, her tracks slowly fading.