Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I wrote this sonnet based only upon vague impressions about the Ganges and its geographical and cultural settings. Then, years later, I visited Varanasi and went out on the Ganges river to explore the ghats and watch the pilgrims bathing and the ashes of corpses floating alongside the tea lights set afloat. I decided my sonnet pegged it. Nice when that works out.

by Gideon Burton

Is this the thin descent? The liquid way
of gossamer and fear? The curry blows,
the crocodiles upset the Ganges flow
enough–not quite enough–to breathe the play
of wind with daylight. All that Muslims pray
ascends in minarets of spice below
the smear of yellow-gray that ebbs and grows,
that closes over India to stay.
The echo of the desert comes to rest
against the twining granite idols, mute
and patient on their broken bases. White
absorbs whatever we had stated best,
and salmon tigers prey upon our brute
reflections, sharpened past the point of spite.

Feel free to copy, imitate, remix, or redistribute this poem as long as you give proper acknowledgment of authorship. Image: flickr - pyjama

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