In the curt clumsy shadows of rising Kathmandu,
the stately mountain woman bends
and shovels, bends and shovels piled stone

into the basket she herself will bear
Sweat-stained dust spangles her face and neck
Still spirited eyes draw her back

to hill-slung terraces
where women bend to slip the tiny seedlings
into mud rich earth

Then, she too bends
to take the stone-brimmed basket
onto back and brow

“If only” between breaths,
along the plank and brick-strewn path,
“if only”, she imagines herself

(dumping the stones,
lifting her eyes) safe and sure
with a flock of cousins

on a vaunted
indentured passage
to cloudless

blue Saudi skies


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