THE GO AHEAD

A water tank floats down the street
Beneath inescapable shadow, leaning into it,
rope-taut load digging into his brow,

ant-man keeps pace with himself
Through two changes of light, a taxi driver
tarrummtums fingertips on the loosely gripped wheel

Sporting blue fluorescent glasses
and white and tan sun hats, a middle-aged couple
slides on by to his persistent beat

Within noon’s famished shade
a gaggle of women down from the hills
curl towards sleep, out of reach of each other’s arms

Men, chests, arms, shoulders and neck
spangled with flecks of cement,
perch on half-built walls and piled bricks

talking of money to be made in Korea,
Malaysia or Kuwait. Babies in arms,
sucked nipples savoring the air,

women from the plains
strung along the SAARC building walls
edge tin bowls forward as they eye

all who pass. A hunchback
blows his whistle and beats his drum
in syncopation with the traffic

Incessantly, back and forth he sways
waiting for the go-ahead from the woman in pajamas
at the center of it all, arms in motion

hurrying every cross current
with shouts unheard above the day-long din
Barking commands in a storm of invective

a modern day Kali astride the city’s carcass,
like a tottering dervish
she whirls

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