Midst day-old news, newfound slander,
the last word and latest phrases up their sleeves,
poet-clerks, whisky and tea drinking scribes
hone complaint and hawk fantasy
as they rifle through broke-back books
and tired journals set round New Road’s
lordly Pipal tree. On make-shift seats,
in the road-straddling square,
shaded by low branches, shoeshine boys,
men mostly, chatter, laugh and curse,
never letting the talk cease. Of needs and wants,
and like the angling, schmoozing litterateurs,
unpolished shoes busted at the heels,
of change and grievance. Head bent,
body torqued against dice flung whoops,
wiping hands on his washed-out sarong
old Krishna, shoes in palms, works the laces free.
From caked bottles and near-empty tins
he harvests a spit distilled polish,
then with toothbrush and rag works the leather
to draw out a mongrel shade
as rich as the valley’s lake-born earth
and as rancid as a life like his, riddled with drought
Barefoot, his flip flops soles up beneath him,
his limbs as gnarled as that long standing tree
he labors beneath, Old Krishna
accedes to the pittance
you’ll pay

Kathmandu, 1979


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