Where hawks circle
and the mist-drawn valley hides,
Swayambhu, the hilltop stupa,
stands above the town.
A wall of sheer rock arrayed behind,
a fleet of clouds
settles on the ridges between.
As the outlying mountain air distills the sun’s rays,
So gleams the Stupa!
its maypole of prayer flags
rustles in the wind. Calm, blue, Buddha eyes
gaze in four directions,
and man, like the hawk,
circles below. A hawker’s shout away,
lanes stumble here and there
Tradesmen and women elbow each other
for a place in the sun.
The subdued hum of the hive
draws all in. Hovels like bunkers
edging out from the earth
hold whole families in rooms
above the river’s bowdlerized slime.
Kids scramble along the river and point
the way to Durga’s root-knotted
Mud sluiced banks no longer sustain her.
Raised on splayed banyan,
the conquering goddess
lies exposed. Across the tooth-gapped bridge,
the Stupa beckons
Through thickening waves of paddy
and rest among the grain