A nation cursed by the Sati.
– Popular Nepali saying.
Neither with a bang, nor with a whimper,
But with the cries, the shrieks, the curses
As of a woman by fire being ravaged
Will you go down, Kathmandu,
City of ruins and shadows,
Where the dead lurk in the eyes of the living
And thicken with cries their tongues.
Kathmandu – through a cold drizzle grey,
The colour of loss,
Of blindness in the eyes of old women
Greedy for succour and for lies,
Of froth on the floods of foaming rivers
Grown turbid with hate.
As in a dream I see you now
Smug in your corruption as vermin in their filth
Sprawled like a carcass upon whose skin
Your mud and your gold are one,
Are one and the same now, Kathmandu,
And the yellow stain upon your widows’ brows
And the crimson upon your brides’
And the fires that consume the flesh of your dead
And those in which your living go down
Like drowning men – arms flailing, fists
Clutching air, desperate eyes distended in
The impotence of rage.
But once those very eyes had sought the heights
Where now in a frenzy of grief the sky
To impale itself upon your golden pinnacles;
From there a god had once descended,
And captive among them had lived,
Who long had sung your graces...
But who will sing you again, mother?
Your lays have all grown tuneless now,
And that proud breast that once had suckled gods
Is now no more than a pair of shrivelled dugs
From which none again shall draw sustenance,
None, save this – this aborted foetus
Crowned with a wreath of nettles,
Lying still, grinning,
Hideous in your leprous arms.
Down at the bottom of a dry gulch
An old sow gorges on her feast of farrow,
And sated lies upon her throne of mulch
Belching with grunts a reek of flesh and marrow.
Proud empress still, even though her empire be
No more than a rubble of tares and stones,
And every porcine heir to this debris
Nothing but a pile of shit and bones.
A bitch upon my canker feeds, a dog upon my bone,
A curse of whelps upon my knees howl and moan;
All the dry summer long the men stabbed with a daggered hope,
And amidst caresses the women noosed me with a rope;
And hung me out, oh so high, my shame for all to see,
Now a dead rat my leprous pride eyes enviously;
Father to a bastard son, mother to a whore,
I’ve played my parts, and now I’m done, the devil’s at the door.
Over a city choked with soot and ashes
The sky in a frenzy of funeral fires seethes.
Seethes and burns.
This is the hour when
In my memory
Note: This poem was written well before the earthquakes that have devastated Nepal and its capital, Kathmandu.