Snelling and Fry

(after Ramprasad)

Go to the old neighborhood.
Walk south on the street where you were raised and see:
See the trees shorn to stumps by Dutch Elm Disease.
See the first three houses on the left laid waste for a parking garage.
See Kali dancing on the concrete hub of the traffic circle.

Yes, you see Her.
Approach. Ask your question.
Lay a red hibiscus at Her lotus feet.

A city is never itself for long (she tells you).
Self-created and self-destroying, it dances:
You lie down in one, wake in another of the same name.
The horns were blown as you slept, and your city was swept away
As so much mist from glass by a long-sleeved forearm.
Different people live there at dawn.
Buildings rise and fall.
Your body has shed and grown ten-thousand cells.

Says Kali to Her daughter:
March becomes September.
What of June do you still hold in your hand?

(2010)

Another exercise poem. The exercise was to read a poem made up largely of instructions or orders to do things, and to respond to it. I was at the time reading a collection of Ramprasad Sen’s hymns to Kali, and ended up largely tossing aside the poem in the exercise, other than its “Go to…” opening, in favor of responding to Sen’s subject matter and style.

Excellent translations of Sen’s work can be found in Grace and Mercy in Her Wild Hair: Selected Poems to the Mother Goddess.

Snelling and Fry is an intersection near where I did my early growing up.

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