The Reluctant Traveler

By RACHEL HADAS

 

It seems I had to come this far to see
a puppy rooting in a pile of garbage,
scarlet blossoms on a poinsettia tree.


Two ladies in red saris climb the hill.
A gaunt, determined black dog follows us
up steep steps to the lodge in Dhulikel.

I had to come this far to see a rooster
perching serenely on a motorcycle;
two monkeys frisking up a temple wall.

Three drunken Brahmins dance in Chisapani.
Prayer flags flutter. Garbage chokes the river.
Sparrows on the roof investigate

Tihar pastries left from yesterday,
cold and oily. Even a bold crow
picks at them dubiously and lets them fall.

We climbed three secret steps to the hotel
in Bhaktapur, inscrutable brown city.
I had to venture this far for the dream

kaleidoscope to activate and turn,
a prayer wheel scooping riches from the deep.
You’re here to help, they urged. Give. No more taking.

Sharing rooms and memories with my son,
it seems I had to come this far to learn
to pay attention to both worlds again.

That night’s first sleep led down to inky water.
But in the morning, snow-capped mountains rimmed
the valley we would travel through together.

 

 

Rachel Hadas is Board of Governors Professor of English at the Newark Campus of Rutgers University.

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The Reluctant Traveler

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