Post Road Magazine #20

A Vision of India

Whitney Dubie

And all is vanity, vanity. The cry of Ecclesiastes that came
long before the building of the tall, stone statue of Buddha
that once stood as a symbol of peace in the middle of the green lake
in Hyderabad, where day after day they dumped truckloads
of shit into the thick, muddy water as women in red and grey saris

washed their long, ink-black hair. And while we slept on the train
with the stars and wind coming through the barred windows, someone
was planting a bomb in Charminar's ancient walls, the white marble
falling like thousands of choked birds in the smoldering night
even as the cockroaches swarmed our sleeping heads.

After we learned of the bombing, we stayed three days by the blood-
red Indian Ocean, watching the distant ships from Dakar with their spices
and oil, then turned to that overgrown field between our two stone houses.
Stepping through snake dens, I lifted my skirt to race through the tall
olive grass, cutting my legs as the thin blood fell.

That morning, long before the sun had managed to climb up over
the endless oceans of field and earth in Bapatla, we worked in the black
garden, uprooting potato leeks under a damp April sky.
Afterwards, drinking coffee mixed with goat's milk and cane sugar,
we watched the mango trees swaying in the late-afternoon wind

and thought of how strange and dream-like our young lives were,
of the simplicity of our hands working the soil. Listening to the news
on your rust-burnt radio cutting in and out in the sweltering night,
the images of blood-stained marble, bodies, and the weary eastern light. . .
it seems we are always working for something. And now the white

pieces of Charminar fall like dominos or the wings of falling birds, to be gathered
in a burning heap, all in the name of some impossible ideal—the leaving behind
of the body, the abandonment of the soul, compelling us at last to purify ourselves
as best we could, as we lay down by the edge of that thick, green lake to bury
the remains of Buddha and of Charminar in the deep, damp earth.

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