Originally published in The Evergreen Review Issue 126 in 2011.
Arjuna thought so highly of himself
after shooting the darting eye of a fish
reflected in water that he mistook this action
for the outcome of a skillful kill.
Later in halls filled with colorful mirrors
he confused the dark eyes darting in white faces
rolling toward him in a game of die for those of fish
in water no deeper than a glass of wine.
Forced into exile through actions provoked
by similar subsequent visions he wandered
the Gangetic plains for 21 years disguised as a eunuch,
giving dancing lessons to the gods and goddesses of his day.
The Imperial Hotel, Delhi, India, December 31, 2010
/Apsara/ (dancing girl) spent a thousand years in stone
extracting a thorn from her heel.
This was the price she paid for spending
a few precious moments in the forest with her warrior.
Later she played the flute for him,
moving her lips at first slowly
and then faster up and down the instrument,
until he collapsed from the purity
and rhythmic beauty of her song,
a song that no king or god could resist.
In the morning they found him, or a part of him,
a prayer on Shiva’s lips in the dark, inner sanctum.
Khajuraho, India, January 6, 2011
In Udaipur the light fell upon the lake
like the falcon upon its prey – suddenly
the marble rush and spray split the darkness in two,
leaving only the eye’s inner world,
lined with /havelis/, /ghats/, and temples,
bazaars and island palaces
and a corniche, whiter than the desert sand,
whiter than the moon’s shadow.
And inside the marble white chambers,
the rose garden and the fountain
burned with desire, and beyond the solemn black stone
the lotus blossom burned with desire!
The Oberoi Udaivilãs, Udaipur, India, January 12, 2011