I am here
amidst this immensity
of the cold desert,
shadows leaping out
new Don Quixotes
hills rolling out and curved
supple breasts of the desert
Sun shining ever bright
not a single animal or bird,
nothing like Earth
in the vastness of the desert
the road merely a line
sibylline as ever
the moon hanging
from the sky
like a sickle
stars still bright
on the way to Lagunas Altiplánicas
little hills along the Andes
like camelids’ humpbacks
lights them up in soft pink
an inverted pyramid
of light, air, sky, clouds
in the Laguna Miñiques
on its bleached shores
Kutz birds’ nest.
The song of humpbacked whales,
breath of life flowing through conch shells,
uniquely decorated flukes falling on waves,
huge white flippers slapping the water.
Imagine a grizzly bear on its haunches
in the bend of the river scooping up silver slivers,
tossing minnows into its yawning mouth.
Forests, canyons, rivers, waterfalls, double rainbows,
the laughter of lightning holding us in thrall.
Blush of a bride, the sky at sunrise, sunset,
spreading in wild abandonment.
Imagine cloud formations of changing configurations,
dove white to crow black, altocumulus to tornado chasers.
Smile of a camel filling the loneliness of a desert,
a cheetah in motion, the dance of King Cobras.
Sighing of leaves when the wind gives them a shake,
hawks soaring on tides of air, wild wings streamlined.
A colony of bats singing, meditating upside down
on an ancient tree grown large as a grandparent.
The majesty of a reclusive snow leopard disappearing
in a blizzard on the slopes of Mount Everest.
A smoking volcano blowing spectacular hoops
of fire, pouring molten lava for days,
depositing ash on the tray of land.
Imagine a stately cavalcade of moving mountains of ice
in the Arctic, shimmering with the aurora borealis.
Brightly coloured wings of a butterfly hovering,
their translucency in moonlight revealing . . .
Now open your eyes wide and imagine
our rich world bereft of nature’s blessing.
Grant us the wisdom to survive –
like trees that live long, enriching the planet;
loyal protectors of the realm, standing firm,
asking nothing in return of heaven or earth.
Grant us the wisdom to imagine –
the need to give and forgive, not merely receive,
like an oyster transforming grit into pearl,
the giving growing, becoming something precious.
Grant us the wisdom to rejoice –
a long time after we are returned to earth, the lives
we leave behind may cherish the fruits of our action:
a million species saved from extinction.
Grant us the wisdom to love –
love without limit, love that casts a widening
circle of light for the world to walk forward in,
singing the songs of its forgotten springs.
Grant us the wisdom to pray –
strive to set right the injustices we perpetuate,
courage to change the things that must be changed,
else there will be nothing left to live for.
In memory of Rydal Mount
Bard of Nature, one year ago I was on your land
looking upon an emerald accordion
tumbling toward a river,
awed by a tiered resplendence of magnolias
and sky-sweeping trees,
I understood how you moved in a minutia of signs:
rock, cataract, grass, lakes, mountain, vale and humanity – one,
you heard the music of one in another.
Nature is this wallet of green outside my window,
small change, this paradise, my garden of Eden
a constellation of neighborhoods, yards like slabs of biscuits,
we are denizens of the city,
hordes of ants bustling in make-believe,
lives clocked by fb likes, a sitcom’s upcoming season
more dependable than Nature’s erratic dousing,
the fever of the world is our normal,
my forest, these oak trees of alligator-bark,
my seasons modestly pass here on this street,
trees cast umbra and penumbra of shadows,
grass furiously knits in the wind,
in the amber light each evening trees darken,
children bike about on the yellow
oak pollen-soot-spattered tongue of driveways,
cicadas whirr crazily – the sound of silence in the evening.
There! A squirrel stands on tiptoe, his elongated body taut,
he nibbles at something between his paws,
abruptly stops; on fours, he scampers tipsily
forward, backward . . . a lost pedestrian looking for an address.
We know nothing of diurnal rhythms,
urban-bred, our children dye hair purple and blue,
and roiling papaya sunsets go unwatched from the window,
we do not smell the air to say, spring is here!
Smell the scent of roses before they bloom
or know when the bluebonnets
will cascade the highway’s grass,
the monsoon brings no chant of mystery,
we don’t look at the alphabet of the moon
and predict a woman’s child-bearing,
we don’t read the clouds for rain,
don’t feel home in our veins,
the world around greets us a stranger,
we rise and fall with a cacophonous sun,
we crack apart like a veined tarmac,
Nature never did betray till she is betrayed.
Excerpted with permission from Greening the Earth: A Global Anthology of Poetry, edited by K Satchidanandan and Nishi Chawl, Penguin India.