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Poetry

A Burden of Beasts

By Maithreyi Karnoor

The climb is steep and the water deputed to cool

The heaving body orgasming to the cold outside.

Ration your tears for the out-of-breath

Achievement of each breath-taking summit.

The Himalaya is a rock and a hard place

Treacherously beautiful like unrequited love.

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The mountains that do not care for your burdens — personal, political—

And are unmoved by the selfie-flashes stacked as high as the peaks

Offer lessons in humility in a thousand shades

Peeking out of cracks and crevices — sometimes entire valleys —

Only to be refused with loud whoops for group poses.

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The gush of the muddy glacial melt hurrying on purposefully to Pakistan

Since long before it was tickety boo*,

The unamused tinkle of the bells on the necks of mules

Carrying civilization on their backs — toilet bowls, gas cylinders,

Celebratory beverages, wet-wipes, instant noodles

And hand sanitizers — for the connoisseurs of the wilderness,

The dry coldness of Spiti’s winds like the gaze of outlived love,

The amusement in the muted breath of the accompanying porters

At your victory signs, do not outdo the racket of bollywood

Ricocheting off the rocks with Himalayan dignity.

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The Beas in not wanting to be the same river twice

Flows on as an aphorism.

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*tickety boo:  Term used by British colonials  to convey all is fine.

Maithreyi Karnoor is the winner of the Kuvempu Bhasha Bharati prize for translation. She was shortlisted for the Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize, and twice for the Montreal International Poetry Prize. Her novel Sylvia: Distant Avuncular Ends will be published in early 2021.  

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