“Do you seek in the heart-shaped palace
the cold telos of love?” the guide asked us.
Everyone nodded yes. I stared out the bus
window into the face of a ripe monkey
whose owner demanded forty rupees for
any photographs I took. Is there nothing
willing to forgive the terror of its cost?
Beyond a jade gate, a lotus pillar nods to
a braided fort. To enter in this colloquy,
you must take off your shoes, and when you do,
it is 1653, the year of the diamond moon.
Mughals rule the candied land, alligators bask
on the soft edge of the Yamuna, but in the iron
sky, the ivory birds are still the birds.
Bare Ruined Palace
These halls, these walls
Naked sacredness is too much to bear
Not bronze nor silk nor bone nor pearl
The cool embrace of the saffron air
The marble imagination transports the driest soul
Every encounter is a dance, every secret has its key
Black kites screech in the varnished sky
Rhino hornbills palaver in the trees
The future is bejeweled
The past is unembossed
published 7 April 2012