Garden of Caves
Behind you the blossoming of clouds in the sky.
Kongthong sunset blazes the Whistling Village.
An old whistle dies, a new one is born
and mothers' tunes fill the evening.
Shades of amber turn emerald.
The blues undulate into the fields.
The blurs of hills behind the conifers.
This the Sweet Falls, this the Happy Valley.
After crossing the Living Root Bridge,
in the Garden of Caves you sit,
musing and cleansing your mind.
It is said that greenery soothes our eyes.
The earth was all green for ages
and our eyes have got used to it.
So I come to you for you have the heart
of a plant, unseen, soothing, forgiving.
* Places in North East India
In the sacred forest of Mawphlang
a poet walks on fractured stones.
Heaps of tired leaves lie in situ
like sages in meditative sleep.
A little away the still waters
of lakes and ponds hide sighs of raindrops
like an old man's memory of exploits
of a woman who vanished in the clouds.
The poet walks in excitement
like a caged bird returning to the trees.
She confides to the greens her thoughts
and gets in return a wealth of words.
The lakes start a hum in her mind,
her lines succumb to the song of birds
like fishes in the water current
swim to the boom at the waterfall's end.
She wishes to learn the trade of the trees
with the rocks on the slopes of the hills.
The dust of the path under her feet
tells her the mystery of the ways.
And she says, "It's not too soon nor too late
to save the sacred from your hand.
You, who have been long on this earth,
born in the cities of my birth,
read these words, but will you understand
the secret language of my verse?
How to Kill a Tree
It takes much time to kill a tree.
First you have to stop communicating.
The more you communicate
the more it flowers.
Stop the blush on the petals.
Then block it
so that, come storm or wind,
the leaves do not fly to your door.
Then, for god's sake,
stop meeting it.
Every time you meet a tree
its roots grow deeper.
Then spread slander about the tree,
about how its branches grew
without your permission.
Waiting is essential,
for the tree will uproot itself.
Once it has tasted blood
it will not be satisfied with water.
It will wrench itself from the earth,
vomit all the sap.
The tree will become a tiger.
Then all you have to do
is to take out a gun and shoot it.
Or, if you want a real slow death,
send it to a sanatorium.
Madness is next to lovelessness
and nobody wants an insane tree
in the backyard.
* The first line is taken from Gieve Patel’s poem “On Killing a Tree”. From Balconies of Time (Hawakal 2017)