The Dark Streets of Haridwar


We are going to India to scatter his ashes,

will you come? I said, No, too much going on.

And in retrospect, the whorl of obligations

at the hearth, the petty machinations at work,

all the false importance given to whatever

the computer monitor provoked in me—

its green light running in translucent waves

up and down the screen as I read my father’s mail,

robbed me of the feel of grandfather’s ash

slipping through my fingers into the Ganges.

I did not walk with my father through Haridwar’s

teeming bazaar—its gilded devas stacked

and ready for sale, its heaps of flowers, the stench of

its buffaloes and milky sweets—looking for the priest

who kept the family records: every birth and death

for seven generations. I did not see the priest’s brown

fingers running down a dusty, unscrolled page

until he came to our name. I did not hear

the droning chants for my grandfather or our ancestors

at the water’s edge, and I did not learn where

to take my own father’s ashes or where to imprint

the record of his death, I think as I wander the dark

streets of Haridwar, a mongrel child

pleading in broken Hindi for anyone to help—

to help me find my family’s name.

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