The Student in Love
Nirmal Bhattarai walked past the bridge, clambered over the fence and skirted a heap of refuse at the crossroads into Kathmandu. In twenty minutes he reached the campus road. There, he spotted his best friend and ducked into an alley. He was in no mood. His neck was hot and his mouth parched, so he stopped a while at the foot of a bottlebrush tree. The morning was torrid, but the shade of the bottlebrush was touched by winds that were almost cool.
Nirmal felt drained. He waited till he felt a new stirring inside him, and he started to his feet, soon passing the taxi stand and the fenced-off ping-pong club where boys were idling because it was too hot to play. Then, on the next block, hordes of men were streaming out of the movie hall, and Nirmal, shoving against them, felt an urge to slide his lover’s thighs against his own.
It was almost ten o’clock when he reached his girlfriend’s apartment building. He found her front door padlocked. He faltered, suddenly confused. Eh. She had classes this morning. Now he remembered.
There was a sound behind him and he turned to see the children from next door tiptoeing into the yard to steal apricot buds. One of them caught sight of him and froze. Then the other children also saw him and stopped.
“Stealing flowers!” Nirmal shouted. “I’ll call the police on you!” He waved his arms in irritation, but felt too tired to chase them away.
The children stood and stared at him, trying to see if he meant it.
“I’ll call the police, I said!”
After the children scampered off Nirmal went up to the apricot tree, fingered one silken bud and ran his palm along its brown trunk. It was a miracle that such trees thrived in this city of asphalt and dust.
Nirmal knew it could be hours before his girlfriend returned. There was no point waiting for her. But it was too hot to walk back to his own apartment. He had no change for bus fare. He didn’t know what else to do, so he sat in the shade of the apricot tree, and, lulled by heat, fell asleep.
The Workbench of Lost Metaphors
Found the smallest screw in a crevice.
Just an eye-slot in a thought
forcing god to exist
for whatever needs attaching.
The wrist of the universe.
Its helix twist.
In the Desert
The magician drew from the sand an army a hundred thousand strong to drive from within the city wall the invading mongol horde. He was our saviour. Once again we were able to go on about our lives beneath the caliph’s protective eye. The mongols fled across the sands and did not return. Weeks passed and we became more and more aware of the warriors who packed our streets and markets and alleys where before they had not walked. Somehow we had assumed they would be gone as quickly as they had appeared, once they were no longer needed, but still they moved within our midst. Whether the magician was unable to send them back or merely unwilling we could not tell. But it did not matter, they were still here, the city swollen to three times its normal size. The newcomers were just like us. They prayed and dined and smoked with us. They knew the same songs and tales our people always knew. In fact it became harder and harder to recognize them at all. The desert surrounding us seemed as impenetrable as before. Often we went back to wonder how the mongols ever were able to stage their strange invasion. Now we notice every week there seems to be less food and fewer goods. The market stalls grow emptier each day. Our poor methods of production just can’t keep up with so many. The caliph has not been seen for weeks and no one seems to know where the magician has gone. There are those among us who think perhaps this all has been a dream, a vision conjured by the magician to explain why the caliph seems no longer able to provide us with our basic needs, that in reality we are the same number that we have always been, that we are just more aware of each other as the things that enable us to live seem increasingly to be in short supply.
Denise Duhamel & Maureen Seaton
Exquisite Sonnets: Gulliver’s Travels
Gullible Gulliver hadn’t a clue—
those gossamer threads and tiny arrows
pricked his skin like the hungriest sparrows.
Lilliputian cows were ground into burgers
smaller than dimes and nickels, the emperor’s
family jewels. Gulliver only pretended
he liked rope-dancing and used threads
of Garter-blue, Bath-red and Thistle-green
to weave a giant cat’s-eye trampoline,
friend of any ugly king. Big Endians
enjoyed freedom-of-egg-eating in
Belfuscu, the omelette capital of yolk-
torn Europe, little cracked kingdom of just folks,
the giant sailing away in the shoe.
The BO of giants was too much
for a tiny human nose. The king’s pores,
dank cavernous excavations, floored
Gulliver. The king’s stray hairs threatened to hang
him or strangle him in sleep. Brobdingnag
pot holes were canyons. A piece of buttered toast
could flatten an Englishman boasting
of gunpowder and the pluses of slavery.
When Gulliver went home, British bravery
was a sham. Gulliver’s neighbors were midgets.
In fact, Englishmen were toys or gadgets
in the Brobdingnagian’s gentle hands.
Gulliver fell into the king’s fate line, ran
for years, the giant barely aware of his touch.
The flying island of math and music
hung like a huge blue cloud, a treble clef,
a pi in the sky arousing bereft
Gulliver to new scatological hope.
Cucumber sunlight and hairless sheep groped
his imagination like a cheating wife.
Of all the awesome practices he’d denied
himself, sex was the one he most ignored.
He fantasized about the whole-note pork
and yams chopped into plus signs in Laputa,
servants smacking masters out of comas
with bladders tied to the tips of switches.
All Laputans lived tax free, bewitching
the planets — ethereal, mystic.
If Yahoos in England castrated Houyhnhnms
why couldn’t Houyhnhnms castrate Yahoos?
Before horses were made into glue,
when God spoke Dutch and German and Spanish,
and half-horse half-human centaurs vanished
into mythos never to spawn again,
Houyhnhnms didn’t know greed or temptation.
“What’s a lie again?” they asked, their equine eyes
wide or narrow with innocence, an icy-
cold reason like Adam saying no, no, no
to the luscious Yahoo who didn’t wear clothes
and jiggled her hips. Gulliver hid
behind a fortunate fig leaf and trembled,
grabbed his pants as she shouted, “What a man!”
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