Monday, March 29, 2010

Indian Men Do Not See Me

(A poem composed along the road to Agra)
The men beside the taxi stand squat in clusters of ten to fifteen, like Brahma bulls chewing grass, Spitting in the dust.
But they do not see me.
The eight men languishing on the back of a tractor, the three muslim men in white robes pacing, The naked man covered in filth walking in the red hot sun past the children
Does dirt count as clothing? Thought not,
Because he does not see me.
The soldiers in tight uniforms, ten shouldering weapons, seven blowing whistles,
Five leaning on fence posts oiling their moustaches,
They do not see me.
The Sikh in white shirt sitting in the broken chair in the front yard of dirt barking orders,
The goat herder in white beard and musky turban carrying a stick,
The legless crying man crawling on his hands the color of garbage
Can skin really become ashes and rotting soot? If burned that long, than yes sir.
They do not see me.
The boys traveling in packs twelve to seventeen deep, their collars turned up,
Their hair neatly gelled, passing a McDonald’s fanta back and forth and drinking
From one straw.
They do not see me.
The malnourished farmer with cane beating a donkey and cart,
The armless man riding a bicycle pulling his son,
The leper in the wheat fields sitting in the shade under a tree,
How does one argue in this heat without hands or a tongue? No answer to know.
They do not see me.
The faceless boys with no shoes, the dazed ones sleeping in abandoned tires,
The alert ones leaping oil puddles outside the motorcycle shop made of cinder blocks and tarp,
The fatherless ones pushing kerosene tank cart holding up traffic,
The shouting one with stale guava holding a monkey that presses its nose to my window,
Will these boys ever sit in my class, hear the joy of Romeo's love, the sigh of Samson's lament? Not one, for they do not see me.
Traveling in India I have never seen so many aimless, shiftless, purposeless men. Indian men are everywhere. It takes ten Indian men to do the job of one. In the restaurant, one to take your order, one to bring your water, one to bring a napkin, one to bring the food, one to check if the service is acceptable, one to take your plate away, one to bring the bill, one to take your money, one to wish you well at the door. So many men, but none really see me.
In the market it is the same, two men to bring you to the tent, four to stand behind you while you brose, three to look in your wallet, two to show you the trinket, one to take the money, one to wrap it up, three to say goodbye, five to offer you a ride, seven to direct you to their shop, but, none of these men really see me.
And thank God,
Because if they really saw my face, if they could see my horror, my pity, my fear, thank god they don’t see me, because I am not looking at them either. Who could? You? No, we have convinced ourselves they are nothing more than a bad dream, a blury image on a road we pass along quickly, too afraid to stop and stay.

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