Off Sari Street in Old Delhi
At noon I roamed Old Delhi’s streets
Through ancient byzantine bazaars,
A catacomb of dark retreats
Whose dwellers knew a man from Mars
Had infiltrated their domain.
Excited sellers hawked gewgaws—
Books, bullwhips, bangles on a chain.
Meanwhile the bicycle rickshaws
Waged war with costumed three-wheeled cabs.
As people people people pressed,
I felt a crone’s insistent stabs.
And pointing at her withered breast,
An infant casually attached,
She hacked a universal theme--
Baksheesh for little one? She snatched
Ten rupees, thus my self-esteem
Was purchased for a wretched song.
At last I fled that alien place,
Out of a never-ending throng,
Relieved to have escaped a face
That looms and haunts me even now.
Though India is a sensory fair,
That brush, the merest touch somehow,
Is what I most remember there.
At Big Bone Lick River
Deaf to raindrops peppering the water,
Two herons laser onto tadpole snacks.
Tadpoles glimpse the submarine (an otter),
Sublimely unaware of air attacks.
A thunderstorm is manna to the river.
Ambling cows have felt it all before.
“Hear the pitter-pattering?” says the beaver.
Her kittens bicker on a hickory floor.
A doubtful owl opens one eye. His ruling
On raindrop felonies: disturbing sleep.
Grateful snails and slugs begin refueling.
A log-lorn frog finally decides to leap.
Watching the stirring world becomes the humbling,
Magnificent event it’s always been.
Dazzled, I wonder what’s the point in fumbling
With my umbrella. I’ve come home again.
Copyright © 2014 J. Patrick Lewis
J. Patrick Lewis' book of poems—Gulls Hold
Up the Sky—was published in October 2010 by
Laughing Fire Press. His work has appeared in
Gettysburg Review, New England Review, New Letters,
Southern Humanities Review, new renaissance, Kansas
Quarterly, Fine Madness, Light Quarterly, and
In May 2011 the Poetry Foundation named him the
third U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate (2011-2013). He
has published more than 85 children’s picture books
to date with Knopf, Atheneum, Dial, Harcourt,
Little, Brown, National Geographic, Creative
Editions, Chronicle, Scholastic, and others.