molten sun that hangs
empty eastern waste lands of dirt, weeds and plastic bags
my pale eyes and skin like a dragon’s breath.
wait patiently, overfed sun-burnt tourists in
hats, running sweat.
us a ragged group of barefoot watermen
our camcorders and fanny packs.
sheet of shimmering bronze, conceals the corpses
the freshly dead ― the diseased, the leprous, the holy,
are wrapped and weighed with stones,
like anchors into the swirling eddies of the sacred river.
sodden ashes and cracked bones
garden-variety pilgrims, three hundred daily,
shoveled from the fire pits straight into the shallows of the Ganges
be borne on their final journey to the sea.
believe it is bad luck
die on the wrong side of the great river.
unfortunates will return as donkeys ―
braying, fornicating, dying ―
endless loops of karma.
on the sunny side, and soar straight to Nirvana,
dwells somewhere among the crumbling raja palaces
centuries-old temple spires
the smoky crematoriums and open fire pits.
their hollow bodies to the ghats of the river
drink its holy waters,
swim, brush teeth, toss their garbage.
water bottles, swollen oranges,
diapers float among the bathers.
with stones and ropes,
free of its moorings and bursts to the surface,
oozing puffball ready for capture
the digital memories of tourist boats
up and down the swirling waters.
rowing men, at eighty cents an hour,
the oars and count themselves
the lucky ones.
pay our fare
are rowed across the great river,
energetic morning swimmers
Speedo suits, glistening brown
and white smiles.
cracked and empty land of the eastern shore
deserted by all but a few bony garbage pickers
through shoreline detritus,
a troop of howling monkeys.
do not get out, not trusting our luck.
McLean is a writer and multi-media artist living in Vancouver, Canada. Her poetry, non-fiction and short fiction works frequently
focus on global issues. Her most recent project is a collection of poems to be released this year, entitled Mountain Ice,
dedicated to the impoverished children of Nepal.