Alleys, Awaiting


A mildewed morning in Asan,

we watch the quiet buildings leaning

against each other, their earthquake-

stricken walls stooping

on the metal struts—

like the seventy-year-old grand-

mother bent down, beside

the pineapple seller,

unable to assuage the gnawing pain

in her arthritic mud-and-brick

bones, brittle to touch.


Happiness is a forgotten lore

of another century,

when small-time rajas

wandered in faded flip flops

the hippie paradise, the shangri-la

of walls, of columns, of bricks—

now voices long dead,

echo in empty alleyways,

moaning for an unsayable grief, 

long past midnight. These days

a different (un)happiness awaits, 

eager to worm its way into

our bodies.


Masked vendors sit by the streets, 

waiting for customers, swatting

flies off their cauliflowers & candles,

their soaps & strawberries, 

their chili peppers & china gods.

From above an endless emptiness

eyes us. A few dogs sniff

at a heaping full of Kathmandu garbage.

From the fog-veiled sky comes

a fright of disenchanted ghosts, sniffing

at the looming death, the blotches

of butchered sanctity, spinning

in a pirouette, what perverse pleasure!


We, who pass by the vendors, are

shapes slithering in agitation, afraid

of the virus ricocheting

from walls to struts,

from windows to eyes,

from conversations to silences.

Thoughts of home scurry inside

the caverns of our minds—

and we rush, ducking

the yelling pineapple seller, 

the stooping grandmother,

the ghosts of small-time rajas,

the screams of abattoirs, 

            only to reach


for a pair of eyes smiling out of a faceless face,

for a voice echoing from a caring chasm,

speaking to us, touching us

from the nightmare lives of awaiting alleys.

Poetry by Bibek The PoetBay support member heart!
Read 80 times
Written on 2021-04-19 at 18:01

Tags Alleys  Now  Then 

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Hans Bump The PoetBay support member heart!
This poem took me to that place. You were an observant articulate and poetic guide. Your words spoke with wise eyes.

Lawrence Beck The PoetBay support member heart!
I love the two-way metaphor of the quake-crippled buildings and the arthritic grandmother!

Wow, Bibek, this poem is a WORLD. Even when the poem describes uncongenial matters, it does so in such a vivid and life-giving way that the reader is deeply reluctant to leave the world you've given us. High quality writing, indeed. It is a joy and an ennobling privilege to read work of this calibre.

Also, I love "chili peppers & china gods."

Coo & Co The PoetBay support member heart!
Ooh, very good, Bibek. Members of Coo & Co appreciate the wealth of description here; naturally we are drawn to the arthritic grandmother, but we like such things as 'soaps & strawberries' too. The slithering shapes are excellent and the mood throughout is expertly conveyed. Coo gives Bibek a strawberry sweet :>)