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TEMPLE STEPS, UDAIPUR by Pat Cammish

Arts Richmond

Online - 20 August 2020

TEMPLE STEPS, UDAIPUR by Pat Cammish

I remember a woman squatting for years,

beside the traffic, at the base of the Emirs’

grand marble staircase, so smoothly worn

by centuries of footsteps climbing at dawn,

up to the temple, with flowers, with gifts,

tinsel, herbs, coloured smoke in drifts,

for the multi-limbed deity, with jaggery’d* nose,

eternally enthroned in contorted pose.

 

Bulbous belly, unblinking eye,

accepting all from those who troop by

to prostrate themselves, there to receive

the sandalwood smudge on the forehead, then leave,

backing out from the shrine, serenity imbued

beginning the day, with spirit renewed.

Merging again into the flow

and ebb of humanity just down below.

 

But the woman squatting at the base of the stair

never ascends. She always is there,

in stillness serene waiting in peace

for the moment when time brings her release.

Useless limbs tucked into the folds

and drapes of her sari, of reds and golds,

a glittering parcel of wrinkled flesh.

But her eyes sparkle brightly enough, to enmesh

pilgrim souls, who pause on the stair

and drop her a morsel, a coin or a prayer.

 

When in my mind’s eye this temple appears,

I remember the woman squatting for years.

 

*Jaggery: unrefined sugarcane molasses often used to anoint Hindu deities.

 

from ABOUT TIME, the 2019 anthology of shortlisted entries from The Roger McGough Poetry Prize. Copies of this Anthology can be purchased for £5 including P&P from Arts Richmond.


TEMPLE STEPS, UDAIPUR by Pat Cammish

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