Navigating November: Personal Poetics of the Present

When I arrived to Leh, apart from the starkness to the beauty and verticality of the surrounding peaks, I was struck by the birdlife around me.  In part intrigued, part self-driven peer pressure to be more than a not-even-amateur-birder among the professional wild lifers I work with, I intended to learn a new bird per day.  I thought the best way to do it would be by noticing the birds near my house and experience from sight and sound before reading from pages of a book.  After a week, I got frustrated without having proper names to call my new Audubon friends, so picked up The Book of Indian Birds.  The most prevalent, and for me most eye-catching, was the Magpie.  Now, the only, and thus most eye-catching, bird I see is the Magpie.  I can’t say that I’ve learned a new bird per day, or even a new bird per week, but I have learned more to the soft flight of this long-tailed, white-chested floater.

secret alphabets

some sound of water

flowing without knowing quiet.

some sound of autumn leaves

crunching beneath my toes while


guard them with your fingers.

some sound of air

that i sip in, tiny tiny —

too sweet to greedily swallow whole.

some sound of poplar branches scratching

tenderly each other awake or asleep.

some sound of rustling

feathers from the magpie’s green-blue tails,

so long, sometimes just black.

did magpies forget to learn?

find somewhere warm and find a

place for a few sleeps of the poplar branches.

or did they learn to forget?

and instead understand these secret alphabets?


In addition to the Magpie, naturally I was teased by the snow leopard.  Since you’ve already asked — no, I haven’t seen the ghost of the mountain.  Though I recently mentioned tracking that cat in Hemis, I didn’t share too much.  What really can be said about something you don’t see?  According to Peter Matthiessen, plenty!  I’m not going to pull you into the dark passageways of ephemerality or phenomenology, but I do invite you down another rabbit hole.  Ever warm thanks to MK for inadvertently reminding me of that place — Alice in Wonderland.  In thinking about the snow leopard, I became enamored with its strange and simple metaphor in the Cheshire Cat.  Ever disappearing.  Beautifully distant.  Perhaps wise?  Definitely absurd. 

ghazal:  in wonderland

Drawn by a grin of silly desire somewhere,
You stared for long, curious what of you it will require somewhere.

Don’t rely too much on either eye.
Sight won’t help escape whenever arises mental mire somewhere.

It does not matter which way you go;
Because after all, you’ll just retire somewhere.

Many tred the path from some here to some there,
But only heed those who inspire some where.

Beware who asks for up, down, or some time —
All games of the hare in formal attire, somewhere.

That hatter, he’s madder than the hare —
What curious nonsense he spouts from false ire somewhere.

Though you’ll want to follow, sleepily drawing the sounds closer;
Hide yourself from the choir, somewhere.

The roses selfishly display their best for you;
Little do they know they’re first to the fire somewhere.

How quickly you question and tire.
Do you take me for a mundane liar somewhere?

Though, it is quite absurd to listen to a cat you can’t fully see;
No matter, we’ll meet again to conspire somewhere.

Hemis National Park. Ridge tracking for snow leopards at dusk.


o ju ju ~ drew

Andrew is excited to join the Snow Leopard Conservancy - India Trust to work with the education program for monks and nuns as an AIF Clinton Fellow. He is a firm believer in the human ability and duty to serve our neighbors far and near. What is important to him is to always be engaged with people and collaboratively work for cooperation, empowerment, and sustainability. He has helped build houses in Trinidad and Tobago as well as Sri Lanka; researched nonlinear optics in France; taught tennis, 5th grade, and high school programs in the U.S.; and analyzed sanitation projects in India. He aspires to motivate these experiences into an informed and adaptive life mission of service. After spending ten months studying Urdu in Lucknow, he is grateful to continue living in India, engaging this perplexing place he calls home-away-from-home. Andrew holds a B.Sc. in Physics from Austin Peay State University, an M.A. in Religious Studies from the University of Chicago, and is always seeking to learn more.

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2 thoughts on “Navigating November: Personal Poetics of the Present

  1. I love the poem you’ve written, entitled Magpie. In learning about the birds around you, you’ve used all of your six senses. You touched. You watched. You tasted the air. You interpret the tilt of the birds head and understand it’s happenstance to be in this place with you. You listened to the secret alphabet it speaks and spoke it well. Amazing!

  2. VERY well written Drew!! Beautiful quotes. I love “It does not matter which way you go;/Because after all, you’ll just retire, somewhere. / Many tred the path from some here to some there, / But only heed those who inspire some where.”
    Thank you for sharing this beautiful experience!

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