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.
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.
o ju ju ~ drew