Varanasi, India 3/3/2017

 

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down at harish chandra ghat
they’re preparing bodies for the fire
corpses wrapped in orange cloth
laid with garlands of marigolds &
doused in holy water
another body is carried down the steps
solemn procession of men with the body all
wrapped in shrouds atop a bamboo stretcher
cows step through the mud & ash
logs are piled high atop the waiting bodies
the fires ignite
plumes of smoke rise up towards the city
ashes &
dust
a group of women wail from afar

one of the bonfires is extinguished with water from the ganga
jars of river water passed up the line man to man
burnt logs kicked into the trash & mud below
a glass of tea set next to a burning corpse
one last wish for a dying man
sweet milk & honey seeps into the billowing ash

at the end of the ceremony
a jar full of river water is shattered
the burning over
the men walk away
back into town
a dog picks through the rubble
drinks up the sweet tea
mixed in with the dead
water, milk & ash seep back towards the river
ganges rolls past
from mountain to sea
eternal

 

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2.

they’re burning bodies down by the river
all orange & spectral flames
the cows mill around
dogs in the ashes
the funeral pyres light up the sky
as the wood is piled
higher & higher

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