rama rama sati hai
stretcher-bearers carry the corpse
their rhythmic insistent chants report to Yama
another has died
another is ready
to be weighed and measured against time

ring a-ring a-roses
rama rama sati hai
pocketful of poses
rama rama sati hai
atishoo atishoo
it is you
it is you
all fall down

the stiff bundle draped in red is dipped in the Ganga
the dye stains the river red
the pyre is prepared
last rites chanted
the fire is lit
the flesh crackles and spits
in the garbage a water-buffalo chews flowers

Kali Kali
your Vast Being is insatiable
the Skulls on your Necklace are without number
the Body beneath your feet is mine


Varanasi, India 1969