(Varanasi is sometimes called by this name
when regarded as the great cremation ground
for the corpse of the universe. During nightly
services at the Dasaswemedh Ghat, worshippers
set tiny candles afloat.)
I walked the ghats with holy men and touts,
and monkeys eyeing every scrap of food.
The river Shiva loved flows by obscure
with corpses, chemicals, and shit. The god
must grin at dissolution bright and fine
and welcome every shred of tender flesh,
though Mother Ganges hardly could care less,
indifferent, hosting pathogens and fish,
and bearing the brief flame of every wish.
(poem by Willian Seaton from Planetary Motions; photo by Patricia Seaton)