Burgess Needle

Rookie (June 19,1941 / Boston, MA)

Cobras of Kali Poem by Burgess Needle


COBRAS OF KALI
By Burgess Needle

I learned to ease my hungers since
my youth and Kali’s cobras were
face down before Columbus
back when Thai fought Khmer
Wars of sovereignty conflicts of faith
Brahma vs Buddha

More than three decades gone since I was lured
Famished up to lichen-tracked temples
Away from teaching gerunds
Away from Somchai, Pichate and Mekhala
My adoring students who bowed every morning

World in sepia then blind cobras
probing border patrols health workers
all in the shade of a local wonder
the ruins called Panomrung
The Hole in the Mountain, lured
By Orawan, my lover, with a promise
Of knowing that secret shadow
Between her thighs but first
We peered into the blackness of a hole
she said went all the way to Lopburi City
Built before the humid dream that became Bangkok
Another center to the universe then:
A three-peaked wonder in the east:
Angkor Wat

Around us motionless
sandstone Cobras of Kali fallen
before the mighty triumvirate
Vishnu, Brahma and Siva
Shyly smiling Orawan spoke
of pulsing magic within the rubble
a lingam God’s penis
gold-leaf encrusted if you can lift
It the answer to your question is yes
and the legend proved true
when we kissed and sated
Ourselves unwrapping banana-leaf meals
Of fried rice, chicken and fish sauce

What a quiet soft time that was
To stretch out beside cool, looming
sandstone blocks then jump up to laugh
On a crumbling outer wall kicking
our feet out at time and chance
then back to the shade to appease
other appetites

Later the promise of tourism was enough to haul
every cobras erect though I myself stand
half-bowed with a faded print of my love
all those ruins restored as new
but my beautiful Orawan long gone
with my faith my hope
my hungers

Those renovated sandstone Gods are forgotten
as Zeus, Hades and Dionysus
their worshippers now dried corpses
food the last thing on their minds
Mighty Angkor crushed like Lacoon and his sons
by patient tamarind roots those who’ve restored
it block by block to perfection must believe
retracing the images of a dream
returns the dreamer to his other self

Workers and tourists alike perform dances
Before devouring a buffet of chilled history
What have I learned I wonder since
Orawan and I did a few turns atop a half-fallen wall
Do the new visitors looking up at a restored
Hindu triad expect answers about
life death and the blank between
new to me then of no use to me now
but old routines to the cobras of Kali
Aware of new feasts on the horizon
holes in the fabric of time
sharing with men
relentless belief in resurrection
an end to hunger

Submitted: Friday, February 12, 2010

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