Hill Hospital, after surgery, my mother said the sirens sounded
like the elephants of Mihiragula
when his men drove them off cliffs
in the Pir Panjal Range.)
Hun so loved the cry, one falling elephant's,
he wished to hear it again. At dawn, my mother
heard, in her hospital-dream
sirens wail through Manhattan like elephants
forced off Pir Panjal's rock cliffs in Kashmir:
the soldiers, so ruled, had rushed the elephant,
The greatest of all footprints is the elephant's,
the Buddha. But not lifted from the universe,
those prints vanished forever into the universe,
though nomads still
break news of those elephants
as if it were just yesterday the air spread the dye
("War's annals will
fade into night / Ere their story die"),
the punishing khaki whereby the world sees us die
you, O massacred elephants!
Months later, in Amherst, she dreamt: She was, with dia-
monds, being stoned
to death. I prayed: If she must die,
let it only be some dream. But there were times, Mother,
slept, that I prayed, "Saints, let her die."
Not, I swear to you, that I wished you to die
to save you as you were, young, in song in Kashmir,
and I, one festival, crowned Krishna by you, Kashmir
listening to my flute. You never let gods die.
Thus I swear, here and now, not to forgive the universe
let me get used to a universe
without you. She, she alone, was the universe
as she earned, like a galaxy,
her right not to die,
defying the Merciful of the Universe,
Master of Disease, "in the circle of her traverse"
of drug-bound time. And where was the god of elephants,
plump with Fate, when tusk to tusk, the universe,
green, became ivory? Then let the universe,
like Paradise, be considered a tomb. Mother,
they asked me,
So how's the writing? I answered My mother
is my poem. What did they expect? For no verse
the promise, fading, of Kashmir
and the cries that reached you from the cliffs of Kashmir
fifteen centuries) in the hospital. Kashmir,
she's dying! How her breathing drowns out the universe
she sleeps in Amherst. Windows open on Kashmir:
There, the fragile wood-shrines—so far away—of Kashmir!
O Destroyer, let her return there, if just to die.
Save the right she gave its earth to cover her, Kashmir
no rights. When the windows close on Kashmir,
I see the blizzard-fall of ghost-elephants.
I hold back—she
couldn't bear it—one elephant's
story: his return (in a country far from Kashmir)
to the jungle where
each year, on the day his mother
died, he touches with his trunk the bones of his mother.
you sit here by me, you're just like my mother,"
she tells me. I imagine her: a bride in Kashmir,
watching, at the Regal, her first film with Father.
If only I could gather you in my arms, Mother,
save you—now my daughter—from God. The universe
opens its ledger. I write: How helpless was God's
Each page is turned to enter grief's accounts. Mother,
I see a hand. Tell me it's not God's. Let it die.
I see it. It's filling with diamonds. Please let it die.
Are you somewhere alive, Mother?
Do you hear what I once
held back: in one elephant's
cry, by his mother's bones, the cries of those elephants
the abyss? Ivory blots out the elephants.
I enter this: The Belovéd leaves one behind to die.
compared to my grief for you, what are those of Kashmir,
and what (I close the ledger) are griefs of the universe
when I remember you—beyond all accounting—O my mother?
-from Rooms Are Never Finished