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By Sam Yau

summer heat soaks the air, rickshaws and

cars meander along the dust-clouded streets

drivers cuss, beep and blast their horn

cows, unmoved, block traffic, lay more dung

stray dogs bark amidst toxic haze

riders spew sputum from clogged lungs

brilliant colors of spices on a wheeled cart dart my eyes

exotic birds for sale in wired cages flutter their wings in vain

a monkey perched on an overhanding tree branch swoops down

to snatch a half-eaten apple from my astounded palm

an old yogi with roped hair and a toothless smile stands on one leg

charmers on stone steps play flute to lure slithering snakes to dance

a young mother-beggar clasps her deformed child with big sad eyes

pungent sewage and sweet incense pierce and startle my breath

the embalmed in flamboyant clothes burnt in open air

between wood piles on the banks of the Ganges

ashes scatter in the river where children play

vultures feast on floating singed remains

as the pyre releases the smoke of death

the eternal soul is liberated, heaven-bound

devotees bow under giant eyes painted on temple walls

Shiva, Shakti, Ganesh seem to materialize all around

blue, white, red, green and yellow prayer flags flap

rows of golden prayer wheels swirl

surrounded by towering ice-capped mountains

the plethora of color, sound and smell overwhelm my senses

I float between the silent snow and Kathmandu’s bustling ground

a tapestry of heaven and earth, mundane and sacred, in perfect harmon

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