In Varanasi,
When in doubt
Follow the river.

It might lead you
To abandoned boats or shrines
Stones bleeding vermilion
Shade of overhead birds
circling the ruins to your right
And travelers, not unlike you
who have seen all that
Varanasi chose to show them.

You might have seen desire
In a hand full of water
That escaped your grip
Drip by drip…
But who
Did you think you were
To bind the water?
There is nothing here to
Keep forever.

You might have also
felt the fear of birds
caught in kite strings
And when life escapes your grip
There is no one to hold vigil
But the sky

I grow thirsty by the river
My lips crack like earth
The sun embalms the eyes
And once closed, I dream

I drift downstream
With a blood hibiscus
My ears full of the river’s murmur

She swirls around my nape
The tiny palms of the river
Douse my hair
Washing the dust of the lanes
The dust of the days
The tiny palms of the river
Salve my tongue
And the songs fill my mouth…
Like a hand full of water

My eyes open
And I walk up the ghats
The river curled into a fist
Deep inside.

Chandrika Acharya

Chandrika Acharya

She is a storyteller based in Delhi, who has written comics for Tinkle Digest and Amar Chitra Katha. She has also written for Silhouette, a film journal published out of Calcutta.