Book excerpt: The Eight-eyed Lord of Kathmandu by Abhay K


“I am indebted to the British poet, actor, and soldier James Milton Hayes, whose poem ‘The Green Eyes of a Yellow Little God’ with its opening line ‘There is a one-eyed yellow idol to the north of Kathmandu’ fired my imagination to name this collection of poems The Eight-eyed Lord of Kathmandu. Hayes wrote his immortal dramatic monologue over a century ago in 1911 just in five hours. Incidentally, he did not consider it as poetry. Following the footsteps of Hayes, a century later, I have made a humble attempt to draw a poetic portrait of Nepal through my poems on World Heritage sites, festivals, places, landscapes, historical personalities as well as its present inhabitants. My time spent in Nepal from July 2012 to January 2016 was full of bliss, learning and adventure.”
ABHAY K

The Eight-Eyed Lord of Kathmandu

 

Sherpa

I lead the way to Mt. Everest, paving the path through snow
and ice, fearless of losing fingers to frostbite.

Conquering Everest your face glows like a field of poppies.

Descending the mountain my feverish body breaks.

Your weight on my back. A few dollars in my hand.

A Migrant Worker
I have returned home
packed in a plywood coffin
measuring four by eight feet

my passport confiscated on arrival
I lived in a shack with a dozen others
worked without relief in sweltering desert heat

my heart aching for home
when I could bear no more
I jumped off the tenth floor.

 

A Dance Bar Girl

Drunk, I groove with Bollywood hits on a rickety stage wearing
cheap makeup, perfume, tacky clothes.

Weary, I cozy up with clients, let them caress my hair. Their
lips wet on my neck, I am back on the stage to dance again.

Every night someone declares love for me, proposing to make
me his queen.

Years have passed by and I am still here dancing this evening,
getting old—alone.

 

Siddhartha

I must have been cruel
to turn my face from
my young wife, my newborn
longing for my lullabies

I secretly fled at night
without goodbyes
riding my beloved horse
who died exhausted at dawn

When I look back
at the forlorn fort of Tilorakot
and desolate gardens of Lumbini
I wonder what I have done.

 

Swayambhunath

No longer submerged
in the ancient lake
a lotus blossoms
its petals young, sparkling

My eight eyes
—the eight-fold path
of cessation of suffering—
bless sentient beings

Climb up three hundred and sixty-five stairs
then thirteen steps—clockwise—
break free from illusions
of this world as Manjusree.

 

About the Book

In these rapturous poems, Abhay K. catches the allure and mystique of Kathmandu, its maze of medieval streets, thronged bazaars, twilit courtyards, the aromas of its ancient alleyways, the drift of incense from its crumbling temples, and the raucous chant of its life. He is the all-seeing eye, the seer who brings to light a city and its people with a rare immediacy of speech and a boundless imaginative empathy.

About the author

Abhay K. is an Indian poet-diplomat and the author of two memoirs and five collections of poems. His poems have appeared in over two dozen literary journals including Poetry Salzburg Review, Asia Literary Review, The Stony Thursday Book 2015, The Missing Slate, Eastlit, Gargoyle, The Caravan, Indian Literature among others and have been translated into Irish, Russian, Italian, Spanish, Slovenian, Portuguese, Mandarin and Nepali. His Earth Anthem has been translated into twenty-eight languages. He received the SAARC Literary Award 2013.

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