The old dog
huddled in the shadow
of a pagoda
temple’s huge brassy bell
would wake up
only when some gorilla
kick crushed his puss-dripping paw.
Last month remained a week of Everest failures, literally and figuratively. Canadian poet Clyde Rose sent the news that TA Loeffler, a Canadian / Newfoundland woman climber could not conquer Everest because of illness. A month ago, Clyde had written to me about Loeffler’s expedition when she was at Loboche and at the base camp. He had asked me to present Loeffler one of my mountain poems. He had even pasted a letter on her private page at www.myeverest.com about my books, requesting her to read my new Everest book on the net, if possible.
When he learnt of Loeffler’s aborted attempt, he wrote again, asking me to send some fresh poetry to cheer her up. Incidentally, I told Clyde that my forthcoming book of short poems was entitled Everest Failures: Twenty-five Short Poems.
Also, I wanted to tell Clyde and Newfoundland climber that once you live in Asia, you have to learn this art of living with the sound of a slap on your face every morning. You have to learn how success or happiness is short lived and often monopolised by those in power. On top of all, the city smog chokes you, making your life miserable, like the bantering of your dear ones.
Even Nature seems to bring relief only temporarily. After a month-long scorching heat, the monsoon showers offer only a brief respite. Soon a mood of misery sets in. Almost immediately the torrential rains have started ravaging the landscape, access to the remote parts of the country is impossible.
Nevertheless, a height about these failures charts the graph of your survival every moment of life. In these parts of the world, there is that faith in failures that some call fatalism. There is this philosophy of looking at events in life through the arc of one’s heels.
That is why Everest failures are crucial, like the shorter poems that the poets write. For me these remain refused kisses, mild metaphors of unfinished shapes and visions. In my writing these are failed works, for throughout my creative journey I have always feared ending as a poet of short pieces.
However, like my Canadian friend’s unfinished climb, in spite of the feverish angle, these failures are imposing, unchallenged and almost Everest-like in their miniscule failures. Though dwarfish in size, I place these short poems at par with my longer grown up and so-called successful ascents, the one that often manage to leap across the shrunken snow space of one-page-lengths.
Enigmatically, the poets write shorter poems to charm the readers and invite them to their world. I would call them bait poems. A green twig that you show to a lamb or a hesitant cow in an attempt to take her across the raging hillside river in the monsoon months, or say, the lamb itself that comes as a bait for a tiger to come and inhabit the lush green park of your works.
A hillside shepherd’s metaphor, herding theses beautiful baits in a little garden of a book of poems called Everest Failures is what binds these pieces from different sources together. In other words, these teahouse treks longed to become full-fledged mountain expeditions. Sadly, they ended up in the Himalayan foothills among the most beautiful people struggling for a bare survival in the singing gorges
After a few days, you throw up your hands in despair, lie down on the long bench of a roadside lodge, and end your journey, peevishly admiring the stone-step stairs on the salt routes leading to elusive unseen heights beyond base camp. The tinkle of the mules and the yak trains on the path mocking your fatigue and failures — ‘You traveller, stay back, next time, yes, maybe next time you will come with a fiercer fire in your belly and a song of wholesome resolve in your heart…’
The turquoise lake
that longs to belong to
trapped to see
dazzling face of Everest.
The climbers from the
come to see their haggard faces
in the clear light of her
before facing the forehead of the sky.
(The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)