The Old Man in the Nepali Cap

The old man in the Nepali cap
stares back at us
from the gold-framed portrait.
His widow’s black bindi
is artfully drawn between her eyes.
The women serve us sweets and tea
on copper trays
The men,
with shaven heads and white sarongs,
move like spectral figures
in a dream.

We’ve come to mourn a refugee,
hounded from his home
for nothing more than
speaking the wrong language,
professing the wrong faith,
wearing the wrong dress.
For twenty years
he languished in a camp
then washed up on these shores
like a fish stranded
in a dry season.

A sudden rush of air
had caught his cap
the moment that he jumped
and laid it by the tracks
to mark the spot
where his soul took flight
and sailed across
the terraced rice-fields of Bhutan
to rest on the indigo peaks.

 

(originally published in Indian Review)

 

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