Their feet are laved with holy water.
They receive from mourners’ cupped hands
a last drink from the sacred river.
They lie, wrapped in white and saffron, under
Indra’s blue heaven. Gods, priests and loved ones cluster
round them. Temple roofs cascade; incense curls
upward; upward curls Ganesh’s trunk; the third eye
repeats; repeats, in vermilion tikka; mala
emotes its sharp golden smell. I wish
I could take each camera and break it.
Here is the place where the dead make
their journey from one world to the other,
where mourners stoop to their work,
tend to mother, father, sister or brother.
I’d like to push those who pose for photos
into the sacred river, watch them flounder.
I hear prayers
and chanting as a body is moved
to its funeral pyre. Photographers
make pixils of the sacred rite.
Two days earlier
my father stood by water,
a wharf nearby. What’s it like to be dead
I asked him. It’s OK he replied, in a tone
of faint surprise, almost as though
he’d expected to feel otherwise.
I want to tell the ones who snap photos
that my father stands at the Baghmati.
They can’t see him but he is there.
On his journey from this world
to the next he stopped in Kathmandu
to stand at the sacred river,
to tell me it is OK to be dead.
Please put away your camera