Haripreet’s Shop

In Kerala, in winter,
Haripreet the wood worker
stands, observing his great fortune,
to have lived so near a treasure trove
of the most excellent of carving wood
Harichandran, who could ask for more?

Haripreet knew this wood intricately
that it was the most fragrant wood,
a wood which only sweetened with time
and whose attars and grain were worth gold,
for in it, even as a boy, he’d discovered hidden
every image of creation’s wild wonders
tigers, flowers, and elephants.

There was in his shop, one intricate figurine
the work of his grandfather, Didi,
which had served as a template
and which stood untouched in an alcove
Indeed, it was Didi’s best work,
Haripreet spoke reverently of the masterpiece
even as his father had spoken before him.

But why is it here? Why has it not sold?
Haripreet responded always politely to customers,
The one who commissioned it. To this day, I must tell you,
he or she has never returned to collect it.

And so, the Jesus stood. A mystery. A sweet aroma.
Haripreet’s lovely wife, Sarita, finally begged an answer.
Why do you simply not sell it, my husband? Could we not benefit?
Perhaps we could make a fortune and travel the whole wide world!

I do not sell it. Because it is far too difficult.
I cannot settle a price. For who can know the cost?

So, the Jesus stands in Haripreet’s shop.
And overlooks the morning hills

© 2012 S. Michaels
Along Silk Roads

Ooty Dreams

Where neelakurunji teases
And blooms every twelve years
Where spiralling mountains dip
Stained fingers in curried bowls
Upon misted valleys distant below
Jignesh dreams he stands tall
On wide heights of land
With heaven’s rains tumbling

It was not the fragrant monsoon season
When he visited Ootacamund
Udhagamandalam, he tells me
(The word slips easily as tea leaves
cupped at harvest time)

Then, he was young, he says
Jumping off at a roadside stand
‘Queen of hill stations’
Somewhere on the Nilgiri plateau
It does not really matter where, he laughs
For he sipped the nectar of Ooty tea.
You cannot imagine the wonder of it, he sighs

Only now he chatters more on icy days
Driving cab in Canada in early winter
It is truly not one of the easiest tasks
Last week a driver was attacked and robbed
Here, in this civilized land of cold cities
But in his mind Jignesh hops an aquamarine train
Rushing far away, deep, deep into the heart
Of Tamil Nadu, where dreams stand still

 

©2012 S. Michaels
Along Silk Roads

iyashi

Cilantro-colored linoleum peeled and curled up
Wilted lettuce leaf floors. Yet the place drew her.
Dilapidated. Narrow windows. A roughly textured view.
Of courtyards. Crumbly white brick walls. Flat roof.

Bent rocking chair trees housing common sparrows
In a shaded corner, an old red lawnmower. Rusted out.
Nail-bitten window ledges. Streaked, tired ceilings.

The caretaker showed her around. Nodded. Smiled.
Heard her questions regarding ambient noises in the lane
As she drifted, sorting boxes in her head. Pictured belonging.
He smiled. ‘Iyashi’, he said. As she kept sorting things.

Mr. Daichi, “An eighth son,” he said, making small talk
Hiroaki. Widespread brightness!” He added, looking around
“Oh, she said, unsure if he was talking about the rooms
Or did he have some kind of insight into her future?

She decided it must be both. iyashi, she discovered later
Meaning ‘retreat’. Hers. Not running away. Freedom.
No income . Not a clue how she’d manage.
But in an unexpected rush of hope, she’d taken the place.
Eight years ago. Rooms painted bright. Trees filtering sun.
She’d added rice paper blinds. Shoji lamps.

Somehow she had taken root. In time. Grown.

Strong. Not easily broken.

Like a bamboo plant, taking root.

© 2012 S. Michaels
Along Silk Roads

Tan, the Tea Master

Un maitre de thés! had they said?
He was unsure as he visited

A famous tea salon in Paris
Of the 1 ere arrondissement
They had ooh’d his tea mastery.

Tan  returned with word to Hunan
As a tea master, he humbly bowed

Telling the good news,
Art of harvest steeped in legend
Golden monkey long ago picked
Branch of tea in highest mountain
Tea master must also reach higher

Tan, the tea master spoke often
Of the oil of the Osmanthus
The flowering globe amaranth
And Lapsang Souchong
All reap reward of golden sun

He prized the evergreen
camellia sinensis 茶花
Tan’s favorite, he grinned
As it bloomed in bright light
Now promising harvest fortune
As red as Tian and Lychee luck

Dark torrents of spring rain
Swept away hills and fields
Tan stood silent many days.
At last the tea master spoke,

Liberty never just happen
Beginning of new chapter
Obvious strength waits

© 2011 S. Michaels
Along Silk Roads