Kankrebihar

by Tracey Martin

Up from the plains where piles
of morning rubbish slide
into the street, daily detritus
of commerce, and labourers
wait, desperate for work.

Up, up past the national park,
past the sal trees’ flaking bark,
past checkpoints manned by lazy soldiers
and landslides of granite boulders,
unhinged by the monsoon rain.

Into the valley of migrants, washed down
from the mountains. Here lies the town,
coming to life after the war,
a muddle of houses and small stores,
and piles of gravel for new roads.

A little way out on a wooded hill,
for centuries left to the deer, until
a spade struck stone and slowly
the faces of Buddha and Saraswati
emerged. Ancient jigsaw pieces.

Each stone numbered now, the plinth restored
but still the picture’s incomplete. No record
of the temple’s birth or how it came
to be so utterly dismembered. Rain
washes the faces of the gods, their secrets.