by Amlanjyoti Goswami

The trip up the hills, to soar the mind
Beyond little backyard perches,
Tiny puddles of splashing city streets,
Scratching around piddling corners
The hills welcome a different air, make flight possible.

I land — dour afternoon, put my tent up a small inn, carpeted for wear,      and
Suddenly feel a terrible loneliness upon me.
Why did I come here? Why was I not home?
Elizabeth Bishop rang true, wherever she may be.
But it settled, a few breaths deep, the feeling you are not alone
And more such tricks with steaming dumplings and chicken soup.

I had the great man’s number – or rather his grandson’s
From a man I met just once,
He took a kindly look at me,
Eager beaver, looking for pasture?
I tried, busy it said, switched off, please try again later
Time stretching her legs, later, later,
Why hurry now.

Clambered up the lonely hill, monkeys for company,
Felt a chill, walked right through!
A two legged traveller, who hadn’t changed his stripes,
Careful, no looking in the eye. Couples picking lice and love,
Alpha males strutting.
What is a holiday if I cannot not do this, myself?
I survive.

Ambled up the reaches. Crossed a tree whose arms carried ferns,
As if human. Stopped by. Frost came to mind, but there was only
One road to go, move on, the mind said.
Finally, tea at the stall, tea and buttered buns,
I shared with a mountain dog, furry, huge, at the street ledge, just before      the road ends and
The mountain climbs higher,
He licked my plate dry and hung around
For company, growled at the monkeys, the birds,
And humans.
We had a silent handshake, and I trooped on.

Perhaps I would see him, along the way.
It grew dark, pitch black,
Deep breaths, I could hear, only mine.
I turned back, try again.
My phone dead. No charge. Nevermind.
The hill humming a distant tune near a pir’s dargah.
A pir sahib in the mountains. He must be
One with the elements.

I never meet him. Trudge along, plod by
More fern branching great deodars, amble by hill corners,
Lie on narrow ledges whose drop is eternity.
Watch stars in the night sky,
Think of home.

Next morning, before the birds are up, I leave.

The wend home passes through a forest.
I stop, for chai and view,
Hoping a tiger or at least, a leopard would
Cross my path. No such luck. Just a cow, almost pastoral.
But what view. Stretches of green deep inside the jungle,
Not a soul in sight
And me a traveller on the
Edge of nowhere.

Days on, I read a bit in some travel mag
About the place,
The usual, with the photographs,
I am late for dinner and scramble through,
When I see the name of my inn.
The writer it says, nests in the same building,

He was just a few rooms away.

PHOTOGRAPH: Langur monkeys in Landour, India.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Amlanjyoti Goswami’s poems have appeared in publications in India, UK ,and USA, including The Caravan, Mint, IQ: The Indian Quarterly, Indian Literature (Sahitya Akademi), The North East Review, The Poetry Shed, DailyO, and Silver Birch Press. He grew up in Guwahati, Assam, and lives in Delhi, India.