Kanheri Caves

Over these blunted, these tormented hills,
Hawks hail and wheel, toboggan down the sky.
It seems this green ambiguous landscape tilts
And teeters the perspective of the eye.
Only two centuries after Christ, this cliff
Was colonised by a mild antique race
Who left us, like a faded photograph,
Their memories that dry up in this place.

They left no ghosts. The rock alone endures.
The drains and cisterns work, but wrecked the stairs;
Blocks are fallen: sunlight cracks those floors,
And fidgets in a courtyard where a pair
Of giant Buddhas smile and wait their crash.
Then temples, audience-halls, a lonely tomb.
I touch its side. The stone’s worn smooth as flesh.
A stranger dangles peaceful in that womb.

Worm he will be, if born: blink in the sun.
I’ll crawl into his dark; perhaps he’ll climb
Beyond the trippers to the final stone
Plat of the hillock, there to grow in Time.
Dry pubic ferns prickle the bitter sand.
Hawks in a hot concentric ecstasy
Of flight and shriek Will wake his Vision. And
When the clouds lift, he’ll glimpse the miles-off sea.

Recording reproduced by kind permission of the BBC for the BBC 100 showcase - from ' Kanheri Caves' from In Cinnamon Shade (Carcanet, 2001) Copyright Don Moraes 2001, reproduced by kind permission of Carcanet Press, Manchester.

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