Shekhar Aiyar

Diary of a Student

Along our travels we kept a diary:
an old notebook I owned, resurrected
from a tomb of lectures.

In it we impressed our record of the days:
monuments visited, miles hiked,
the headline news and feature pages
of our storied ramblings.

Losing our shirt at table-football
in Cuzco’s midnight alleys,
flailing our arthritic goalies
at the local Pele’s scorchers,
as upended constellations cheered
from a tipsy sky.

Channeling Raj Kapoor
with an Arequippan vagrant, a raucous old man,
who spun on his heels like a teen,
amazing us with songs
from the age of black and white TV,
in a language two oceans removed
that he spoke about as well as Martian.

But for me the most transporting parts of the book,
the ones I turn to with the lightest fingers
as the shadows lengthen in my room

are the occasional margins, alive
with thickets of calculus and saplings
of verse that never took sustainable root,
laid there by my wandering pen

and in your quicksilver hand,
sketches of rapier-beaked birds,
the crumbling curve of a wall, the flow
of hills and trees, temples and favelas,
and in one glorious instance
my personal favorite: a stone charger
bearing its Conquistador into legend

and into that attic in my heart
left vacant when you hungered again
for the turn of the world beneath your feet
and resumed your many-chaptered odyssey
in a diary I will not read.

Postcard from Bishkek*

The sun is out. I stroll the streets to where
a carnival unfolds, not half a mile
from my hotel. There’s laughter in the air
and even Lenin’s statue wears a smile.

I tell myself that having you at hand
would add no new dimension to my hike.
The sky would be no bluer and the band
would not switch to an anthem that I like.

The roadside juggler—eager but untaught—
would not grow more proficient with his rings.
The argument is sound, but I cannot
persuade myself of any of these things.

*The capital of Kyrgyzstan, one of the ex-Soviet Republics


back to Contents page